UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum Preview

A middleweight clash will top the bill this Saturday night, April 17 at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum will go to battle in the main event. A lightweight encounter will serve as the co-main event in what is set to be an action packed card overall.

Both Whittaker (22-5) and Gastelum (17-7) were chalked down to fight for the title in early 2019. Unfortunately Whittaker, who was the champion at the time, had difficulties with his weight cut and suffered a hernia. The fight was pulled at the very last minute and Gastelum would be left without an opponent, and his chance to win the title.

Fast forward to 2021, Paulo Costa was set to take on “Bobby Knuckles” in this main event, sadly the Brazilian was forced to pull out due to injury. Gastelum put his name forward and now we finally get to see how these guys match up. Gastelum has had a tough run inside the octagon in recent times. He has dropped two decision losses against Darren Till and Israel Adesanya. The fight with the New Zealander and current champ would go on to scoop the “Fight of the Year” in 2019.

Gastelum, who trains out on Kings MMA, went on to fight Jack Hermanson but was left bitterly disappointed after getting caught with a heel-hook in the first round. After losing three fights in a row many fans were claiming that Kelvins days were numbered inside the UFC. Some were calling for his retirement. Gastelum stepped in to take on Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 and he reminded everyone with his decision win that he is still a force to be reckoned with in the 185-pound division.

Former champion Robert Whittaker had some heartbreak of his own after he was knocked out by current champion Israel Adesanya back in 2019. We have only seen the Australian fighter compete twice since that disappointing defeat. He fought a super close fight against Darren Till, a fight can can only be described as a stand up chess match. Whittaker did just enough to take home the win by split decision.

“The Reaper” made it two wins on the bounce when he went toe to toe with Jared Cannonier at UFC 254, the Aussie fighter put on a clinic and won a one sided unanimous decision. I feel that Whittaker is looking at this fight with Gastelum as a huge opportunity to cement his status as number one contender. He will want that rematch against Adesanya. I feel that if he goes out here and gets the finish he’ll become undeniable and we could see him fight for the title towards the end of the year.

Gastelum will have other ideas, when he is motivated he becomes a very hard fighter to beat. When he found for the title he was so close to taking the strap and that will have stuck with him till this day. Now is his chance for redemption, a win over topped ranked Whittaker would see him move right into title contention. There really is everything to fight for in this main even. There will be talks of title shot for whoever gets their hand raised and I’m super excited to see how the fight unfolds.

Jeremy Stephens (28-18) moves up to the lightweight division to take on Drakkar Klose (11-2-1) in the co-main event. Klose has said in the build-up to this fight that if he wins, he may move down to the featherweight division. Stephens is staring down the barrel of a gun after losing his last four fights in a row. “Lil Heathen” always loves to stand and bang, as does Klose. These guys will be fighting for the bonus money.

Fifty fight veteran Andrei Arlovski (30-20) steps in at short notice to challenge Chase Sherman (15-6) in a heavyweight encounter. Arlovski looked good in defeat when Tom Aspinall caught him in a rear naked choke in his last outing. Sherman was victorious by knockout over Ike Villanueva when he last fought inside the octagon.

Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-3) and Jacob Malkoun (4-1) are looking to turnaround their fortunes in the middleweight division. Both fighters suffered devastating knockout losses in their previous fights and both will be eager to get back inside the win column.

Luis Pena (8-3) looks to turn his fortunes around after defeat in his last fight. The ATT standout will go up against Alex Munoz (6-1), that fight kicks off the main card.

Over on the prelims section of the card and we have some women’s flyweight action headlining. Tracy Cortez (8-1) has won each of her 8 fights since losing her professional debut. Cortez will make the walk to take on Justine Kish (7-3) who has only won one in her last four fights. Undefeated Romanian prospect Alexander Romanov (13-0) will square off against Spaniard Juan Espino (10-1) in a heavyweight showdown.

Jessica Penne (12-5) is in desperate need of a win having lost her last three fights. She takes on Lupita Godinez (5-0) who is set to make her UFC debut in the women’s 115-pound division. Gerald Meerschaert (34-14) will make a return after his devastating knockout loss to Khamzat Chimaev, Bartosz Fabiński (15-4) will be his dance partner in the middleweight division.

Zarah Fairn (6-4) is in search of her first UFC win after two failed attempts, she welcome UFC debutant Josiane Nunes (7-1) into the women’s bantamweight ranks. Austin Hubbard (12-5) and Dakota Bush (8-2) are set for battle in the 155-pound division.

UFC bantamweight prospect Tony Gravely (20-6) wants to make it two wins in a row under the UFC banner. Standing in his was is Anthony Birchak who is searching for his first UFC win. I sat down for a chat with Tony earlier and you can hear his thoughts on the fight in the video below.

Middleweight: Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Lightweight: Drakkar Klose vs. Jeremy Stephens

Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski vs. Chase Sherman

Middleweight: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Jacob Malkoun

Lightweight: Luis Pena vs. Alex Munoz

Women’s Flyweight: Tracy Cortez vs. Justine Kish

Heavyweight: Alexander Romanov vs. Juan Espino

Women’s Strawweight: Jessica Penne vs. Lupita Godinez

Middleweight: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Bartosz Fabiński

Women’s Bantamweight: Zarah Fairn vs. Josiane Nunes

Bantamweight: Tony Gravely vs. Anthony Birchak

Lightweight: Austin Hubbard vs. Dakota Bush

Ian O'Neill is the host of the SevereMMA UFC Preview show and one of the co-hosts of The Auld Triangle - Irish MMA podcast. You can find more of Ian's work on the SevereMMA Patreon where he co-hosts The Chasing Pack and The Contender. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma

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