Robert Whittaker was sharp as a tack in his victory over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24. From the very first round, right down to the last minute of the fight, Whittaker controlled the fight with relative ease. Gastelum continuously came forward for all five rounds, as per usual. But even though he was able to put Whittaker on his heels, he was constantly met with a sharp cross or left hook that was fully absorbed each time it landed.
By the time the third round came along, most viewers had lost track of how many times Whittaker snapped Gastelum’s head back. The distance control of Whittaker was masterful, he was always just far enough away that he wasn’t stressed about being hit, but the perfect distance away to always land an impactful counter anytime Gastelum came forward.
It was just one of those nights for Whittaker, very early on in the contest it was evident that he was having an optimal performance. As dangerous as Gastelum is, there was never a moment in this fight that he posed a threat to the Australian. Everything was on point, the footwork was perfect, keeping him out of danger. His accuracy and efficiency was dead on. It was as if he couldn’t miss.
— UFC (@ufc) April 18, 2021
The fanduel betting odds had Whittaker as the (-265) favorite over Gastelum who was a (+210) underdog. A lot of fans and pundits felt as though there was too wide of a margin for these odds, but it turns out, fanduel had it right.
The fight earned fight of the night honors, as it should have. Gastelum has taken some flack as of late, not necessarily for his lackluster performances, but for the perception of him not being all-in on his professional MMA career in terms of how serious he is taking it. But in the fight against Whittaker, he looked as good as ever. Just outmatched in the elements of the fight that accounted for the most on this night.
With the latest victory, Whittaker finds himself on a three-fight win streak, all wins coming over the upper echelon of the middleweight division. Since he lost the middleweight title to Israel Adesanya in 2019, he took some much-needed time off, and if his most recent performances have been any indication, it’s served him well.
Marvin Vettori was Octagon side and is considered by many to be next in line for the middleweight title shot. But with the complete control Whittaker put on display over Gastelum, a lot of people’s opinions on who should be next to challenge Adesanya is going to change. At this juncture, it’s not clear who the most deserving next challenger should be. But luckily for the UFC matchmakers and fans, there’s a really easy way to determine that.
"A lot of his tricks wouldn't work on me… I would pressure the s— out of him to be honest. It would be pretty hard for him."
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 18, 2021
Taking into consideration that both Whittaker and Vettori have fought Adesanya already, but not each other, this decision should be an easy one to make. Whittaker vs Vettori to determine the number one contender is the move.
A lot of people will be quick to suggest Whittaker to be next in line after his most recent win, the same way the day after Vettori’s latest victory,many people were calling for him to get a shot. Recency bias is a very real thing, and predominantly at the forefront of most discussions and opinions when it comes to this sport. But as the dust settles and a week or two goes by, it’ll become clear that Vettori vs Whittaker is the future.
"The next fight for me is for the title. That's the fight I've earned."@RobWhittakerMMA has his sights set on a rematch with Israel Adesanya 🔊⬆️
Final #UFCVegas24 Results ⬇️:
— UFC News (@UFCNews) April 18, 2021
Both are performing better than they ever have, and having these two meet when they are hitting their peaks is a sure-fire way to deliver one hell of a fight to the fans, and a great way to build a fight with Adesanya. It’s also perfectly reasonable to expect that the fanduel betting odds for that fight would be very close, perhaps with Whittakker being a slight favorite.
But for now, it’s Whittakers time in the sun. A much deserved time in the spotlight after putting on an incredible performance where he utterly thwarted all attacks from a very dangerous contender, on route to a picture-perfect victory that inserted him right back into the title picture.