Despite his recent interim title loss to Israel Adesanya in April, Kings MMA striking talent Kelvin Gastelum remains one of the most difficult contenders to budge at 185-pounds. A supremely talented boxer and counter striker who has really transformed his career since his 2016 rebirth at middleweight. This weekend in New York City, Gastelum returns to the Octagon as he plays welcoming party to one-time 170-pound title hopeful, Darren Till.
One of the purest arguments in current MMA competition as to why a fighter should fight at a more comfortable weight falls all the feet of The Ultimate Fighter victor Kelvin Gastelum. Improving no end since his move from a scarily depleting welterweight, with poor performances and even poorer weight cut attempts forcing the Californian to really take a realistic view at his faltering career.
Still just 28years of age, the middleweight title challenger has one of the slickest boxing games in mixed-martial arts worldwide, with very clean counter work, angles and maybe most impressively, timing. Facing someone of Israel Adesanya’s kickboxing eminence offered a huge obstacle in itself, but at middleweight, his natural boxing skills are arguably unmatched.
Plying his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu base under Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu enterprise, the state wrestler is a student of Brian Beaumont, earning a black belt in the process. Boxing skills speak for themselves, but Gastelum is accustomed to grappling exchanges, picking up three separate rear-naked choke victories over his nineteen fight métier. Under Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA, Gastelum has developed into a truly dangerous boxer.
Displaying his rock solid striking against Michael Bisping in his last stoppage win, Gastelum executed a beautiful pull counter, landing a right hand before a check left hook, sending the former division champion to the mat. Another performance that really caught the eye was his dominant third-round knockout defeat of Tim Kennedy in his middleweight rebirth. Gastelum almost looked a class apart from Kennedy, slipping expertly and picking the former Strikeforce championship chaser apart throughout each round.
When paired with the iconic Vitor Belfort in Brazil, Gastelum again scored a first-round finish, demonstrating lightning-quick hands, before an eventual win was overturned to a questionable ‘no contest’. Even in his arm-triangle defeat to Chris Weidman, Kelvin scored an early knockdown and landed some damaging strikes on the feet.
Kelvin’s ability to land inside the pocket with impeccable speed and power is something ‘The Last Stylebender’ struggled with during their interim title meeting in April, even dispatching the Nigerian-Kiwi to the canvas early in the bout. Against Darren Till, Gastelum meets an almost equally dangerous striker as Adesanya, and certainly one with considerably more power. The Liverpool native hails from a Muay Thai background but so far in his UFC stint, we are yet to see the real kicking prowess of an Adesanya.
The Ultimate Fighter victor has sparely utilized his wrestling proficiency in recent Octagon walks, especially when compared to his matchups with Uriah Hall, Neil Magny, Jake Ellenberger, and Nate Marquardt. The main reason behind this has to be his timely development on the feet as a poised counter striker. Saturday’s opponent Till has found himself on the canvas four times in his UFC career so far, the most detrimental of all, coming via a crushing counter right hand from Tyron Woodley. Till was of course, submitted off his back by Woodley, who latched up a D’Arce choke.
For Kelvin Gastelum, the San Jose native is also accustomed to submission displays like former-foe Woodley, but offensive grappling is often overlooked when examing the predominantly striking based mixed-martial-artists. 28-year-old Gastelum has racked up four professional submission victories and is the owner of a slick rear-naked choke.