Robert Whittaker may be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time following hand surgery, but that hasn’t stopped UFC middleweight contenders from jockeying for title position.
Whittaker (20-4 MMA, 11-2 UFC), the reigning UFC middleweight champ, is coming off a two-fight series with Yoel Romero (13-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC). He won the most recent bout by split decision at UFC 225 this past weekend, giving him two wins over “The Soldier of God” and a hope he can move on from that matchup for the time being.
There’s a bit of a recovery period ahead for Whittaker following hand surgery on Thursday, but he said he’s eager to get back in the octagon before the end of the year. Given the current landscape of the 185-pound division, Chris Weidman (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) and Kelvin Gastelum (15-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) appear to be the most likely candidates.
Both men are in the running for the shot, it seems, and are making a push on social media. Gastelum, No. 6 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, has already made it clear he thinks he’s most deserving, but he reiterated his point online (via Twitter):
Although Gastelum, 26, has notable wins over the likes of Michael Bisping, Ronaldo Souza and Johny Hendricks within the past two years, there’s one blemish on his record, and No. 5-ranked Weidman thinks it’s the only point he needs to swing the argument in his favor.
Weidman, 33, defeated Gastelum by third-round submission at UFC on FOX 25 this past July. However,, he’s done nothing since then. The former UFC champ has been dealing with an injured wrist for much of the past year, but he said he’s going to be cleared in short order.
Despite Weidman’s win over Gastelum being his only one in his past four fights, he still thinks that’s enough to get him the shot (via Twitter):
With champ and No. 1-ranked Whittaker unlikely to be cleared for a return to action for several months, the debate between Weidman and Gastelum is sure to continue. And only time will tell who gets the opportunity in the top-heavy 185-pound division.
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