MMA Fighting confirmed with sources with knowledge of the new matchup that Kelvin Gastelum (17-7, 1 NC) will now face Cannonier (13-5) in the middleweight main event of a UFC card on Aug. 21 after Cannonier’s originally scheduled opponent Paulo Costa was forced to withdraw. Cannonier and Gastelum have verbally agreed to the matchup, but contracts are still to be signed.
The reason for Costa’s withdrawal was not disclosed.
ESPN was first to report the change.
Cannonier now goes from fighting one past title challenger in Costa to another in Gastelum, who fought Israel Adesanya for a vacant interim middleweight title at UFC 236. This will be the third time in Cannonier’s past four fights that he has been matched up with either a former UFC champion or a contender who has challenged for a title. He is coming off of a unanimous decision loss to Robert Whittaker at UFC 254 in October.
Gastelum’s most recent fight in April was also a unanimous decision loss to Whittaker, a result that dropped Gastelum to just 1-4 in his past five outings. His lone win during this stretch was a unanimous decision win over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258.
For Costa, this is the second straight booking in which Gastelum has had to fill in for him. It was Costa who was supposed to fight Whittaker in April before he was forced to withdraw due to an illness. “Borrachinha” has not competed since suffering his first pro loss to Adesanya in a middleweight championship bout at UFC 253 last September.