Robert Whittaker has taken home Fight of the Night four times thus far in his UFC career. His opponent in tonight’s main event, Kelvin Gastelum, has done it three times. So what we seem to have ourselves here is a combustible situation when these two young veterans meet after a delayed detonation.
After their originally scheduled meeting for UFC 234 was canceled in 2019, Robert Whittaker lost the middleweight championship to Israel Adesanya but would then rebound with two consecutive main-event victories. Now, half a year after his most recent win, Whittaker believes he’s had ample time to prepare to go for three. This holds true even though he was subject to a last-minute change in opponent after Paulo Costa was forced to withdraw.
“Fortunately, I was given a month to (prepare), and I had previously camped for Gastelum, as well,” Whittaker said at media day. “Both things just lead up into my favor with actually accepting the change, but also I’ve had fights recently with southpaws, so it’s not too much of a stretch, too different. Obviously, stylistically Gastelum and Costa are two very different fighters, but it is what it is.”
Whittaker also believes that the two-year delay between tonight’s event and the original date he and Gastelum were supposed to meet will work in his favor. The former champion believes that he is now stronger mentally and physically than he was in 2019. For this reason, he feels prepared to put on a clinic against Gastelum but is also prepared to have one of those Fight of the Night experiences that both he and his opponent are familiar with.
“I’m hoping I can go out and dominate him, but I’m expecting an absolute war,” Whittaker said. “We’re both very well-rounded. He’s got dangerous power. He can wrestle, grapple. He’s tough as nails. I can do the same. Yeah, I expect the worst, hope for the best.”
Who wins tonight? Robert Whittaker or Kelvin Gastelum?