The middleweight division gets shaken up yet again as rising star Kelvin Gastelum takes on the seasoned Brazilian, Vitor Belfort. Gastelum is coming off a decisive TKO victory over Tim Kennedy, while Belfort is riding back-to-back losses, being finished twice via TKO in 2016. The two will clash in tonight’s main event, hosted in Fortaleza, Brazil. The card will be featured on Fox Sports 1, which is free to cable subscribers.
Gastelum entered the UFC as so many do, by competing on a season of The Ultimate Fighter. Gastelum set the bar high during his time on the show, finishing all of his opponents with either a knockout or submission. At the Ultimate Fighter Finale event, Gastelum took on fellow teammate Uriah Hall, and secured his first decision victory in the UFC.
Throughout his career, Gastelum has had issues with his weight. After missing weight three times, Gastelum was bumped from welter to middleweight, giving him an extra 15 pounds limit. During his time in the welterweight division, Gastelum defeated the likes of Jake Ellenberger and Johny Hendricks, who is the former UFC welterweight champion. Since moving up to middleweight, Gastelum has earned notable victories over Tim Kennedy, a two-time Strikeforce middleweight challenger, and Nate Marquardt, the former Strikeforce welterweight champion.
The two headliners seem to be at opposite points in their careers. Belfort has been competing since the ’90s, stretching out to over 20 years of experience. He’s faced the best of the best for almost as long as Gastelum has been alive, and was even the UFC’s light heavyweight champion for a time. Although there has been talk of Belfort’s retirement, he’s managed to stay in the spotlight, and remains active in the UFC.
A win for either fighter will be huge for their careers. If Gastelum manages to defeat the veteran Belfort, he’ll have another former champion under his belt. Gastelum doesn’t face any weight cutting issues in the middleweight division, and is lined up to make a serious run at the title. A win over Belfort catapults him that much closer to challenging the current champion, Michael Bisping.
A victory for Belfort keeps his head above water. Belfort has only won one fight out of his last four, a TKO over Dan Henderson, who’s been fighting for just as long as Belfort. If Belfort can manage to keep up with the young-gun Gastelum, he’ll still be far from revitalizing his career. Belfort doesn’t seem interested in retiring, but a bout with someone as active and dangerous as Gastelum may change his outlook on the future. Since the UFC implemented its new drug testing policies in 2015, many of the former titans in the organization have either lost their edge or retired all together, Dan Henderson among them. Belfort’s performance also came into question with the new drug testing, but it’s hard to differentiate between an aging fighter and one who’s just got off the juice. Regardless of Belfort’s shortcomings, he remains active in the division.
Per MMA Mania, “Belfort has no easy path to victory” over Gastelum. As this is a young man’s sport, and Gastelum remains the younger contender, Belfort’s toolbox is limited. Belfort has always been a powerful kickboxer, but has lost some speed as he’s gotten older. Belfort’s best bet is to counter Gastelum with long kicks and punches, while stuffing the takedown and keeping his back off the canvas. Gastelum will very likely push the pace and try to stay heavy on top of Belfort, either against the cage or flat on the mat. Gastelum is a very well-rounded fighter, but is maybe most dangerous with his ground-and-pound fighting style.
The two will meet in tonight’s main event at UFC Fight Night 106: Belfort vs Gastelum.
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