On Saturday, Aug. 21, the UFC will host UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Gastelum from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Jared Cannonier was likely one victory away from a title shot in his last outing when he came up short against former champion Robert Whittaker. He suffered a broken arm in that fight that has kept him out of the Octagon for nearly 10 months. Originally slated to take on Paulo Costa, Cannonier will instead take on Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum also fell short in his most recent outing against Whittaker and is looking to work his way back into the top five.
The co-main event is an all-action lightweight affair with longtime veteran Clay Guida meeting the undefeated Mark O. Madsen. Guida is just four months shy of his 40th birthday but comes into this fight on a high note after defeating Michael Johnson his last time out. Madsen made the transition to full-time MMA fighter after the 2016 Olympics and has won all eight of his professional fights, including his first two UFC contests.
Also on the main card is a heavyweight fight between Parker Porter and Chase Sherman. Porter is looking to improve his record inside the UFC to 2-1 after dropping his debut and bouncing back in his sophomore outing. Sherman is also 1-1 in his most recent run with the UFC after alternating wins and losses since making his return.
Vinc Pachel meets Austin Hubbard at lightweight, Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval collide at flyweight, and bantamweights Mana Martinez and Trevin Jones open the main card.
The event kicks off on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET, with the main card following at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. Combat Press writers Matthew Petela and Andrew Sumian preview the action and predict the outcomes as they go Toe-to-Toe.
Both fighters in this week’s main event are coming off losses to Robert Whittaker; which man comes away with a victory?
Sumian: It is difficult to find two names on the UFC middleweight roster who are as game and likable as Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum. Both combatants find themselves ranked within the top 10 after facing some of the best in the division and achieving mixed results. The winner of this bout is unlikely to make a grand step towards title contention but will ultimately keep their name in the mix.
Cannonier has had one of the most interesting careers in the UFC to date. Although he is generally quiet and mellow in the spotlight, the Dallas native has competed in three weight classes inside the Octagon. After a rocky start to his UFC campaign which resulted in 4-4 record between heavyweight and light heavyweight competition, Cannonier’s career was rejuvenated when he successfully transitioned to middleweight.
Cannonier scored an unexpected second round TKO of David Branch launching him into the top 15 of the division. He followed this performance with dominant stoppage victories over Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson earning him a co-main event showdown with Whittaker. Despite many believing Cannonier was the next man up for the champion Israel Adesanya, he fell short in the title eliminator. Eager to get back in the win column, the 37-year-old Cannonier is ready and focused to do battle with one of the divisions most well-rounded fighters in Gastelum.
To date, Gastelum has been Adesanya’s most competitive title fight. The 29-year-old Gastelum had a distinct reach, height and striking disadvantage, but was able to overcome it with pure heart and tenacity. Since then, Gastelum has turned in a shocking 1-3 record which includes losses to Jack Hermansson, Darren Till and Whittaker. Even so, the San Jose native is still barely in his prime and has the chance to disrupt the middleweight title picture with a win.
Gastelum boasts one of the most solid mixed martial arts games in the UFC today. The short, yet extremely dynamic brawler has fight-ending knockout power in his both fists as well as a sound wrestling background. He also possesses black-belt level BJJ. Eager to earn a rematch with the champion and start a legacy of his own, Gastelum will have to dig deep in effort to pull off a victory.
Despite Cannonier’s prowess and success as a middleweight, a refocused and consistent Gastelum will be too much for him to handle. Cannonier will try to keep Gastelum at distance using his length. To counter, Gastelum will constantly look to close the distance with pressure, clinch fighting and takedown attempts. Gastelum will stay cool and composed before he ultimately finds Cannonier’s neck in an effort to secure a successful choke.
Petela: There is no doubt that Gastelum gave Adesanya all that he could handle in their interim title clash. But since that fight he has not looked impressive. Gastelum’s only victory since losing that fight was a decision win over Ian Heinisch. He has struggled against the best of the best at middleweight, losing fights to Till, Hermansson and Whittaker. That trend of faltering against the truly elite will continue this weekend against Cannonier.
Gastelum has crisp hands and is a good wrestler, but at the end of the day, he is too undersized at middleweight to have consistent success. That is the exact opposite of Cannonier who has steadily made his way down from heavyweight to find the right division. While Gastelum will look to exploit his wrestling advantage, he will be unable to due to the physical size and strength of Cannonier. The technical advantage for Gastelum will not be great enough to overcome the size disadvantage. This fight will start out competitively and will be entertaining but by the later rounds it will be one-way traffic with Cannonier dolling out a ton of punishment on his way to a dominant victory.
Mark O. Madsen puts his undefeated record on the line this weekend against longtime UFC veteran Clay Guida; does the Olympic silver medalist stay perfect??
