Kelvin Gastelum deserves credit for stepping up to fight Jared Cannonier this Saturday, replacing Paulo Costa who withdrew from the fight due to contract issues. But at the same time, Gastelum puts himself in a must-win situation against Cannonier as he looks to keep his relevance as a contender in the middleweight division.
The one that got away in 2019, is now scheduled for next month. Per sources, Kelvin Gastelum (@KelvinGastelum) replaces Paulo Costa in April 17 main event against Robert Whittaker (@robwhittakermma). pic.twitter.com/qfSrsTrbYq
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) March 16, 2021
Losing 4 of his last 5 fights
Gastelum earned this opportunity mainly due to timing, with most of the middleweights either injured or booked up with fights of their own. It’s highly unlikely someone like Gastelum coming off four losses in his last five fights would get main event treatment. While on the one side of things, a win here for Gastelum will get him right back in the driver’s seat towards a title shot. But on the flip side, another setback would put him at five losses in his last six fights. Not only would that move him out of a contender’s spot but he’d also likely be struggling to hold a UFC roster spot.
Welterweight is not an option
Coming into the contest, Kelvin Gastelum missed weight by 10 lbs. He was fined 30% of his purse, that Tyron Woodley was entitled to keep.
Tyron Woodley refused to to take the money & gave it back to Gastelum. A classy move by Woodley. pic.twitter.com/GFb2GjOZr8
— MMA History Today (@MMAHistoryToday) February 1, 2018
When a fighter hits a rough patch, moving down or up a weight class is usually an option. For Gastelum, light heavyweight is totally out of the question (as he’d be extremely undersized) whereas welterweight seems like an ideal fit. However, the 29-year-old has missed weight multiple times, and not only do I think that’s not an option for him anymore, but I’m also not sure the UFC would allow it. To make matters worse, Gastelum is fighting an opponent in Cannonier who has fought both a heavyweight and light heavyweight previously and likely will be the stronger fighter on Saturday. That could be the difference between a contender and a gatekeeper in the division.
Jared Cannonier (-172) Betting Favorite
Per our friends over at Fanduel, Cannonier is the favorite and I’m leaning the same way here. If Gastelum is able to utilize his wrestling and keep Cannonier’s striking at bay, he’s got a shot. However, I think Cannonier has a great opportunity to win a decision with his striking or knock Gastelum out over the five-round affair. Either way, the stakes are hight for the Kings MMA standout this weekend.