Top-ranked middleweight contender Robert Whittaker will attempt to defend his spot in the division when fighting Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of Saturday night’s UFC card. The five-round bout headlines a “Fight Night” card that is set to happen at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Follow along throughout the evening for live coverage.
A preview of the card can be viewed here.
Preliminary Card (7:00PM EDT / 4:00PM PDT) (ESPN / TSN 5)
Bout 1: Tony Gravely def. Anthony Birchak via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 1:31)
Bout 2: Austin Hubbard def. Dakota Bush via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 3: Gerald Meerschaert def. Bartosz Fabinski via Submission, Guillotine Choke (RD 1, 2:00)
Bout 4: Jessica Penne def. Lupita Godinez via Decision, Split
Bout 5: Alexander Romanov def. Juan Espino via Decision, Technical
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (ESPN / TSN 5)
Bout 6: Luis Pena def. Alex Munoz via Decision, Split
Bout 7: Tracy Cortez def. Justine Kish via Decision, Split
Bout 8: Jacob Malkoun def. Abdul Razak Alhassan via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 9: Andrei Arlovski def. Chase Sherman via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 10: Robert Whittaker def. Kelvin Gastelum via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 10: Robert Whittaker (22-5) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (17-6) (Middleweight)
Whittaker Out-Performs Gastelum For Decision Win In Main Event
Robert Whittaker showcased his stellar striking skills against Kelvin Gastelum in the main event, dominating him on the feet for a decision win after five rounds (50-45, 50-45 & 50-45).
The 25-minute fight saw Whittaker connect with the better combinations and have the better looks on the feet. Gastelum was persistent throughout, keeping an output that trailed behind what Whittaker was able to do.
Whittaker was also able to secure a trio of takedowns during the fight, with some coming early and one happening in the closing few minutes.
Whittaker entered the bout as UFC’s top-ranked middleweight contender. He now has three consecutive wins since losing his belt to Israel Adesanya in 2019. With another win under his belt, he feels ready for the rematch with Adesanya.
“I think it’s about time we cross paths again,” said Whittaker to Adesanya in his post-fight interview.
He is not the only one who is aiming for a title shot, as fellow contender Marvin Vettori said he felt ready for a bout against Adesanya following his main event win over Kevin Holland last week.
Gastelum took the main event fight on just a few weeks notice. News broke in mid-march that Gastelum would step in for Paulo Costa, who withdrew from the matchup.
The 29-year-old snapped a three-fight skid in his previous showing, defeating Ian Heinisch in February. The previous losses on his record came against big names in the division like Darren Till or current champ Adesanya.
Whittaker gave credit to Gastelum following their fight.
“A lot of people were selling Kelvin [Gastelum] short … I think he’s one of the best fighters in the division,” said Whittaker.
Bout 9: Andrei Arlovski (30-20) vs. Chase Sherman (15-6) (Heavyweight)
Short-Notice Opponent Arlovski Out-Strikes Sherman For Decision Win
UFC veteran Andrei Arlovski was successful in his short-notice appearance against Chase Sherman, picking up a win via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).
Arlovski’s win came after having the sharper striking in a three-round fight. Sherman stayed active with his own strikes as well, although it was Arlovski who got the nod.
Arlovski took the fight just last week, replacing Parker Porter.
The fight put Arlovski back into the win column after taking a submission loss to Tom Aspinall in February. Prior to that loss, Arlovski attained two decision wins in 2020.
Sherman won in his return to the UFC last year, stopping Ike Villanueva with strikes.
Bout 8: Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-3) vs. Jacob Malkoun (4-1) (Middleweight)
Malkoun Dominates Alhassan With Wrestling For First UFC Win
Jacob Malkoun dictated his fight against Abdul Razak Alhassan with wrestling for three rounds, eventually leading him to a unanimous decision win (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).
Malkoun kept Alhassan on the ground throughout, scoring takedowns that came quite easily.
Malkoun’s win bounced him back from his first pro loss, which came against Phil Hawes in October. The fight, which was Malkoun’s UFC debut, finished in only 18 seconds due to punches.
Alhassan is now on a three-fight losing streak. His previous fights were last year, where he lost via decision to Mounir Lazzez and was stopped in 30 seconds with punches by Khaos Williams.
Bout 7: Tracy Cortez (8-1) vs. Justine Kish (7-3) (Flyweight)
Cortez Earns Split Decision Over Kish In Flyweight Debut
Tracy Cortez won in her move to flyweight on Saturday, taking a split decision over Justine Kish after a close fight (29-28 Cortez, 29-28 Kish & 30-27 Cortez). The bout saw Cortez have the better start, with Kish getting control in the second half.
Cortez’s best moments were when she was able to take the fight to the ground, where she was able to score with flurries of punches while in dominant positions. She put down numerous minutes of control time in the first round.
Kish succeeded the later they went into the fight, out-landing Cortez when they were in stand-up exchanges. Kish’s best round was the final frame, where she kept the fight on the feet and started to hurt Cortez with strikes.
Cortez missed weight for the fight slightly, coming in half-a-pound over the non-championship flyweight limit on Friday. She now has three consecutive wins in the UFC. Her two previous victories were over Vanessa Melo and Stephanie Egger at bantamweight.
Kish has now lost four of her last five fights. Her previous appearance saw her get submitted for her first time as a pro, being stopped by Sabina Mazo.
Bout 6: Luis Pena (8-3) vs. Alex Munoz (6-1) (Lightweight)
Pena Takes Split Decision Victory Over Munoz
Luis Pena’s high output of strikes through three-rounds against Alex Munoz earned him a split decision win on Saturday (29-28 Munoz, 29-28 Pena & 29-28 Pena). Pena was active with punches throughout and was also able to connect with perfectly timed knees to the body.
