One-time interim UFC middleweight title challenger, Kelvin Gastelum will get his wish on April 17th. — as he replaces a flu-stricken, Paulo Costa, clashing with once scheduled opponent, former middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker in a reworked UFC Fight Night main event clash.
Scheduled to headline UFC 234 in February of 2018 in his first title challenge under the UFC’s banner, Gastelum was removed from the event entirely after then-defending champion, Whittaker was forced to withdraw from the headlining clash on fight day, due to an intestinal hernia, and a twisted and collapsed bowel.
Announcing his availability for a short-notice appearance should Costa or Whittaker withdraw themselves from proceedings, Gastelum returned to the winner’s enclosure following a three-fight skid at UFC 258 in February, taking a unanimous decision win over Ian Heinisch.
For former middleweight champion, Whittaker, the Auckland-born fan favourite managed a unanimous decision win on ‘Fight Island’ in the co-main event of UFC 254 last October, stopping the surge of the punishing, Jared Cannonier. News of the reworked matchup of Whittaker and Gastelum was first reported by reporter, Carlos Contreras Legaspi.
Kings MMA mainstay, Gastelum subsequently challenged current undisputed 185-pound kingpin, Israel Adesanya for an interim title at UFC 236 in April of 2019, dropping a unanimous decision in a Fight of the Year matchup.
Dropping consecutive losses since then, the 29-year-old San Jose native suffered a close split decision loss to former welterweight title chaser, Darren Till, and then an opening round heel hook submission defeat to Jack Hermansson prior to his win over Heinisch. Taking The Ultimate Fighter 17 tournament, Gastelum managed other notable career wins over the likes of Uriah Hall, Jake Ellenberger, Nate Marquardt, Johny Hendricks, Tim Kennedy, Michael Bisping, and Ronaldo Souza.
Rebounding with a pair of decision wins following his title loss to common-foe, Adesanya back in October of 2019, Whittaker took a unanimous judging win over another common-opposition, the above mentioned April 10th. headliner, Till.
A sixteen-fight promotional veteran, Whittaker also has bested the likes of Hall, and Souza, as well as securing career triumphs over Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, and a pair of instant classic judging victories over multiple-time title challenger, Yoel Romero.