Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum are primed for their bout at UFC Vegas 34
Experiencing highs and lows during their UFC careers, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum will meet at UFC Vegas 34 this weekend.
By Stone Lexington
Updated: Aug. 17, 2021 • 5:30 PM ET
Kelvin Gastelum - Wikimedia Commons
Saturday’s headlining bout at UFC Vegas 34 will feature two fighters who have experienced roller coaster careers with incredible highs and bitter lows. When Jared Cannonier meets Kelvin Gastelum in Saturday’s main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, both fighters will hope their car can climb back to the top of the hill.
Less than a year ago, Cannonier was one victory away from a title shot against current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. He only had to defeat former champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 254 last October, but Cannonier came up on the short end of a brutal unanimous decision. Prior to the fight with Whittaker, Cannonier had won three straight fights over David Branch, Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson, all by TKO before any of the bouts reached a third round. During that three-fight winning steak, he looked better than he ever had at any point in his UFC career that began in 2015. Whittaker, however, ended Cannonier’s hopes for a title shot, an opportunity he now has to work his way back to.
The ups and downs in the 37-year-old Cannonier’s career have been real. Prior to the winning streak, he had lost three of four fights to two top contenders and the current light heavyweight champion (Glover Teixeira, Dominick Reyes, Jan Blachowicz). His UFC career didn’t begin how he wanted either, losing his first fight to Shawn Jordan, who no longer competes in the promotion. The No. 3 ranked Cannonier, however, has worked his way to becoming a top contender in one of the UFC’s distinguished divisions.
Highs and lows are also no stranger to No. 9 ranked middleweight Kelvin Gastelum. Picked last for teams on the UFC’s development show The Ultimate Fighter in 2013, Gastelum miraculously defied the odds and won the show by defeating Uriah Hall in the Finale. Gastelum went on to win his next four fights, setting up a marque welterweight matchup with former champion Tyron Woodley. He missed weight for the bout with Woodley by 10 pounds and ultimately lost the fight by a close split decision. After missing weight again on two more occasions, the UFC mandated that Gastelum move up to middleweight.
At middleweight, Gastelum won three of his first four fights to set up a confrontation with likely future Hall of Famer Vitor Belfort in 2017. He won the headlining bout by first-round TKO, but the victory was overturned due to Gastelum testing positive for marijuana. The World Anti-Doping Agency subsequently suspended him for 90 days, and his Performance of the Night award was rescinded.
After being submitted by former middleweight champion Chris Weidman in his next bout, Gastelum bounced back with notable victories over Michael Bisping and Ronaldo Souza, which set him up for an interim middleweight title shot against Adesanya at UFC 236 in April 2019. He lost the fight to Adesanya by unanimous decision, and the 29-year-old Gastelum hasn’t been able to get back on track since.
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Including Adesanya, Gastelum has lost four of his last five fights and needs a victory to avoid plummeting further down the middleweight rankings. A win over a top five fighter this weekend could get him rolling back to the top of the division.
Whoever has his hand raised at the end of Saturday’s main event will escape their car traveling back to the bottom of the roller coaster’s hill.
• Start time/how to watch: The main card can be viewed on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. EST this Saturday.
The rest of the main card
Lightweight bout - Clay Guida vs. Mark Madsen
Heavyweight bout - Parker Porter vs. Chase Sherman
Lightweight bout - Vinc Pichel vs. Austin Hubbard
Flyweight bout - No. 3 Alexandre Pantoja vs. No. 6 Brandon Royval
Bantamweight bout - Mana Martinez vs. Trevin Jones
Prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN+ at 7 p.m. EST
Featherweight bout - Austin Lingo vs. Luis Saldana
Bantamweight bout - Brian Kelleher vs. Domingo Pilarte
Women’s bantamweight bout - Bea Malecki vs. Josiane Nunes
Light heavyweight bout - William Knight vs. Fabio Cherant
Lightweight bout - Roosevelt Roberts vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
Welterweight bout - Sasha Palatnikov vs. Ramiz Brahimaj