UFC Fight Night: Robert Whittaker defeats Kelvin Gastelum in masterful performance

Originally published at UFC Fight Night: Whittaker defeats Gastelum in masterful performance

UFC Fight Night Report: Robert Whittaker defeats Kelvin Gastelum in a masterful performance

On Saturday night, the UFC held a Fight Night event at the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. Originally, this card was going to be headlined by a bout between the two top-ranked middleweight contenders, Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa. Costa, however, was forced to withdraw from the fight, and Kelvin Gastelum stepped in to face the former UFC Middleweight Champion. Gastelum and Whittaker were once scheduled to fight for the title at UFC 234 in 2019, and they coached opposing teams on the 28th season of the Ultimate Fighter. The fight fell apart hours before the event when Whittaker was rushed to the hospital due to a collapsed bowel and an internal hernia. As fate would have it, both men would lose to Isreal Adesanya in their next respective bouts, and they moved on to other fights in the division. Now, with Costa’s withdrawal and both fighters coming off wins, it marked the perfect time to put this fight between Whittaker and Gastelum together. Jeremy Stephens was scheduled to face Drakkar Klose in the co-main event, but the fight was called off at the start of the broadcast due to an injury sustained at the face-offs to Klose, following a shove from Stephens. Following that fight’s cancellation, Andrei Arlovski’s fight against Chase Sherman was moved into the co-main event slot on the card.

Brendan Fitzgerald provided commentary for this card alongside Dominick Cruz and Michael Bisping. Performance of the Night bonuses was awarded to Tony Gravely and Gerald Meerschaert. Fight of the Night honors was awarded to Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum.


*Tony Gravely def. Anthony Birchak by TKO at 1:31 of Round 2

*Austin Hubbard def. Dakota Bush by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

*Gerald Meerschaert def. Bartosz Fabinski by guillotine at 2:00 of Round 1

*Jessica Penne def. Lupita Godinez by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

*Alexander Romanov def. Juan Espino by technical split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

*Luis Pena def. Alex Munoz by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

*Tracy Cortez def. Justine Kish by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

*Jacob Malkoun def. Abdul Razak Alhassan by unanimous decision (30-27 all)

*Andrei Arlovski def. Chase Sherman by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

*Robert Whittaker def. Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision (50-45 all)


Gravely landed a big right hand, and Birchak changed levels, attempting a takedown. Gravely reversed it, completing a takedown of his own, but Birchak picked himself up quickly. They separated near the cage and Gravely dropped Birchak with a right hand. He followed Birchak to his guard and landed some huge ground and pound. It looked like Birchak was on the verge of being finished a couple of times, but he ultimately found his way back to his feet. Gravely dragged him back down and he continued his ground and pound assault, but Birchak made it out of the round.

Roughly a minute and a half into the second round, Gravely dropped Birchak with a left hook, and he landed a single hammerfist before the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Tony Gravely by TKO at 1:31 of Round 2

This was a fun fight to start the night. Gravely was the biggest favorite on the card, and he made good on those odds with his performance here. This was his first stoppage in the UFC, and definitely his best performance thus far. Gravely is now 2-1 in the UFC.


Both fighters were very active in the opening minute. Bush in particular was throwing some bombs. As the fight wore on, Hubbard began to pick up the pace, but a nasty eye poke to Brush brought a pause to the action. When the fight resumed, Hubbard continued to advance, but Bush’s power kept him from getting too comfortable on the attack. Hubbard ended the round with a takedown. I gave the edge to Bush, but this round was close.

A minute and a half into the second round, Hubbard defended a takedown from Bush and proceeded to complete one of his own near the cage. It seemed apparent that Bush was tired after that opening round, and he didn’t have much for Hubbard once they went to the ground here. Easy round for Hubbard.

Hubbard landed a solid combination and Bush went for a takedown. Hubbard managed to reverse it on the way down, and he moved into full mount. Bush escaped with just over two minutes left in the third round, but he just didn’t have the energy to escape or seize the dominant position, and Hubbard continued to control the round. 29-28 Hubbard.

WINNER: Austin Hubbard by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

Bush gave a good account of himself on short notice, but it was the conditioning of Hubbard that ultimately made the difference in this fight. He controlled the fight with his wrestling throughout the final two rounds, and an exhausted Dakota Bush just wasn’t able to get much going for himself. With this win, Hubbard improved to 3-3 in the UFC.


