One of the most-anticipated upcoming title bouts in the UFC has been delayed until next year, and I’ll give my thoughts on that in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum Delayed
The upcoming middleweight title fight between champion Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum is going to be delayed until early 2019 at the earliest. Whittaker himself told ESPN.com’s Ariel Helwani that the injuries he suffered in his rematch with Yoel Romero at UFC 225 are going to take longer than expected to recover and he will be out on the shelf until next year. According to Whittaker, he broke his hand in the Romero fight and needed plates and a screw inserted in it. The rehab process will follow the healing process, so the champ is unfortunately going to be on the shelf longer than expected. Previously, it was thought that Whittaker would be healthy enough to defend his middleweight title at UFC 231, which takes place Saturday, December 8 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Now, it’s looking like the UFC’s Super Bowl card next February is a more realistic date for this fight between Whittaker and Gastelum, who will first coach opposite each other on the 28th (and possibly final) season of The Ultimate Fighter. Whittaker’s injury is not expected to affect the taping of the show.
Whittaker (20-4) has been a revelation since moving up to 185lbs, as he’s currently ridng a nine-fight win streak. In his last two bouts he defeated Romero and prior to that knocked out Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Even though the second fight with Romero was close, the fact Whittaker has beaten him twice should make everyone realize he’s the best middleweight on the planet right now. Gastelum (15-3, 1 NC) is 3-1, 1 NC since moving up to middleweight and in his last two bouts knocked out Michael Bisping and beat Souza by decision. Like Whittaker, he’s another fighter who has proved you don’t have to cut a ton of weight to succeed in this sport, and at this point Gastelum returning to welterweight just doesn’t seem realistic at all. There has been no betting line released for this bout as of yet, but even with the delay for the bout I’d expect a line to come out soon, with Whittaker as a slight favorite to defend his belt. Even with the close fights against Romero and his injuries, Whittaker still deserves that respect as the defending champion.