Main Card (10 p.m. ET on ESPN)
– #1 Robert Whittaker (-260) vs. #8 Kelvin Gastelum (+200) – Middleweight Bout
– #9 Jeremy Stephens (-125) vs. Drakkar Klose (+105) – Featherweight Bout
– Luis Pena (-140) vs. Alex Munoz (+115) – Lightweight Bout
– Ricardo Ramos (-115) vs. Bill Algeo (-115) – Featherweight Bout
– Abdul Razak Alhassan (-300) vs. Jacob Malkoun (+235) – Middleweight Bout
– Andrei Arlovski (-135) vs. Chase Sherman (+110) – Heavyweight Bout
Prelims (7 p.m. ET on ESPN)
– Bartosz Fabinski (-130) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (+110) – Middleweight Bout
– Tracy Cortez (-240) vs. Justine Kish (+190) – W. Flyweight Bout
– Alexander Romanov (-140) vs. Juan Espino (+115) – Heavyweight Bout
– Tony Gravely (-310) vs. Anthony Birchak (+240) – Bantamweight Bout
– Josaine Nunes (-130) vs. Zarah Fairn (+110) – W. Bantamweight Bout
– Lupita Godinez (-300) vs. Jessica Penne – W. Strawweight Bout
– Austin Hubbard () vs. Dakota Bush () – Lightweight Bout
Robert Whittaker (-260) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (+200)
Former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (23-5) takes on former interim champion Kelvin Gastelum (16-6) in a main event with serious title implications.
Ever since his loss to Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker has looked razor sharp inside the Octagon. He has talked in depth about losing his passion for MMA before that Adesanya fight, and the time off allowed him to reignite that flame. That led him to two consecutive impressive wins over top contenders Darren Till and Jared Cannonier. Whittaker was at his tactical best in both of those fights. Displaying an absolute masterclass of distance management and movement while winning both convincingly on the scorecards. What makes Whittaker so special is how he mixes up his combination. Perhaps his best is when he leads with his piston of a jab and sneaks a head kick in behind. That’s how he finished Jacare Souza and dropped Jared Cannonier. He’ll want to keep this fight on the feet while controlling the pace and look to add striking volume against Gastelum.
For Kelvin Gastelum, he has had somewhat of a rocky journey ever since capturing the interim middleweight title back in 2018. He pushed Israel Adesanya as far as he has been pushed at middleweight in a close decision loss, then lost another decision to Darren Till and a quick submission loss to Jack Hermannsson. In his last bout he was able to go back to his wrestling roots and dominate Ian Heinisch over three rounds. Make no mistake about it, Gastelum still has knockout power in his hands and is as dangerous as they come at middleweight. His best path to victory in this fight likely lies by taking down Whittaker early and trying to wear on him. Then look for a later round finish when he will have more openings.
Although the path to victory is there for Gastelum, I just think Whittaker has looked far too sharp in his last two fights to pick against him. While his moneyline is a little too steep to take, I love his odds to win by decision at +150. Gastelum is notoriously hard to put away and I see Whittaker using his amazing fight IQ taking him to a decision win.
Best bet: Whittaker by decision (+150)
-William Burke (@w_burke22)
Jeremy Stephens (-125) vs. Drakkar Klose (+105)
Seasoned veteran Jeremy Stephens (28-18) moves back up to lightweight to take on Drakkar Klose in this co-main event slot.
When Stephens made his UFC debut, George W. Bush was President of the United States, the iPhone didn’t exist and I was in kindergarten. He’s been around a long, long time. The Des Moines, Iowa native has certainly seen his fair share of ups and downs and has never really been able to emerge into the top tier of UFC talent. Still, he continues to hang around the promotion as one of the most exciting knockout brawlers on the planet. His forward pressure and boxing savvy has produced some highlight reel knockouts and has kept him around the UFC for, like I said, a long, long time. When Stephens is in the Octagon, win or lose, it’s going to be entertaining.
It’s been a rough go of it recently for Stephens. His last win was in February 2018 and he’s 0-4-1 since. He’s struggled with the weight cut to compete at 145 and he’s paid the price. That said, his competition was as good as it gets. In fact, each one of Stephens’ last eight losses dating back to 2015 are to either a former champion, title challenger or a fighter currently ranked in the top 10 in the featherweight rankings. To avoid the brutal weight cut, Stephens is moving back up to 155 pounds, marking the first time he’s competed at lightweight since 2010.
Stephens’ first lightweight bid in over a decade will come against Klose, who is returning from a 13-month layoff. Klose has had two bouts canceled since his last fight, which ended in a brutal knockout loss to Beneil Dariush at UFC 248 in March, 2020. Klose isn’t particularly great at anything, but he’s good at just about everything. He’s a well-rounded mixed martial artist who has the ability to wrestle, grapple, or stand and trade punches on the feet. Klose is 5-2 since entering the UFC in 2017, with notable victories over the likes of Marc Diakiese and Bobby Green.
Strength of schedule is a major factor in this fight, which is why you can’t simply look at the records of these two men and make a pick. Sure, Stephens has dropped four of his last five bouts and holds the record for most losses in UFC history. But again, the guys he was fighting are exponentially better than the guys Klose has faced so far in his career.
Dariush and Stephens have very similar styles and we saw Klose fold under Dariush. In order to alleviate the constant forward pressure that Stephens will inevitably apply, Klose will need to keep his distance and, at times, resort to his wrestling. Even then, however, I think the experience of Stephens and his exposure to the upper echelon of UFC competition will come in handy. Also, the fact that he won’t need to cut to 145 for this contest should add some strength in those clinch grappling exchanges.
I like Stephens to finally get back on track with a much-needed win in this spot.
Best Bet: Stephens moneyline (-125)
Value Bet: Stephens inside distance (+215)
-Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)