Kelvin Gastelum vs. Daniel Rodriguez is our prediction for UFC Saudi Arabia Fight of the Night

Kelvin Gastelum vs. Daniel Rodriguez is going to be a banger.
Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

UFC Saudi Arabia is absolutely stacked with potential Fight of the Night contenders. From the prelims all the way to the main event, there are several matchups that could easily be named the best fight at UFC Saudi Arabia. However, our pick is the matchup between Kelvin Gastelum and Daniel Rodriguez.

With other fights like Robert Whittaker vs. Ikram Aliskerov and Sergei Pavlovich vs. Alexander Volkov also taking place at UFC Saudi Arabia, making a definitive Fight of the Night prediction may be difficult, but the contest between Gastelum and Rodriguez has all the potential to stand out amongst the stacked card.

Gastelum reached the height of his career when he and Israel Adesanya battled in one of the greatest fights in UFC history for the interim UFC middleweight championship in 2019. However, since this moment, Gastelum has gone on to lose five of his next seven fights and hasn't looked like the same fighter he did at UFC 236 outside of just a few instances.

Rodriguez is currently 17-4 but is coming off of two consecutive finish losses to Neil Magny and Ian Garry respectively. Up until his loss to Magny, it looked like Rodriguez would be someone who could potentially work his way into the top 10 of the welterweight division. Now trying to avoid a three-fight losing streak for the first time in his career, he, like Gastelum, is in a must-win situation.

Getting into the specific reasoning for the Fight of the Night pick, Rodriguez averages 7.3 significant strikes landed per minute which for a point of reference, Max Holloway's average is 7.17 per minute. In comparison, Gastelum's average is just 3.55 but his long track record of previous performance bonuses and Fight of the Night awards provides a scenario where his matchup with Rodriguez could end up being a classic.

What will also play a significant role in making this the best fight at UFC Saudi Arabia is Gastelum's legendary durability. It is seemingly impossible to finish Gastelum by knockout and while he has been knocked down several times throughout his career, no one at welterweight or middleweight has been able to earn a KO/TKO victory over him.

What makes this even more impressive is the fact that he has shared the Octagon with some of the most consistent knockout artists and best strikers in the UFC. Some of these opponents include Jared Cannonier, Israel Adesanya, Whittaker, and Tyron Woodley, just to name a few. Even with a height and reach discrepancy in most of his fights, Gastelum has always been able to find ways to compete with the best without getting knocked out.

Looking at each of their career performance bonus histories, Rodriguez has only earned one bonus with no career Fight of the Night distinctions. Gastelum on the other hand, has five Fight of the Night awards along with a pair of other performance bonuses for his wins over Michael Bisping and Jake Ellenberger.

Though Rodriguez only has the one aforementioned performance bonus in his UFC career, 12 of his 17 career victories have come via knockout or submission to that of 11 career finishes for Gastelum. So even though his performance bonus history is incomparable to that of Gastelum, he is slightly less prone to seeing the judges scorecards than his opponent.

With the fight recently being moved from welterweight to middleweight due to Gastelum's struggle to make 170 pounds, his apparent bad weight cut could have drastic impacts on the fight outcome. Gastelum has missed weight a couple of times in his career, most notably against Nico Musoke and Woodley, contests he would go 1-1 in.

Though tough weight cuts are undoubtedly part of the sport, cutting too much weight can cause a fighter to lose strength, durability, and experience an overall decline in performance. With the fight moving to middleweight, Gastelum may avoid some of these setbacks and put on another great fight for the fans.

While the current odds are suggesting Gastelum (-250) is a clear favourite over Rodriguez (+190), the reality is the matchup is much closer than this. The matchmaking in this bout is perfectly set up for 15 minutes of absolute chaos and with both fighters in need of a win, do not be surprised if Gastelum vs. Rodriguez is officially named UFC Saudi Arabia Fight of the Night.

All odds are according to FanDuel. Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.