UFC 234 is finally upon us and in the night’s main-event, the UFC middleweight title will be on the line as Robert Whittaker takes on Kelvin Gastelum.
It’s a middleweight title tilt worth writing home about as the champion Robert Whittaker looks to add the scalp of Kelvin Gastelum to his increasingly long list of conquests.
This is an extremely underrated fight.
Like UFC 231’s headlining bout between champ Max Holloway and Brian Ortega, what we have here at middleweight is a clash between two of the most talented young fighters on the roster.
Whittaker has openly stated that he is beyond thrilled to be facing someone not named ‘Yoel Romero’ after going ten impossibly difficult rounds with the former Olympian in his last pair of outings.
But despite the undoubtedly remarkable achievement The Reaper was able to pull off by overcoming his last opponent, in Gastelum he will come up against a guy who will present him with a completely different set of problems.
While not the incredible athlete that ‘The Soldier Of God’ is by any stretch of the imagination, Gastelum is the in-form fighter in the middleweight division’s upper-tier – one whose punching power has translated perfectly to his new home at 185lbs.
Dropping losses to only Neil Magny, Tyron Woodley and Chris Weidman in his career, Kelvin has proven himself to be an elite fighter since moving to middleweight – free from the shackles of what looked to be quite a strenuous cut to 170lbs.
At 27, he’s still knocking on the door of his prime years and to me, it seems like a lot of people are sleeping on his chances in this fight.
Whether that’s a testament to Robert Whittaker’s skills or not isn’t certain.
With that being said, the champion is an absolutely phenomenal fighter, one who – like Gastelum – has well and truly found himself after making a step up in weight.
Both guys are former Ultimate Fighter winners, both are in and around their primes and this fight has all the makings of a high-octane classic.
So how will it play out?
I think Whittaker’s distance will be enough to see him take the fight home. His speed and karate-esque style should be enough to see him leave Gastelum swiping at air quite frequently and while I don’t believe there will be a finish, I can see the champion retaining his title with a polished, albeit less violent performance than the one he turned in at UFC 225.
Both guys are incredibly tough but I believe the distance will be the key factor in this fight. It will be worth the price of admission for sure and a fantastic opportunity for Whittaker close to home but I can’t see the finish coming over the course of the twenty-five minutes.
I don’t even think there will be a knockdown in this fight.
Prediction: Robert Whittaker by comfortable unanimous decision
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena