The middleweight division continues to move on at UFC Vegas 24 as Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker takes on short-notice replacement Kelvin Gastelum in the main event.
Whittaker knows a win cements his place as the number one contender for a potential rematch with Israel Adesanya, while Gastelum looks to get back to the sort of run that saw him fight Adesanya in an interim title fight two short years ago.
In the co-main event, Jeremy Stephens makes a return to the lightweight division for the first time since 2012 when he takes on heavy hitter Drakkar Klose at 155lbs.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 23 we had a pretty good night, going 9/13 with four perfect picks to take our total up to 279/439 (63.55%) with 125 perfect picks (44.8%).
Luis Pena (8-3) vs Alexander Munhoz (6-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
‘Violent Bob Ross’ makes a return to the octagon to take on a young up and comer looking for his first win in the UFC. Pena was well beaten last time out against Khama Worthy at UFC Vegas 4, while Munhoz stepped in on short notice in August and was dominated by Nasrat Haqparast at UFC Vegas 5.
Pena is a great striker with a good submission game too, while Munhoz is a strict wrestler who if he can’t get the fight down to the ground will undoubtedly struggle. Pena has all the tools to put a good run together, but it just never seems to click for him in the cage. Munhoz suffered a first defeat last time out against one of the better boxers in the division last time out.
It’s a one-sided fight, it’s just hard to know which way it goes because of the weaknesses both men have leading in to the opposite numbers strengths. As it stands though, I think Munhoz is likely to get the takedowns needed to grind out a decision win.
PICK – Alexander Munhoz via Decision
Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-3) vs Jacob Malkoun (4-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An absolute powerhouse and a less experienced powerhouse collide in a bout almost certain not to see the judge’s scorecards in the middleweight division. Alhassan has lost each of his last two fights after a two-year absence, getting well beaten by Mounir Lazzez on Fight Island before being starched by Khaos Williams at UFC Vegas 14. Malkoun made his debut at UFC 254 and was flattened by Phil Hawes in just 18 seconds.
Both guys are violent strikers with power that puts people to sleep, but Alhassan is by far the more experienced man in the cage. Malkoun’s record is short and a bit stodgy and his biggest claim to fame is that he’s a training partner of Robert Whittaker’s. Both guys have the power to put the other to sleep, but I can’t see past Alhassan getting back on the winning trail with a big, violent stoppage.
PICK – Abdul Razak Alhassan via Knockout, Round 1
Andrei Arlovski (30-20) vs Chase Sherman (15-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The legendary former world champion makes a quick turnaround to take on a big prospect in the heavyweight division. Andrei Arlovski had won two in a row beating Phillipe Lins and Tanner Boser at UFC Vegas 13, before being submitted by Tom Aspinall at UFC Vegas 19 earlier this year. Sherman has won four in a row including his UFC return against Isaac Villanueva back in May 2020.
Arlovski is a legendary kickboxer with tremendous punching power and great technique, while Sherman is a bit more of a traditional boxer with great power in his hands. Sherman is a specialist knockout artist, but considering he’s mainly a boxer he gets hit an awful lot.
It’s a tough fight to call, because both men have had questionable chins in the past and while Sherman has more power now Arlovski is the better all-round fighter. Despite that, Arlovski has lost a step in age at 42-years-old now and I think Sherman should be able to get enough volume going to get a win.
PICK – Chase Sherman via Decision
Jeremy Stephens (28-18 1NC) vs Drakkar Klose (11-2-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight bout in the co-main event as ‘Lil Heathen’ makes a return to 155lbs for the first time in nine years to take on the highly rated Drakkar Klose. Stephens was a contender at featherweight for a while but then went 0-4 (1 NC) in his last five to send him on a spiral back up to lightweight, while Klose had won three in a row before getting knocked out in a crazy fight against Beneil Dariush just over a year ago.
Stephens is a well rounded fighter who often relies on his heavy hands and steady boxing for big wins and it’s come up trumps more often than not. While his recent record is horrendous, he’s only been beaten by the elite of the 145lbs division so it’s hard to see how far he’s fallen if at all. Klose on the other hand is fantastic wrestler who has heavy hands of his own, but usually looks to take fights to the mat and work his ground and pound.
This is a really fun fight, but I can’t see it going particularly well for Stephens. Klose is the more technical fighter of the two, and while both men are durable Stephens was getting hurt by smaller guys than Klose. I think Klose will threaten the takedown and throw his hands too to be able to secure a decision win.
PICK – Drakkar Klose via Decision
Robert Whittaker (23-5) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
In the main event it’s a fight that was supposed to be for the middleweight title back at UFC 234 two years ago. Whittaker lost his belt to Israel Adesanya and has since won two in a row, defeating Darren Till at UFC Fight Island 3 before nullifying Jared Cannonier at UFC 254. Gastelum’s title shot was taken from him when Whittaker withdrew in need of emergency surgery, and then he lost to Adesanya for the interim title. He then got beaten by Till and by Jack Hermansson via heel hook at UFC Fight Island 2 but bounced back to a win over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 a few months ago.
Whittaker is an elite level kickboxer who is a master of range, with heavy hands and great footwork. Gastelum on the other hand is a heavy-handed wrestler who has good submission skills too. Whittaker is one of the best middleweights of all-time but he does get hit and rocked quite often. Gastelum has the power to hurt Whittaker with his hands, but he needs to get close enough and land clean to do it and I can’t see that.
‘Bobby Knuckles’ is better in every aspect of MMA and while Gastelum has a remarkable chin that will likely hold out, I cannot look past Whittaker waltzing to a decision win once again.
PICK – Robert Whittaker via Decision