Pena was confident with his performance once going to the scorecards.
“I don’t feel that he actually did any real damage to me,” said Pena in his post-fight interview.
Pena lost his previous fight, getting submitted last year by Khama Worthy.
Munoz has yet to win since entering the UFC last year. His previous fight, which was his promotional debut, saw him lose on scorecards to Nasrat Haqparast.
Bout 5: Alexander Romanov (13-0) vs. Juan Espino (10-1) (Heavyweight)
Romanov Picks Up Technical Decision Win Following Groin Shot
A close heavyweight bout came to an unfortunate end in the third round as an unintentional groin strike from Juan Espino to Alexander Romanov stopped their match. Romanov was given a win when they went to a technical decision afterwards, which accounted for the first two rounds and what happened in the third round prior to the knee. (29-28 Romanov, 29-28 Espino & 29-28 Romanov).
Romanov was on the ground for nearly five minutes before the referee decided to call the fight.
Both Romanov and Espino had their moments earlier in the fight, scoring takedowns and looking to do work on the ground.
The decision protected Romanov’s now 14-fight undefeated record. The career includes 13 finishes and two other wins in the UFC.
Espino now has his first loss since joining the UFC. The winner of Season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter” made his return to the cage in September, defeating Jeff Hughes in the first round via submission.
Bout 4: Jessica Penne (12-5) vs. Lupita Godinez (5-0) (Strawweight)
Penne Picks Up First Win Since 2014 With Decision Over Godinez
Jessica Penne snapped a losing streak and won in her return to the cage on Saturday, defeating short-notice opponent Lupita Godinez in a split decision (29-28 Penne, 29-28 Godinez & 29-28 Penne).
Penne was making her return to action after nearly four years outside of the octagon. Injuries and issues with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency kept Penne out of action for years.
“I’m just really happy,” said Penne, who was emotional during her post-fight interview.
Godinez was making her UFC debut in the fight. She replaced Hannah Goldy, who withdrew from the fight earlier in the month.
Godinez entered the fight after putting together a five-fight undefeated run on the regional scene. She earned a title in her previous fight, defeating Vanessa Demopoulos on an LFA card last year.
Bout 3: Gerald Meerschaert (31-14) vs. Bartosz Fabinski (15-4) (Middleweight)
Meerschaert Snaps Losing Streak With Quick Guillotine Choke Win
Gerald Meerschaert scored a sudden submission victory on the prelims, putting Bartosz Fabinski unconscious with a guillotine choke in the first round. Meerschaert applied the choke as Fabinski shot for a takedown, keeping with it until Fabinski went to sleep.
Meerschaert snapped a two-fight losing streak with his quick appearance on Saturday. He was stopped within a round in his two previous showings, getting finished by Ian Heinisch and Khamzat Chimaev last year.
“It was really good to get back on the right side of things,” said Meerschaert in his post-fight interview.
Fabinski has now lost his last two. He was submitted quickly in his last fight of 2020, as Andre Muniz caught him in an armbar for a tap-out.
Bout 2: Austin Hubbard (12-5) vs. Dakota Bush (8-2) (Lightweight)
Hubbard Returns To Win Column With Decision Over Bush
Austin Hubbard had a smothering performance over UFC newcomer Dakota Bush, using strong striking along with control on the ground to earn a unanimous decision win (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).
Bush was making his UFC debut on short notice. He was replacing undefeated lightweight Natan Levy, who had to withdraw from his bout against Hubbard due to injury last week.
“I didn’t have too much expectation for what was going on in the fight,” said Hubbard, who mentioned afterwards that he didn’t get to study any footage of Bush.
Hubbard bounced back from a submission loss to Joe Solecki that he took in August.
Bout 1: Tony Gravely (20-6) vs. Anthony Birchak (15-7) (Bantamweight)
Gravely Finishes Birchak With Left Hook To Earn First Stoppage UFC Win
Tony Gravely’s strong stand-up striking mixed with hard ground and pound proved too much for Anthony Birchak to handle, as he stopped him in the second round of a bantamweight fight. Gravely put an end to the fight with a left hook that dropped Birchak in the second round, causing the referee to step in shortly after.
Gravely had a strong first round as well, hurting Birchak early with a right hand before going to the ground. Birchak was warned by a referee after being hit with a series of punches to the head while on the ground. Birchak was able to fight back at points, attempting a guillotine choke in the first round.
Gravely is now on a two-fight win streak. His previous fight saw him score his first UFC victory, earning a split decision win over Geraldo de Freitas in November.
Gravely’s win on Saturday was his first via stoppage since entering the UFC in 2019.
“My last fight, they thought I was a lay and pray type [of] fighter. I wanted to get back to the finishes,” said Gravely in his post-fight interview.
Birchak now has two consecutive losses in his current UFC run. Birchak made his return to the UFC last year, losing to Gustavo Lopez within a round with a rear naked choke. The fight was Birchak’s first in the promotion after six fights elsewhere.
Klose vs. Stephens Co-Main Event Cancelled
UFC’s “Fight Night” card lost its co-main event between Drakkar Klose and Jeremy Stephens just hours before it was set to happen. The cancelled bout was announced during the UFC broadcast of the preliminary card.
The fight was removed from the card due to injury on the side of Klose, per the broadcast.
There were slight changes to Saturday’s card following the change.
The new co-main event is set to be a heavyweight bout between Andrei Arlovski and Chase Sherman.
To keep UFC’s main card at five fights in total, the flyweight bout between Tracy Cortez and Justin Kish has been bumped up from the prelims.