Petela: Yes. Guida will provide a tough test but ultimately Madsen will come away with a win. If there is one thing that Guida is known for it is unbelievably high energy. He never seems to get tired. In Madsen’s last fight he seemed to tire late in the fight after a high output of offensive wrestling. During preparation for this fight, Madsen surely put an emphasis on maintaining his cardiovascular endurance. We will see a more measured approach throughout the duration of the fight.
Madsen won his silver medal in 2016 at the Rio Olympics as a Greco-Roman wrestler. It is that specific base that will ultimately make the difference. Guida is anything but conventional, but over the course of his career he has faced many opponents with a freestyle wrestling background. Because he is so well versed in Greco-Roman wrestling, Madsen will be able to capitalize on ever so slight mistakes Guida makes while they are in the clinch to get the fight to the mat. He will control “The Carpenter” for the majority of each round. This one will go the distance, but Madsen will be the fighter with his hand raised at the end of an exhausting fifteen minutes.
Sumian: Hard to argue with my colleague’s logic here. In spite of Guida’s high output and incredible pace, he is far past his prime and will lose a competitive decision to surging wrestler Madsen. It is unfortunate that Madsen did not get his start in mixed martial arts sooner as he is entering the back half of his fighting career. The Denmark native was forbidden to compete in MMA due to receiving a salary for his wrestling commitments. Expect Madsen to make the best of however long his stint with the UFC lasts.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Sumian: There are not many names on this card who are in danger of being cut with a loss. Thus, I will slightly change the direction of this question and go with Cannonier. The 37-year-old is out of time in regard to chasing a title shot and a loss to Gastelum come Saturday pretty much closes the door for good. Despite originally being set up to take on No. 2-ranked Paulo Costa in a title eliminator, Cannonier now puts his No. 3-ranking at substantial risk.
Petela: It is not a good look to start your UFC run with two straight losses. That is what is on the line for Domingo Pilarte this weekend. A loss might not necessarily lose him his spot on the roster but if he looks totally outmatched this weekend, he could find himself forced to rebuild his career back on the regional scene.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: Brian Kelleher and Domingo Pilarte. Pilarte did not fare well in his UFC debut, losing by knockout in only 37 seconds. That was ultimately overturned to a no-contest after a positive marijuana test by Journey Newson, but it surely left a sour taste in Pilarte’s mouth. Look for him to go all out to get rid of that memory. He has the perfect opponent in Brian Kelleher. These two bantamweights will slug it out from start to finish and this one doesn’t make it more than two rounds.
Sumian: Brandon Royval versus Alexandre Pantoja should be the co-main event of this card. The two flyweights are extremely talented combatants who combine for three “Fight of the Night” bonuses and 27 finishes. Expect constant excitement when these two square off and open the main card with a bang.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Sumian: Chase Sherman. The 31-year-old heavyweight certainly had a rocky start to his UFC career. He has turned it around since being cut and competing in Island Fights. Sherman recently turned in a stunning second-round knockout of Ike Villaneuva before suffering a decision loss to the ultra-experienced Andre Arlovski. He’ll get back on track after he finishes Parker Porter in the first round and earns the first performance honor of his career.
Petela: Brandon Royval. Royval won a pair of “Fight of the Night” bonuses in his first two UFC bouts, both victories. Unfortunately, a mid-fight injury led to him losing his last fight against current champion Brandon Moreno. He will get an impressive stoppage win this weekend over the always dangerous Alexandre Pantoja.
Pair this card with…
Petela: Ice cream cake. Saturday night is a night for celebration. The main event will be a great way for Jared Cannonier to bounce back from his recent loss and reclaim his position on the short list of middleweight title contenders. There will also be a plethora of highlight-reel finishes throughout this underrated card that keeps fans entertained from start to finish.
Sumian: Well said by my cohort in regard to an underrated card. This fight night has a great shot of resulting in one of the more entertaining cards of the year despite not boasting high-level star power. As a result, get the grill going with hot dogs and burgers. The two staples of grilling are as safe as they come when it comes to executing a fun and successful BBQ. This card will be just that as numerous, well-designed match-ups will lead to guaranteed action and memorable finishes.
Main Card, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)
MW: Jared Cannonier vs. Kelvin Gastelum
LW: Clay Guida vs. Mark O. Madsen
HW: Parker Porter vs. Chase Sherman
LW: Vinc Pichel vs. Austin Hubbard
FlyW: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval
BW: Mana Martinez vs. Trevin Jones
Preliminary Card, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
FW: Austin Lingo vs. Luis Saldana
BW: Brian Kelleher vs. Domingo Pilarte
Women’s BW: Bea Malecki vs. Josiane Nunes
LHW: William Knight vs. Fabio Cherant
LW: Roosevelt Roberts vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
WW: Sasha Palatnikov vs. Ramiz Brahimaj
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