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Most of the Ultimate Fighting Championship has scheduled this ESPN event this way. Although his original headliner changed when Paulo Costa suffered an illness, it was largely a one-fight event on ESPN from the start. He sees a plethora of fighters entering their fights with UFC records of .500 or worse. Despite the lack of richness in a matchmaking sense, there are still ways to make a profit in the UFC on the ESPN 22 edition of Prime Picks.
In some ways, this headliner’s transformation from Whittaker-Costa to Whittaker-Kelvin Gastelum is an improvement, as the two middleweights share history as opposing coaches in Season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” “. These two were originally slated to win the title at UFC 234, purely for emergency surgery for Whittaker, forcing the then-champion out of the game. The promotion wisely put this game back in place when Costa fell out of this fight, and it’s convincing for a number of reasons. Even though Whittaker is a pretty big -250 bet favorite, it can be the perfect line in this game depending on the skills and styles of the two present. There is money to be made on Whittaker, even with this line, as it seems to be his fight to win across the board.
Gastelum, winner of Season 17 of “The Ultimate Fighter”, has been quite inconsistent since suffering his first welterweight loss to Tyron Woodley where he was hugely underweight. Although he made his promotional debut at 185 pounds, he switched between that division and welterweight as he tried to find himself. Since his official return to middleweight against Tim Kennedy in 2016, Gastelum has maintained a record of .500 with impressive wins and half-hearted losses. Gastelum snapped his very first losing skid in February by capturing a decision over Ian Heinisch to stay in the running, and it’s once again a leap forward in the competition based on recent lackluster performances. Against Heinisch, Gastelum recalled the division of his wrestling chops and punching power, although he had long been able to crack. This is where he will be the most dangerous against Whittaker, and “Bobby Knuckles” cannot get reckless.
Whittaker’s stock plummeted more than most when Israel Adesanya devastated him at the end of 2019. Two Top 10 wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier ultimately got him into this game, but he didn’t. no less dangerous than he was during his title race. . Whether it’s diving for a head kick or mixing takedowns to catch Till unknowingly, his varied skills give him a lot of work against his former coaching rival. Whittaker’s kicks are devastating high and low, but he’ll have to disguise them and not just throw bare kicks and allow counters. Even when Whittaker takes damage, his recovery ability is nearly unbeatable, and only kickboxers Stephen Thompson and Adesanya were able to put him aside. The cardio advantage is radically in Whittaker’s favor – look no further than the trainers’ run on “The Ultimate Fighter,” where Whittaker ran the laps in the dead of a Las Vegas summer while Gastelum lifted himself up – and the longer this fight lasts, the more likely Whittaker will sail. There are two options tied to this game for the big favorite: the fight goes to decision at -130 or Whittaker wins by decision at +150 depending on how you think this match is going.
The return to lightness for Jeremy Stephens could be a loser for the longtime vet, as he regains weight to face a dangerous but unranked Klose. It could mean the end of Stephens’ tenure in the UFC with a loss. Stephens’ first 14 UFC appearances weighed 155 pounds and he fell to featherweight from 2013-2020 to reinvent his career. Despite that, Stephens still hasn’t won a fight since 2018, and with that comes shaken confidence. Always a brawler, Stephens will face an opponent who can crack Klose, but he can take the path of least resistance instead of throwing hands with a knockout artist touted as “Lil ‘Heathen”. If Stephens can keep this fight standing, he will have the advantage, but Klose can rack up some control time with the best of them with his wrestling chops.
It took virtually a Herculean effort to keep Stephens away from strikes over the years. Yves Edwards split his chin for the first time in 2012 with a brutal counter-right; Jose Aldo bypassed him with a body kick and follow-up punches in 2018; and Calvin Kattar put out the lights with terrifying elbows in Stephens’ last fight. Klose hasn’t shown he has quite that punching power, although on his last outing he badly injured Beneil Dariush before the Kings MMA rep rallied and throws Klose with a left hand. deadly. Other than that strike, Klose had never been finished, but Stephens will definitely put his chin to the test. In what could become a matter of what Stephens left in the tank, “Lil ‘Heathen” combat mileage is quickly catching up to him, even at just 34 years old. Klose has the ability to make the most of Stephens out of his brawls by threatening and landing multiple times. It is this grapple aspect that gives a slight advantage to the slight outsider, but he will have to keep his head on a swivel. Stephens won’t come down easily.
The Sherdog.com stat of the week recently discussed how Jim Miller holds the UFC record for most fights with 37. It may be surprising to some that even though Arlovski left the UFC from 2008 to 2014, he holds by far the UFC heavyweight record with appearances at 35. The first champion, who has transformed his game more times than most, has settled into a role of an effective boxer who can counter and give a break to his enemies, but he does not keep the destructive power of the past. As such, his last six victories dating from 2015 are recorded on the scoreboards. The Belarusian faces a much younger opponent who prefers to knock out or be knocked out, as Chase Sherman has seen 18 of his 21 fights end in knockouts. Precise and efficient boxing should make the difference for the former champion, as long as he doesn’t get caught.
After leaving the UFC, “The Vanilla Gorilla” joined the bareknuckle circuit with an exciting battle with Sam Shewmaker. Taking the title from Arnold Adams in his next fight, he suffered a subsequent loss to Joey Beltran in 2019. Unfortunately for Sherman, he was largely ruled out in two of those three matches – in a sport that exclusively uses boxing and does not allow kicking in the legs. or elbows. He has quick hands and displays clubbing power if not a single hitter, as his finishes have largely come in MMA from a buildup of damage. The old Arlovsky would feast on the defense against the Mississippi native’s withdrawal, but it’s been a few years since Arlovski landed one. Instead, in what should be a largely standing affair, Arlovski’s sharper strike can make the difference. As an added bonus, Fight Goes to Decision at -135 is perfectly acceptable, unless you think Sherman is going to break his chin. Sherman wins by TKO / KO is a solid +255 if you expect that to happen.
In what should be a powerful match of strength against power, Espino will face unbeaten Alexander Romanov in a battle between two heavyweights on the rise. Thanks to Romanov’s undefeated career, all of his career fights ended within the distance. Romanov can often perform so-called “big man” submissions, like the forearm choke or neck crank, where he is just looking to blast his enemy’s head like a pez dispenser. His play is pretty reckless, and “King Kong” nearly gasped in his promotional debut against Roque Martinez after spamming high-amplitude suplexes and slams. Although he has ragdolled his opponent, there is a level of competition that he will reach where it no longer works. Espino should turn out to be that foil. As Senegalese laamb wrestling champion – the famous “Reug Reug” Oumar Kane is another practitioner of the art – he has the ability to turn the tide on his powerful enemy.
Espino is also part of the ‘big man’ submissive skills, although he can also line up straight cuffs and roll for chokes. His return for the first time since his victory in Season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter” – the season Whittaker and Gastelum trained – saw him slam a scarf on Jeff Hughes where he threw Hughes like a toy before get the tap. Both men have had the luxury of facing men where their struggle is far superior, so that they can largely get through them. It can be a shock when one grabs the other and can’t throw them like a sack of potatoes because the other is able to gain a foothold and counter the position. Romanov has several advantages in this contest. He’s 10 years younger, will likely have a slight weight advantage, but he’s raw but comically strong. With this level of explosiveness on display, Espino has historically shown that he can fight in deep water in a way Romanov has yet to do. The cage floor will be strained when these two heavyweights rumble, and the specially trained wrestler should have the advantage.