(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of April 14, 2021, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum
Key Stats: +1.45 striking differential (5th), 0.7 knockdowns per 15 minutes (tied-8th), 4.51 strikes landed per minute (8th)
What It Means: Since moving to middleweight in 2014, Whittaker has rounded into one of the division’s elite, carrying his one-punch power up to 185 while taking advantage of his speed and overall quickness to create a real problem for his opponents. His darting, in-and-out movement, coupled with a high fight IQ and willingness to engage in a brawl, means Whittaker truly has everything you’d want in a fighter as a fan or a person in his corner. His best combination is a 1-2 followed with a high kick, but rarely is he predictable with it, and his patience pays off with his laundry list of finishes. He also has shown a good sense of when to shoot for takedowns, as well as good technical ability to control his opponent once the fight goes there.
Key Stats: 1.22 takedowns per 15 minutes, 3.64 strikes landed per minute, 0.7 knockdowns per 15 minutes (tied-8th)
What It Means: When Gastelum is at his best, he is a strong striker with legit knockout power and sneaky quickness who moves in and out of range as well as inside the pocket. His left hand carries malicious intentions, and when he is on his toes and bouncy, he becomes a difficult target for his opponents to find. He has shown a good ability to wrestle and control his opponents when given the chance, and if those abilities continue to blend, he becomes a puzzling fighter to attack.
What to Look For in the Fight: A matchup more than two years in the making, the two former Ultimate Fighter winners (and coaches) finally get to do battle, and while gold isn’t on the line this time, another shot at Israel Adesanya could be. Both fighters like to bounce in and out of range fairly quickly and possess true knockout power. Whittaker is probably the quicker of the two and blends his hands and feet a little better, but Gastelum’s body kicks and hands need to be paid attention to. In the grappling area, Whittaker probably uses his wrestling more of the two historically and has debatably out grappled Olympic-level wrestlers, but Gastelum’s rededication to that area of MMA in his most recent fight brings up fair questions of how the two stack up there.
Co-Main Event: Jeremy Stephens vs Drakkar Klose
Top Finishes: Jeremy Stephens
Top Finishes: Jeremy Stephens
Key Stats: 33 total fights (4th all-time), 6:28:27 total fight time (5th all-time), 18 knockdowns (tied-2nd all-time)
MORE UFC VEGAS 24: Ricardo Ramos | In-Depth: Whittaker vs Gastelum | Fight By Fight Preview | Free Fight: Kelvin Gastelum vs Ian Heinisch | Free Fight: Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier | Bonus Résumé: Kelvin Gastelum
What It Means: “Lil’ Heathen” is properly thought of as a mad man in the Octagon with a great appreciation of violence, but he also hasn’t had a lengthy career purely based on his aggression. Stephens is relatively patient and smart about setting up his shots, striking with a varied attack before seeking the finishing sequence. He is resilient, even when rocked, and capable of turning the lights out dramatically.
Key Stats: 53.1% significant strike accuracy (6th all-time among LW), 13:43 average fight time (3rd), 1.56 takedowns per 15 minutes
What It Means: Klose is a strong striker who has shown good durability and the ability to adjust throughout a fight. He mixes in grappling when needed, but he isn’t shy about getting into a firefight either.
What to Look For in the Fight: This fight should be a standup fight, and given both athletes’ reputations, it could be a banger. Stephens might be the faster of the two, but Klose does carry power and builds as the fight goes on if he finds his rhythm. Whether Stephens or Klose implements their grappling before someone gets rocked is also something to watch.
Other Fights to Watch (Alexandr Romanov vs Juan Espino)
Key Stats: 66% takedown accuracy, 6.35 takedowns per 15 minutes, 7:05 average fight time
What It Means: The undefeated Moldovan is a burly presence in the Octagon, showing great strength in close quarters and a suffocating style of grappling. He is athletic in those exchanges and is patient and creative when chasing finishes. He has shown strong submission skills, but his power is there as well. In 13 fights, Romanov has 13 finishes.
Key Stats: 3:42 average fight time, 77% takedown accuracy, 0.54 strikes absorbed per minute
What It Means: The 40-year-old Spaniard and former TUF winner has found his avenue to success through grappling, particularly with his submission skills. His hulking presence engulfs opponents, and he is methodical as he fishes for the submission, of which he has eight to his name.
What to Look For in the Fight: This is a solid matchup of two grappling-based heavyweights on the come-up, and it could reveal some holes or spotlight specialties which they’ve not yet shown. Espino is the bigger man, but Romanov has shown a keen sense of leverage and explosion. He’ll need to be careful going for high-amplitude takedowns, as Espino has shown a knack for finding a submission in transitions.
*Hasn’t fought enough in current weight class to qualify in UFC Record Book