Robert Whittaker dominated late notice opponent, Kelvin Gastelum in the UFC Vegas 24 main event. Winning 50-45 on all scorecards, the facts didn’t do his performance justice. Mixing it up more than we usually see him do, Whittaker showed vast improvements and was simply too much for Gastelum. With this big win, it sets up a potentially huge rematch with current middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya.
Originally scheduled to face Paulo Costa, Robert Whittaker squared off against Kelvin Gastelum. The two were originally scheduled to fight for the undisputed belt back in 2019 at UFC 234. Unfortunately, Robert Whittaker had to withdraw from the bout after the weigh-ins following an injury.
The pair finally met two years later at UFC Vegas 24 this past Saturday and Whittaker dominated. The first round, Robert Whittaker was able to land 33 total strikes and crucially one takedown. That one body lock takedown was all it took for ‘The Reaper’ to control Gastelum for almost half the round. An easy 10-9 Whittaker. He also landed his trademark one-two high-kick, rocking Gastelum heavily.
Although Gastelum came on stronger in the second, the round was dictated by the educated jab of Whittaker. He was able to keep Gastelum at range, set up his cross, hook and importantly, used his jab as a weapon. Too often, especially in MMA, we see the jab used as a range finder or a strike to set up other attacks. Whittaker used it this time to punish Gastelum whenever he got into range. Again, and easy 10-9 for Robert Whittaker.
The third round was the most successful for Gastelum, bringing the fight to the Australian and cutting off the octagon well. He landed his most strikes in this round. Whittaker still out-landed Gastelum, landed the more damaging strikes and ultimately won the round. 30-27.
The fourth showed just how good Whittaker is at counter-striking. Michael Bisping noted on commentary that every time Gastelum lands, Whittaker lands with two or three. This was shown massively in the fourth. This showed on the stats too, 33-13 in favour of the former champ. Gastelum was able to land a takedown, although he couldn’t keep Whittaker down for more than a second or two. 4-0 to Robert Whittaker in rounds.
The final round went much the same as the previous 20 minutes. Whittaker using that educated jab to keep Gastelum at bay. With a little over two minutes left in the bout, Whittaker snatched a leg and took Gastelum down. Position over submission was highlighted during these transitions, with Whittaker having the opportunity to potentially lock in a rear-naked choke, however, decided to control Gastelum instead and not give up the position. 50-45.
True domination by the former champion.
What’s Next for Robert Whittaker?
Showing a more wrestling heavy approach than in previous fights, Robert Whittaker showed what a well-rounded mixed martial artist he is. Previously, Whittaker had landed just six takedowns in his UFC career, with an average of 0.64 per fight. Against Gastelum, he secured four and on each occasion made them count.
The next logical move is simple. Book the Jake Paul fight. It’s the one that makes sense, Whittaker stated that he’d be willing to fight Paul for less than half a million. MAKE IT HAPPEN.
No of course not, let’s not mention Jake Paul within the realms of real MMA, for a long time at least. The fight to make of course is the title rematch with Israel Adesanya. Their previous bout went in favour of ‘The Last Stylebender’, recording a second-round knockout at UFC 243. Since then, Whittaker has gone 3-0, defeating Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and of course, Gastelum.
In his post-fight conversation with Michael Bisping, Robert Whittaker stated ‘It’s about time we cross paths once again.’
Adesanya responded to Whittaker’s win with a Tweet, hinting that he’s kept his eyes on the bout.
Good job my son.
— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) April 18, 2021
Will it be the next fight for both men? We’ll have to wait and see, however, it certainly makes sense.
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