Meerschaert landed a left hand to begin the fight. They clinched up against the cage, and Fabinski eventually changed levels, attempting a takedown. Meerschaert locked in a guillotine on his way down, and it was locked in tight. He readjusted his grip as they hit the ground, and he finished him with the choke.

WINNER: Gerald Meerschaert by guillotine at 2:00 of Round 1

With this submission, Meerschaert moved into sole possession of the most submission wins in UFC middleweight history. GM3 was in desperate need of a win here after losing his last two fights in brutal fashion, and he got exactly what he needed here, picking up his 24th career submission. Meerschaert is now 7-6 in the UFC.


Penne last fought in April of 2017.

Godinez took Penne down early in the first but allowed her to return to her feet. This sequence repeated itself. Godinez landed a pair of hard right hands, picked Penne up, and threw her down to the ground (once again allowing Penne to return to her feet. She landed one more right hand, but this time when she went for the takedown, Penne took her back and backpacked her against the cage. Godinez defended Penne’s rear-naked choke attempts for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Godinez.

Godinez began the second round with a strong combination. It was clear that Penne was looking for another back take, and she was successful, working her way onto Godinez’s back against the cage yet again. Godinez escaped, and she continued to throw Penne on the ground with seemingly no interest in engaging her in the grappling department. I gave this round to Penne, but honestly, both of these first two rounds could have gone either way.

Godinez landed her best strikes and slams of the fight throughout this final round, and Penne began to push forward in an attempt to make up some ground. She wasn’t able to get anything going for herself, however, and Godinez’s edge in the power department continued to be a difference-maker. I scored the fight 29-28 for Godinez.

WINNER: Jessica Penne by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

This was a strange fight. Godinez had the clear edge on the feet, but her strategy seemed to revolve largely around clinch work, where Penne was more dangerous. Penne was very emotional in her post-fight interview, which was understandable considering her long layoff and her public struggles against USADA these last couple of years. This was Penne’s first win since her UFC debut in 2014.


Romanov took Espino down a minute into the round, and Espino quickly returned to his feet. Espino defended Romanov’s attempts to bring the fight back down, and he brought Romanov down with a huge judo throw. Romanov powered his way back to his feet, and they ended the round, and Espino ended the round with a solid right hand. 10-9 Espino.

They traded some heavy shots early in the second round, a wild exchange that Romanov ultimately got the better of. Romanov ate a knee pursuing a takedown, but Espino went for a guillotine which ultimately resulted in Romanov gaining top position on the ground. Romanov began to let loose with his ground and pound, but Espino managed to work his way back to his feet. These two looked exhausted by the end of this round. 19-19.

Espino began the third round with a pair of takedowns, however, Romanov got back to his feet quickly, and got caught by a knee that landed low. Romanov was in a lot of pain, and the doctor was brought in. Eventually, the fight was stopped at 1:05 of the third round as Romanov could not continue. As the foul was deemed unintentional, and the fight made it to the final round, the fight went to the judge’s decision. I scored this strange fight 29-28 for Juan Espino.

WINNER: Alexander Romanov by technical split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

Going into this event, this was one of the fights I was looking forward to most. I found the grappling exchanges between the two engaging, but the ending definitely leaves a sour taste. I was somewhat surprised by the judge’s decision, as I thought Espino took the first and third rounds in a clear enough fashion, but perhaps he was punished by the judges for the fight-ending low blow. Romanov is now 3-0 in the UFC.

LUIS PENA (8-3, 155) VS ALEX MUNOZ (6-1, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT

Pena landed the better strikes in the opening minute, and quickly returned to his feet following a takedown from Munoz. Munoz connected with a strong 1-2, as well as a number of leg kicks. Pena caught Munoz with a knee to the chin. They traded some heavy shots towards the end of the round, and while both men landed good strikes, it felt as though Munoz’s had a bit more behind them. 10-9 Munoz.

Sharp left hand from Pena to begin the second round. Munoz continued to attack the lead leg of Pena, and he wobbled Pena with a hook. Munoz proceeded to take Pena down, but he couldn’t keep him there for long. Munoz avoided much of Pena’s offense throughout the remainder of the round and landed a powerful left hand before the buzzer. 20-18 Munoz.

