LAS VEGAS — Kelvin Gastelum walked around Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, during UFC 234 on Feb. 10, 2019, with a UFC championship belt slung over his shoulder. Gastelum did not have a title at that point, nor did he defeat then-champion Robert Whittaker for it in the main event.
Their bout was scrapped on the morning of the fight when a collapsed bowel and twisted intestine forced Whittaker to pull out of the match. Gastelum was forced to watch the card from the front row.
Now, a little more than two years later, Gastelum will get his crack at Whittaker under different circumstances. Whittaker is no longer the champion and Gastelum has accepted the bout as a replacement for Paolo Costa.
It’s a critical bout for both fighters, because both of them have lost to reigning champion Israel Adesanya and are gunning for a rematch. Whittaker, the No. 1-ranked middleweight, is a -250 favorite at BetMGM. Gastelum, who lost an incredible bout to Adesanya at UFC 236, is +210.
The fight figures to be an entertaining slugfest. Since being stopped by Adesanya in the second round at UFC 243, Whittaker has defeated sluggers Darren Till and Jared Cannonier by impressive unanimous decisions.
Gastelum’s loss to Adesanya in 2019 was the first of a three-fight losing streak that he ended on Feb. 13 with a comprehensive victory over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258.
Whittaker could absorb a loss far easier than Gastelum. If Gastelum loses again, he’ll have dropped four out of five and his hopes of a title shot will be all but dashed.
I like Whittaker to win this fight by decision, as I think he’s got an edge on Gastelum in just about every area. Whittaker is No. 6 on Yahoo Sports’ pound-for-pound list and is as complete a fighter as there is in the sport.
He’s also been far more consistent than Gastelum, who on some nights flashes moments of brilliance and on others is inexplicably flat. That will be a huge issue against an elite talent like Whittaker.
I don’t think -250 is too high of a price to pay for Whittaker, so I recommend a play on him to win. I also see the fight going the distance, so I think it’s worth a bet that the fight goes five full rounds.
Other MMA bets
I like Andrei Arlovski, at -130, to defeat Chase Sherman, who is +110.
I like Tracy Cortez to finish Justine Kish.
At PFL, I like Anthony Pettis -550 over Clay Collard, who is +400.
At Bellator 257, I like Vadim Nemkov to win at -190 in his rematch with Phil Davis, who is +160.
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