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UFC Vegas 24: Whittaker vs. Gastelum staff picks and predictions

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Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for UFC Vegas 24.

The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC Vegas 24, and good news for any Kelvin Gastelum backers because we are unanimously picking Robert Whittaker in Saturday’s main event. As for the co-main, there’s a perhaps surprising lean towards Jeremy Stephens over Drakkar Klose.

Once again, for Fight Night cards such as this one we’re just doing main card predictions.

Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Mookie Alexander: It was good to see Gastelum rely on his wrestling a bit against Ian Heinisch but I don’t think that’ll be of much help against someone with Whittaker’s exemplary takedown defense. Gastelum still is pretty damn quick, has a ridiculous chin, and he might even have the power to hurt Whittaker in exchanges. But Whittaker is the more diverse striker who’s more willing to work in combination, and if he gets Gastelum’s timing down early then I think this is Robert’s fight to lose. Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision.

David Castillo: Gastelum has been a law of diminishing returns for some time now. It’s almost like some of his recent mix of tactics would have been better served years ago when he was doing nothing more than trying to bomb people out. Not that he ever had elite power, but I’m pretty sure they’re still scraping Bisping off the canvas floor in Shanghai. Point is, Gastelum has never been a well-calibrated fighter, and that’s exactly what Whittaker is. Robert Whittaker by Decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Gastelum appears to have hit his ceiling, and his skillset makes for a really bad matchup here. Whittaker’s defensive wrestling is still top notch and his counter game can get Kelvin in a ton of trouble once they’re past the feeling-out process. Kelvin’s reach and power can certainly catch Rob slipping, but he’s weathered damage from harder hitters and more technically sound strikers. Gotta go with the fighter that’s experienced more growth and has better timing with all-around skills. Robert Whittaker by late TKO.

Zane Simon: Gastelum picked up the pace a bit last time out against an opponent who really wanted to push the pace against him. But with a more even and less pressuring fighter like Whittaker in front of him, will Gastelum be able to bring that energy back and force Whittaker to out-work him? I don’t think so. I’ve seen Gastelum fall into a slow, cautious range battle far too many times, to think that he’ll bring a lot of pressure to a fighter as dangerous as Whittaker. In which case, Whittaker can probably lean on his jab and that 1-2 high kick that he loves so much to out-land Gastelum for the decision. Robert Whittaker by decision.

Staff picking Whittaker: Mookie, David, Stephie, Dayne, Victor, Zane, Connor
Staff picking Gastelum:

Drakkar Klose vs. Jeremy Stephens

Mookie Alexander: Hmm… you know I’m really not sure about this one. Klose throws with a lot of power without actually having a lot of power. Perhaps his best path to victory is to outmuscle and outwrestle Stephens, and he’s really willing to crash into a clinch in pursuit of takedowns. Stephens is one of those strikers who can be technical most of the time and then sloppy and easily frustrated when things aren’t going his way. I’m not sure Klose is that type of fighter who historically gives Stephens problems. Then again I’m not sure how much Stephens has left considering he hasn’t won a fight in three years. Ahh… Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision.

David Castillo: I can’t blame Klose for losing to Dariush in such spectacular fashion. These things happen in MMA. Stephens is here because Dana once tried to give the local sheriff a get out of jail free card. Naturally, even with zero wins since 2018, Stephens still has an opportunity to showcase his withered skills. They say power is the last thing to go in a fighter’s arsenal. I have no reason to question its truth. I just think Stephens is losing too much (footwork, the way he used to better transition and mix things up) for power alone to compensate. Klose won’t threaten Stephens enough to ever be in complete control of the fight (a good reason to pick Stephens), but I think he’s good enough to win the isolated battles that will ultimately add up against an aging, mostly one-note fighter. Drakkar Klose by Decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Both of these fighters have a knack for mixing up their strikes with different levels, but Stephens is better at working off the break and also manages to hit harder and going to the body more. Unless cardio becomes a problem for him over time or he gets outworked with volume striking, he should be able to take this. Aside from that, Klose will have to work extra hard to take Stephens down and keep him there long enough to make a difference, which may eat up a lot of time on the clock and not be as fruitful. Jeremy Stephens by decision.