I thought that Pena looked his best throughout this third round. He seemed comfortable on the feet, avoiding the shots from Munoz that he was getting hit by earlier. Pena was busier throughout this round as well, and he shrugged off Munoz’s takedown attempts. In the final minute, Pena began to really turn on the pressure, but Munoz wasn’t going anywhere, and the fight went the distance. 29-28 Munoz.

WINNER: Luis Pena by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

This was the third consecutive fight that resulted in a split decision. It was also the third consecutive fight in which I disagreed with the judge’s decision. Regardless, this fight was competitive, and Pena definitely turned it up in the final round. Pena improved to 5-3 in the UFC with this win

TRACY CORTEZ (8-1, 126.5) VS JUSTINE KISH (7-3, 125.5) – FLYWEIGHT

Cortez missed weight by 0.5lbs, and she was fined 20% of her purse.

They exchanged right hands to begin the fight. Cortez defended a takedown attempt from Kish, before taking Kish down herself. Cortez landed some strong ground and pound shots, and Kish was unable to really improve her position. Cortez eventually took her back and kept the position for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Cortez.

Cortez brought Kish back to the ground, but Kish managed to work her way up quickly this time. Kish kept the fight on the feet for the majority of the round and this was definitely a better five minutes for her. Kish was landing more, but Cortez’s shots seemed to have a bit more power behind them. Both fighters connected with some hard body kicks throughout the round. Tough round to score, but I narrowly gave it to Cortez.

Kish landed a series of solid right hooks throughout the opening minute. Cortez responded by taking the fight back to the ground, and she landed a bit more of that ground and pound that she used to dominate the first round. Cortez went for a guillotine that allowed Kish to get back to her feet. Kish caught Cortez with a huge right hook that hurt Cortez, but she recovered quickly and began firing back. The fight went the distance, and I ultimately scored it 29-28 for Cortez.

WINNER: Tracy Cortez by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

Our fourth consecutive split decision. The fight was close, so I could definitely see both sides of this one, but I think the right fighter got her hand raised here. Cortez’s ground and pound heavy attack controlled the fight early, but as the fight progressed Kish was able to stay on her feet and the fight became far more competitive. With this win, Cortez improved to 3-0 in the UFC.


Malkoun began the fight with a takedown. Alhassan quickly picked himself up and he immediately began swinging. Malkoun dodged some wild punches from Alhassan, and wrapped him back up against the cage. He eventually got Alhassan back to the ground. Alhassan worked his way back up, but he just couldn’t create any separation, and he was taken back down. With thirty seconds remaining in the round they separated, and Alhassan landed a number of kicks to the body before the end of the round. 10-9 Malkoun.

Malkoun wasted no time in bringing Alhassan back to the ground. He went for a trio of guillotines, and while Malkoun was unsuccessful each time, he maintained a dominant position. With ninety seconds remaining, Alhassan escaped to his feet. Alhassan was exhausted however and didn’t really get anything off before the end of the round. 20-18 Malkoun.

Unsurprisingly, Malkoun quickly took this fight back to the ground. This round looked exactly like the previous two rounds. Malkoun dominated the fight with his grappling, and clearly won every second of this final round. 30-27 Malkoun.

WINNER: Jacob Malkoun by unanimous decision (30-27 all)

After getting knocked out quickly in his UFC debut, Jacob Malkoun was naturally a sizeable underdog against a heavy hitter like Alhassan, but he fought the perfect fight here and dominated every minute of it. Alhassan has now lost his last three fights, and with this loss, he’s officially 0-3 in fights that make it out of the first round. Alhassan is typically an entertaining fighter, but it’s clear that he will have to make some changes to his game to advance in the division.


Arlovski flurried forward with some short combinations in the opening minute. Arlovski was trying to work his way into the clinch, but Sherman repeatedly avoided Arlovski’s attempts. Sherman began to pressure forward, and he rocked Arlovski badly late in the round, but Arlovski’s chin held up. Arlovski fired back, but his shots didn’t have the same power behind them, and the first round went to Sherman.

Arlovski countered Sherman with a nice counter-right hook early in the second round. He started to work his jab, and I felt as though Arlovski was starting to control the pace of the fight. Sherman started going to the body, and he defended a takedown attempt from Arlovski late in the round. They exchanged a number of leg kicks, and Sherman looked like he was feeling them by the end of the round. 19-19.

