Wednesday, October 27, 2021

UFC Vegas 34: Cannonier vs. Gastelum – Main Event Preview/Prediction

After a respite from the heat of combat action last weekend, the premier mixed martial arts promotion is back with UFC Vegas 34.

A pair of hungry middleweights will meet in the main event as former title challenger Kelvin Gastelum looks to ascend into the MW rankings once again with a win over the #3-ranked Jared Cannonier. Initially, Paulo Costa was scheduled to fight Kelvin Gastelum on August 21, but the Brazilian pulled out of the fight for an undisclosed reason. Interestingly, Costa also pulled out of a fight with Robert Whittaker prior to that; and once again, Gastelum was the company’s huckleberry.

Perhaps the promotion recognized Gastelum’s efforts and awarded him a fight with an opponent holding a top-5 ranking. Gastelum picked up his latest UFC win against Ian Heinisch back in February before dropping a decision to “The Reaper”.

Jared Cannonier Eying Gold

Despite losing his UFC debut at UFC 182: Jones vs. Cormier back in 2015, Cannonier has rebounded in a new division. During his UFC tenure, Cannonier has steadily found success and it appears his power translates well in the 185-pound weight class.

After Cannonier’s knockout loss to Dominick Reyes in 2018, the light heavyweight re-examined his career path. The “Killa Gorilla” redirected his focus and decimated David Branch around six months later. Then, after securing finish wins over Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson, the American emerged as an undeniable contender. With the lone hiccup to Robert Whittaker, Cannonier has looked outstanding in each middleweight appearance and will look to keep that tradition alive at UFC Vegas 34.

Gastelum’s trajectory at middleweight started in a linear fashion, and the undersized boxer found his way to an interim championship fight with Israel Adesanya quickly. To the surprise of many, Gastelum gave “The Last Stylebender” by far his hardest fight under the bright lights. Although light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz exposed some weaknesses on the ground of Adesanya, the fight with Gastelum illustrated a different type of fervor on that night. There was a primal desire to not only survive but thrive when he was forced to stand toe-to-toe with a Gastelum willing to leave it all in the cage.

Similar to Cannonier, Gastelum is also coming off a loss to “The Reaper.” Therefore, much of the action at UFC Vegas 34 will be paid to the minute adjustments the two athletes have made throughout their training camps. The sharp and straight boxing Gastelum displays will be a useful weapon against Cannonier, especially if Cannonier goes back to those power leg kicks he used against Anderson Silva.

In one of his most devastating losses, Cannonier struggled with Reyes mainly because he was a rangy southpaw. Gastelum does possess some of the striking weapons we saw from Reyes, but he will not enjoy any of the natural advantages that “The Devastator” had in their battle. In spite of those disadvantages, Gastelum is well-versed in covering distance and knows how to connect on his punches from various ranges. Shown in his evisceration of the former champion Michael Bisping, if Gastelum’s feet are planted, he packs as much power as any natural middleweight in the division.

Most believe the fight will take place standing, but it’s important to note that Gastelum does have a nice single leg and/or double leg snatch in his back pocket. The 29-year old averages at least one takedown per fifteen minutes, too, and that’s imposing considering his ability to mix up his strikes.

Since the two are jockeying for divisional positions, fights like these always deliver because the stakes are elevated. With the champion finished exploring other weight classes, it’s back to business as usual. And these middleweights know that they aren’t too far from picking a fight with “The Last Stylebender.”

Prediction: Jared Cannonier def. Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision

At UFC Vegas 34, which fighter do you think will walk away with the victory?

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