ESPN is reporting that Australia’s own former UFC Middleweight Champion and #1 division contender – Robert Whittaker (22-5-0) – will now be facing #8 contender Kelvin Gastelum (16-6-1) in a five-round main event come April 17; the latter replacing Paulo Costa (13-1-0), who withdrew from the coming hostilities earlier this week after contracting the flu.
Whittaker and Gastelum had previously been scheduled to throw hands at UFC 234 back in early 2019, competing for the Middleweight title. After coaching opposing teams on The Ultimate Fighter, Whittaker would be forced to step down a day before the fight due to a hernia and twisted bowel. Instead, Gastelum faced current division champion – Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (20-1-0) – a few weeks after, providing fans with a historic slugfest fondly remembered to this very day (and providing the Nigerian-born talent with an interim title).
Given his recent comeback trail has seen decisive victories over both Darren Till (18-3-1) and Jared Cannonier (13-5-0), if Robert Whittaker manages to prevail over Kelvin Gastelum in Las Vegas next month, a title shot is definitely on the cards. Whether The Reaper manages to successfully reclaim the throne from Adesanya is another matter entirely.
There are, however, some factors external to Whittaker’s performance alone that need to be considered. His foray in the light heavyweight division against reigning champion Jan Blachowicz (28-8-0) may have proven unsuccessful, but Adesanya is reportedly keen on defending his status as king of the 185-pounders against Darren Till later this year. If he were to lose against Till, Whittaker could potentially be facing Till for the second time in 18 months – which would certainly be interesting, to say the least.
It’s worth noting that while contracts may not be officially signed just yet, here’s what the meat of the UFC April 17 card will now resemble:
- Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum
- Bartosz Fabinski vs Gerald Meerschaert
- Parker Porter vs Chase Sherman
- Tracy Cortez vs Justine Kish
- Tony Gravely vs Nate Maness
- Austin Hubbard vs Natan Levy
- Drakkar Klose vs Jeremy Stephens