It’s hard to explain just how great a fighter Kelvin Gastelum is. Every six-to-12 months, I’m forced to undertake, because that’s roughly how often the last word Fighter (TUF) champ finds himself during the main event and is slotted a “Fighter on Fighter” skill breakdown. Unfortunately, year after year, those breakdowns remain largely unchanged, because Gastelum uses largely an equivalent selection of tools as ever.
Regardless of that lack of development, what skill analysis misses — what has got to be witnessed in his actual fight footage — is that the intangibles. Kelvin Gastelum is an immense natural talent with great fighting instincts, and he’s paired himself with an elite camp in King’s MMA, a gym known for breeding hard-nosed scrappers. It’s an excellent combination. Gastelum’s excellent instincts, that innate ability that led him to win TUF at 21 years aged, were honed further by fire. Watching his movement, timing, and grit, Gastelum indeed seems destined for gold.
On A Mission 4 Gold has stood atop his Twitter profile for years and years now. Unfortunately, Gastelum sinks beyond realizing that dream with each passing year. Somewhere around 2015, Gastelum was real, real on the brink of earning an attempt at undisputed gold at 170 lbs. A split decision vs. Tyron Woodley went against him, which did hurt, but Gastelum still seemed on the trail when he bludgeoned former champion, Johnny Hendricks, a couple of fights later. Sadly, weight management issues were frequent. Gastelum is 5’9”, and though he features a thick build, making 170 lbs. isn’t an unreasonable invite his stature … albeit it’s impossible now.
Permanent banishment to Middleweight didn’t immediately end Gastelum’s title aspirations. No, his career at 185 lbs. started extremely popular, as Gastelum largely blitzed through the faction. Still, when Chris Weidman big brothered him after surviving the first storm, the cracks began to point out. In his last six bouts, Gastelum has won just one match, a choice victory over the unranked Ian Heinisch. altogether the others, he’s lost to the simplest the Middleweight division has got to offer. a number of those defeats were close, like last night’s battle with No. 3-ranked Cannonier or his “Fight of the Year”-winner opposite the present champion, Israel Adesanya.
Robert Whittaker, however, picked him apart with relative ease, while Jack Hermansson submitted him within the first. At now, Gastelum is effectively out of the title mix. He’ll need a completely new win streak to earn rematches with any of the above, and though he’s still just 29 years old, at some point, the wear-and-tear will add up. Fighter bigger men are damaging, and every bout that doesn’t advance him up the ladder hurts his overall chances.
Perhaps the saddest part of this is often that Gastelum’s talent remains so obvious. Pick a random Top Five-ranked Welterweight and pit him opposite Cannonier, which man is perhaps getting to sleep inside a couple of minutes. Gastelum shows his heart and skill in every battle, but he’s at an impasse. Until Gastelum somehow drops back to Welterweight or dramatically changes up his fighting style, the belt is nearly bound to remain just out of reach. the chances are always slim when fighting the world’s best, but consistently trying to require out elite opposition who also hold significant size advantages is just too much even for a gifted athlete like Kelvin Gastelum.