Robert Whittaker once again proved himself one of the best strikers in MMA.
The former UFC champion defeated Kelvin Gastelum via decision in the main event of UFC Vegas 24 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Despite the unanimous 50-45 scorecards in Whittaker’s favour, the pair illustrated precisely why they had been scheduled to meet for the middleweight title just two years ago. In a high-level striking battle, Whittaker edged Gastelum with the cleaner and more significant strikes overall. Whittaker had a speedier, more versatile attack, mixing his striking with kicks low and high, and even taking Gastelum down when the timing was right. But Gastelum showed unwavering heart and an iron chin; while the former title challenger took some brutal shots, he wore them well and fired back, and the success could be seen on Whittaker’s face in the aftermath.
Consider the score settled ?@RobWhittakerMMA dominates his way to a decision at #UFCVegas24 pic.twitter.com/I2j5ZoJivT
— UFC_AUSNZ (@UFC_AUSNZ) April 18, 2021
“I’m feeling on top of the world,” Whittaker said in his post-fight interview. “Obviously this was a very hard fight. I think a lot of people were selling Kelvin short because of where he’s ranked and he’s had a bit of a spill, but I think he’s one of the best fighters in the division, and that was a tough fight.”
After losing the title in October 2019 to current champion Israel Adesanya, Whittaker, 23-5, has picked up three wins since, including decisions over Darren Till and Jarod Cannonier, putting him in a strong position for title contention.
“I’ve got nothing but respect,” Whittaker said of Adesanya. “He’s a great fighter, but I think we should talk, mate. I think it’s time we crossed paths once again, and I think we can get a sold-out stadium. They might even open up the borders for Australia in September. Let’s make that happen. Let’s see if we can get a stadium back home.”
During the interview UFC commentator Michael Bisping told Whittaker that champion Israel Adesanya had tweeted, ‘Good job my son’ in response to the victory.
“It’s him. It is what it is,” Whittaker laughed in response. “He had a win, he gets the trash-talking rights. He beat me last time. But I’m gonna work hard. I think I’ve got some tricks he has’t seen and I’ll give him a good run, I think.”
Whittaker’s teammate Jacob Malkoun had an impressive performance on the main card, picking up his first UFC win against Abdul Razak Alhassan. Malkoun executed the perfect game plan. A vicious striker with all of his 10 wins coming by way of first-round knockout, Alhassan was shutdown by Malkoun’s relentless and smothering wrestling. Favouring double underhook leg trip and single leg takedowns, Malkoun controlled the fight from bell to bell in what was ultimately a dominant unanimous decision victory.
DOUBT HIM NOW ?
Jacob Malkoun put on one hell of a performance to completely shut down Alhassan! #UFCVegas24 pic.twitter.com/rExeWc5nMS
— UFC_AUSNZ (@UFC_AUSNZ) April 18, 2021
“We did a lot of wrestling, not just for Abdul, but we just wrestle a lot with our coach Andrew Kanatli at Gracie Smeaton-Grange and our jiu-jitsu with Alex Prates,” Malkoun said in his post-fight interview. “We just work hard. We brought in a lot of wrestlers, to help us, that compete in the Commonwealth Games. They say we got no wrestlers in Australia, but you just saw some good wrestling, ey.”
25-year-old Malkoun is now 5-1, while Alhassan drops to 10-4 after his third straight loss.
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum took place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, April 18 (AU). See full results for the main and preliminary cards below.
Main Card (UFC Fight Pass/ESPN 1) – 12pm AEST:
- Robert Whittaker def. Kelvin Gastelum via Decision (Unanimous)
- Andrei Arlovski def. Chase Sherman via Decision (Unanimous)
- Jacob Malkoun def. Abdul Razak Alhassan via Decision (Unanimous)
- Tracy Cortez def. Justine Kish via Decision (Split)
- Luis Pena def. Alex Munoz via Decision (Split)
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass/ESPN 1) – 9am AEST:
- Alexandr Romanov vs. Juan Espino via Decision (Technical, Split), Rd 3, 1:05
- Jessica Penne def. Lupital Godinez via Decision (Split)
- Gerald Meerschaert def. Bartosz Fabinski via Submission (Guillotine Choke), Rd 1, 2:00
- Austin Hubbard def. Dakota Bush via Decision (Unanimous)
- Tony Gravely def. Anthony Birchak via TKO (Strikes), Rd 2, 1:31