This weekend will be the UFC Fight Night: Whittaker VS. Gastelum event, where the former Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker will take on Kelvin Gastelum in the main event.
These two were originally scheduled to have a title fight in 2019 when Whittaker was forced to pull out with an injury. Kelvin instead fought for an interim title against Israel Adesanya, a fight in which he lost. Adesanya of course captured the undisputed championship from Whittaker leaving both men in an identical spot.
Whittaker and Gastelum are both looking for another shot at UFC gold and what better opponents to decide who is next.
Having just one win in his last four, Gastelum will need to secure a few more wins before reaching Izzy, but Whittaker may be one win away.
Robert Whittaker is not far away from the Middleweight Championship by any stretch of the imagination. Whittaker lost the strap to Adesanya definitively but has since rebounded with two straight victories against Darren Till and Jared Cannonier and finds himself remaining as the number one ranked Middleweight in the UFC.
With a win over Gastelum this weekend, Whittaker will have racked up three straight since losing the belt. But is that enough to put Whittaker back into the picture having lost so definitively?
The short answer should be yes for two reasons.
The first reason being this streak that Whittaker is currently on. If Whittaker can defeat Gastelum, he will have three straight wins against the top of the UFC’s Middleweight division. The other reason would be that the other fighters who could conceivably receive a title shot, all do not have the pedigree of Whittaker.
The fighters sitting at two and four in the division (Paulo Costa and Jared Cannonier, respectively) both lost their last fight with Costa losing to Adesanya and Cannonier losing to Whittaker.
The fighter sitting at number five, Derek Brunson, is on an impressive four-fight winning streak, but against much lesser or unproven opponents than Whittaker, and he lost to Adesanya way before Izzy even became the champion. The only other person aside from Whittaker, should he win this weekend, who could deserve a title shot is Marvin Vettori. Like Brunson, Vettori also lost to Adesanya before he became the champion, but Vettori lost via split decision whereas Brunson was KO’d. Vettori has also gone on a five-fight win streak to Brunson’s four.
The true deciding factor should Whittaker win this weekend will be which rematch the UFC will want to book first. The alternative decision of having Whittaker face Vettori could also be in play, but that would leave Adesanya inactive for quite a while.
Should Whittaker win this weekend, it will be one of Vettori or Whittaker who faces Adesanya for the Middleweight Championship next?
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