Sherman told his corner between rounds that his lead leg was compromised. Arlovski wasn’t targeting the leg, but he was landing some powerful combinations. Sherman connected with a strong right hand, but he caught Arlovski low with his leg during the exchange. They exchanged leg kicks when the action resumed, and they traded powerful hooks as well. Arlovski landed a big right hand that wobbled Sherman slightly. Arlovski pulled ahead in the final minute, attacking the lead leg and throwing some strong combinations. Sherman wanted Arlovski to stand and trade in the middle of the cage, but Arlovski did not comply. 29-28 Arlovski.

WINNER: Andrei Arlovski by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

It’s remarkable that Andrei Arlovski is still one of the most active fighters on the roster, consistently picking up wins at this stage of his career. He looked good in this fight and beat Sherman with his fundamentals on the feet in the later rounds. Arlovski also continued his tradition of swear-filled post-fight interviews, but I think the broadcasters managed to censor all of them this time. This marked Arlovski’s 20th UFC win, which is (unsurprisingly) a record at heavyweight. He is also 3rd all-time in total UFC appearances, behind Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone.


They touched gloves to begin the fight. Whittaker began the fight with a straight right hand. They exchanged leg kicks. Gastelum continued to attack Whittaker’s lead leg, as Whittaker attempted to counter with heavy hooks. Whittaker hurt Gastelum with his classic 1-2 head kick combo, but Gastelum’s chin held up. Gastelum landed a strong hook but gave up a takedown to Whittaker in the process. Whittaker racked up a solid amount of control time here. Gastelum made it back to his feet right before time expired. 10-9 Whittaker.

Gastelum came off of his stool swinging. Whittaker defended a takedown attempt and completed one of his own about a minute later. Gastelum got up quickly, and the fight continued on the feet. Whittaker was doing a good job of landing his shots and avoiding Gastelum’s. Still, Gastelum continued to press forward, and both men were showing the effects of the fight on their faces. Whittaker caught Gastelum with a straight left hand as Gastelum worked his way in, and ended the round with a powerful body kick. 20-18 Whittaker.

Whittaker ate a kick low early but took no time to recover. Whittaker landed a number of left hands, and Gastelum responded with a powerful left hand of his own. A sharp combination found its home for Whittaker, who continued to attack Gastelum’s lead leg as well. Despite taking the fight on short notice, Gastelum’s output had yet to waiver by the mid-way point of the round. They exchanged right hands, and Gastelum didn’t react well to Whittaker’s. Gastelum’s chin was remarkable. 30-27 Whittaker.

Whittaker defended a takedown to begin the fourth round. He connected with an uppercut and his output was beginning to dwarf Gastelum’s. Gastelum was still in this fight though, and he caught Whittaker with a nice right hand late in the round. Gastelum got Whittaker to the ground at one point, but it didn’t take him two seconds to get back to his feet. Whittaker ended the round with another strong uppercut. 40-36 Whittaker.

They touched gloves once more to begin the final round. Gastelum flurried forward early, knowing that he was in need of a finish. Gastelum defended a takedown from Whittaker and pressed him against the fence. They separated quickly, and Gastelum was not quite as hectic with his pace afterward. Whittaker landed a front kick to the face and followed it up with a looping punch. Whittaker took Gastelum down and began to work from half guard. Gastelum escaped with a minute remaining in the round but Whittaker brought him right back down and took his back. The fight ultimately went the distance. 50-45 Whittaker.

WINNER: Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision (50-45 all)

Wow. This was a beautiful performance from Robert Whittaker, and this was an excellent fight. Gastelum pushed the pace and was swinging for the fences every round, but Whittaker’s speed, distance management, and variety of attack were just phenomenal. This was Robert Whittaker at his absolute best, and it’s going to be very hard to deny him a rematch again Israel Adesanya after these last three performances. In his post-fight interview, he made it clear that he wants Adesanya next and suggested filling a stadium in Australia for that rematch later in the year. Whittaker is now 11-1 since moving to the middleweight division.

To the credit of Kelvin Gastelum, he brought the fight for 25 minutes against one of the best fighters in the world at his absolute best. Most fighters probably would not have made it out of that first round, but Gastelum’s chin is just something else. Gastelum’s record throughout his last five fights is 1-4 but I think this fight did a lot to remind people just how tough of an opponent Kelvin Gastelum is.