Are we dismissing UFC 234’s title challenger too easily? Would that winner of Saturday’s co-main event really get/deserve the next title shot? And what are the chances you can get stripped of a title for waiting out someone else’s suspension?
That and other pressing questions in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.
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I don’t know if people are entirely discounting Kelvin Gastelum. I think it’s just hard to imagine him beating Robert Whittaker right now. I try to picture it, and the images simply refuse to animate. Even when I feed into my mind the exact scenario you describe, at worst I see Whittaker getting wobbled (like he did against Yoel Romero) and then making a shocking swift recovery.
I could be wrong, of course. It could be that I still have trouble taking Gastelum seriously as a middleweight contender because I can’t totally stop thinking of him as a habitually overweight welterweight.
Yes, he has skill and speed and even some resilient power at 185 pounds. But aside from his win over a shopworn Michael Bisping, he’s never really been a one-punch knockout kind of guy – not even as a welterweight.
Now you want me to believe that his punching power will be enough to take out a young, fit, and thoroughly well-rounded middleweight champ, all because he has one good counter in his repertoire? I’ll allow that it’s possible. I can’t discount the chances entirely. But I just can’t quite see it. Not yet, anyway.
You could argue that the two main reasons for putting Israel Adesanya in the co-main event of UFC 234 are timing and geography. The event is in Australia, where Adesanya is a known man. It also features a middleweight title bout, which means it’s nice to have some middleweight contenders on the card available to fill in if there’s a last-minute disaster.
Everything else about Adesanya’s matchup with Anderson Silva feels very familiar. This is what the fight game does, what it has always done. It feeds the old to the young and builds the future on the ruins of the past.
And say it all goes according to plan. Say Adesanya styles on Silva and finishes him early in impressive fashion. You could argue that all he’s done is beat a 43 year-old former champ who’s lost four of his last six. Why should that be good enough for a title shot?
Maybe because, if Whittaker holds onto his title, there just aren’t that many fresh matchups left for him in the division. He’s beaten Romero twice. He knocked out Ronaldo Souza and Derek Brunson. If he blazes through Gastelum, who else is left?
Gee, I don’t know. Do you think it could possible have anything to do with the fact that there’s literally a UFC event every single weekend for the next two months? There are only so many big name fighters on the roster. And you can only spread them out across so many different events before you’ve gone and spread too thin. Which is what we see happening here.
The top two fights at UFC 234? You’re right, those are both great and interesting in different ways. A lot of us would pay the money just to see those, and it seems like the UFC knows it. So why siphon off any more talent to bolster the undercard when you know those fighters are needed elsewhere?
That’s instant street cred right there. If Khabib Nurmagomedov lost his UFC title solely because he was sitting out in solidarity with his homies from back home, he’d be an instant Dagestani legend. Right up there with the guy who invented that fuzzy hat.
But come on, we all know the UFC’s not going to strip him of the belt. That would be too ridiculous even for the UFC. It would also undermine the Conor McGregor rematch that you just know the company brass is dying to make.
Instead, my money is on the creation of an interim title while Nurmagomedov sits out both his and his team’s suspensions. Matter of fact, we might even be looking at more than one interim title. November is a long way away.
Yes, sure, but let’s temper that excitement with a little dose of realism.
Johnny Walker is 26, with 19 pro fights to his credit. In the UFC proper, he’s spent just a shade over two minutes inside the cage. While there’s a lot to like based on what we’ve seen so far – finishing ability, raw athleticism, sheer size, plus a whole lot of personality – we should remind ourselves that we still haven’t seen all that much.
Also, let’s ask ourselves if we’d be this excited about a lightweight or a featherweight who was doing all the same stuff. Maybe it’s not that Walker himself is such a can’t-miss prospect. Maybe it’s just that we’re starved for anything new to get excited about at 205 pounds.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Twitter Mailbag: Is Kelvin Gastelum being written off too easily before UFC 234 title fight?