Gastelum embracing opportunity to be back in championship mix
For the second week in a row, middleweight contenders will meet in the main event of UFC Fight Night as Robert Whittaker faces Kelvin Gastelum in a showdown to earn the next title shot.
Watch UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum LIVE tonight at 8pm et/5pm pt on TSN1, TSN5 and TSN Direct.
Last week, Marvin Vettori gained three places in the middleweight rankings and is now the No. 3 fighter in the division after he scored a unanimous decision victory over Kevin Holland in their Fight Night main event bout.
Whittaker, a former middleweight champion, and Gastelum were previously scheduled to meet in a title fight at UFC 234 in February of 2019.
The champion was forced to pull out of that bout a few hours before they entered the cage and rushed into emergency surgery for an abdominal hernia and a twisted and collapsed bowel.
Whittaker would eventually drop the belt to current champion Israel Adesanya.
He enters Saturday’s bout in Las Vegas on a two-fight winning streak after capturing both fights since losing his title.
The Australian defeated Darren Till last July and Jared Cannonier at UFC 254 last October.
Whittaker is the top-ranked contender in the middleweight division.
No. 8-ranked Gastelum enters the bout after a victory over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 in February.
The win shattered a three-fight losing streak and got the 29-year-old back on track as he continues to battle towards a possible title shot.
“I had set up a plan for me, a 12-month plan to kinda get back to where I was, but that 12-month plan kinda got reduced to five months and I’m right where I want to be,” Gastelum told TSN. “I couldn’t be more grateful and I’m going to make the most out of this opportunity.”
The San Jose native previously had a failed bid for the interim middleweight title. He lost to Adesanya via unanimous decision at UFC 236.
Gastelum holds a 16-6 overall MMA record, with one no-contest.
In the co-main event, Jeremy Stephens returns to the lightweight division as he tries to break a five-fight winless streak against Drakkar Klose.
Stephens has lost four of his last five bouts, dropping fights against Jose Aldo, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodríguez and Calvin Kattar.
He also has a no contest against Rodriguez due to an accidental eye poke.
Klose dropped his last fight against Beneil Dariush at UFC 248 in March of 2020.
Prior to that setback, he was riding a three-fight winning streak that stretches back to a victory over Lando Vannata at UFC 226.
Also on the card, Vancouver’s Lupita Godinez will make her UFC debut as she steps in on short notice to face former strawweight title challenger Jessica Penne.
The former LFA women’s strawweight champion, who moved with her family from Mexico to Canada when she was a teenager, is 5-0 in her professional MMA career.