Zane Simon: I know it’s been a minute since Stephens won in the UFC, but very very few of the fighters he’s lost to fight with the kind of in-your-face pressure that Drakkar Klose brings to the table. Klose has a knack for leaning on his durability to trade big shots and work his way into controlling clinch positions where he can impose the most technical parts of his game. Against someone like Stephens who just wants to march him down and trade bombs, though? I just don’t have the faith that that style will work. Jeremy Stephens via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Klose: David, Stephie, Dayne
Staff picking Stephens: Mookie, Victor, Zane, Connor

Andrei Arlovski vs. Chase Sherman

Mookie Alexander: Sherman should win this. He’s a high-volume striker with a lot of ways to attack Arlovski. This is also short notice for Arlovski and he just got stopped not too long ago. But I’ve also been burned too many times picking against him versus younger, more dangerous talents that I just have a suspicion that he’ll land something big and rely on wrestling to win this. Andrei Arlovski by unanimous decision.

David Castillo: Arlovski got iced with a baseball bat a long time ago. Credit to him for still standing after all these years. Even in Arlovski’s prime, you could never rely on him to land consistently despite being a heavyweight with speed, power, and good mechanics. He ended up losing to Sylvia twice in his prime for f’ sake. He adapted for a brief period, but he just can’t be expected to maintain this kind of pace at this stage in his career. It sucks, and I love that wikipedia chose Arlovski’s best angle for a pic, but Sherman will put the heat on him, however lukewarm, and Arlovski will find ways to fight without enough urgency to ultimately win. Chase Sherman by Decision.

Zane Simon: Arlovski absolutely can win this if he can put enough fear in Sherman of the consequences of making this fight a busy boxing match. But, I’ve never seen Sherman pass up that kind of fight, whatever might be coming back his way. If Arlovski had been picking up a few more KO wins of late, I might pick him here to catch Sherman standing tall in the pocket, but instead, when opponents have been willing to bring the fight to him, even if it’s a wild, sloppy series of striking exchanges, Arlovski has been the one that struggles to keep up. Chase Sherman via decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Sure, Arlovski’s old. But there’s no way in the year of our lord Freddie Gibbs I’m gonna sit here and pick no goddamn Chase Sherman. You cannot make me. You’re not my real dad. Andrei Arlovski by decision.

Staff picking Arlovski: Mookie, Victor
Staff picking Sherman: Stephie, David, Dayne, Zane, Connor

Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Jacob Malkoun

Mookie Alexander: I mean they’re giving the heavy-handed Alhassan a dude who was nuked by Phil Hawes in 20 seconds. Why do you think they booked this fight? Abdul Razak Alhassan by KO, round 1.

David Castillo: I can’t wait to hear the commentary booth talk about Alhassan’s thighs. Am I being ironic? Maybe. As intimidating as Abdul looks and is, he hasn’t been able to channel much consistency out of his compact frame. I’d love for Alhassan to be MMA’s Ike Quartey, but he’s simply not a technician and never will be. Nonetheless, he’s powerful enough to put away Malkoun with what should be relative ease. Abdul Razak Alhassan by KO.

Zane Simon: Alhassan may not be big enough to be a real threat at middleweight, but I’m not at all convinced that Malkoun has the experience or durability to survive in the UFC. He got rushed to the promotion after just a few, fairly meaningless fights, likely because he’s one of Whittaker’s core training partners. But the way he immediately got rattled by Phil Hawes’ pressure, and then KO’d fast after, doesn’t give me any positive inclinations when thinking of Alhassan’s own penchant for blitzing out of the gate with huge power shots. Abdul Razak Alhassan via KO round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: I’m with Mookie here, Malkoun must’ve cost somebody some money at the baccarat table because wow, that’s a horrible matchup. Abdul Razak Alhassan by KO.

Staff picking Alhassan: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, David, Zane, Victor, Connor
Staff picking Malkoun:

Luis Pena vs. Alexander Munoz

Mookie Alexander: For someone as gigantic as Pena is, he’s not nearly as physically dominant as he should be. I don’t think he has the power to deter Munoz from routinely pushing for takedowns and outworking him on the mat. Alex Munoz by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: This will likely be a razor thin bout, where Pena’s moments of huge striking success with Munoz on the back foot, will immediately be countered by Munoz’s long stretches of success hitting power takedowns and working top control positions. I’m leaning Munoz, just because I think the control will count for more. But he’s awfully uncomfortable on his feet and if he doesn’t get the takedowns easily, Pena will likely find some opportunities to score big standing. Alex Munoz by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I’m totally in agreement with Zane, Peña seems like the kind of guy Muñoz will be able to control for a good stretch of the fight. That’s going to lead to a deficit that Peña might not be able to work his way out of and his striking may not be enough. Alex Muñoz by decision.

Staff picking Pena:
Staff picking Munoz: Mookie, Stephie, Dayne, Zane, Victor, Connor

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    Robert Whittaker
    (730 votes)
  • 14%
    Kelvin Gastelum
    (122 votes)
852 votes total Vote Now