At 24 years of age and coming off the biggest win of his MMA career thus far, Kelvin Gastelum is making a case for solidifying himself as a force to be reckon for years to come in the welterweight division. Since defeating Uriah Hall back in 2013 to win The Ultimate Fighter season 17 tournament, Gastelum has won six of his last eight fights with his two losses against Neil Magny and Tyron Woodley being extremely competitive bouts. Along the way of his young UFC career has come issues regarding weight cutting.
Gastelum’s struggles have been explicit in his fights against Nico Musoke in which he missed weight by over a pound and later against Woodley when he missed the welterweight limit by nine pounds. This angered Dana White who forced Gastelum to fight at 185 pounds in his next fight against Nate Marquardt, who he soundly defeated via TKO in round two.
UFC 200 offered the San Jose native a chance to get back in the win column by squaring off against former welterweight champ, Johny Hendricks. Hendricks (also infamous for weight cutting struggles) was Gastelum’s biggest test to date and succumbed to the pressure game imposed by Gastelum for a good portion of their fight. The fifteen minutes of action featured a back and forth fist fight with occasional clinch battles against the cage in between. Hendricks was unable to use his world class wrestling he normally relies on to shut down opponents. Hendricks’ power left hand was deemed ineffective and outmatched by Gastelum’s offense. Gastelum has continuously displayed a strong chin and impressive combinations to go along with his forward pressure. Being that the last man to dispatch of Hendricks still needed to get by Rory MacDonald before earning the next title shot, it’s difficult to tell what is next for the TUF winner.
Perhaps a fight against the winner between UFC 202’s Demian Maia and Carlos Condit would make for an exceptional title eliminator. It’s hard to believe that Gastelum is not even 25 years old and is already knocking on the door of a title shot. Not since Rory MacDonald has a young welterweight rose through the rankings in impressive fashion, except the high expectations are almost nonexistent in the case of Gastelum. This could and probably has worked in his favor so far and if he is able to improve his nutrition, the sky could be the limit for the man who only has six years of MMA experience under his belt.