Ultimate Fighter season-17 winner Kelvin Gastelum will be making his welterweight debut in Indianapolis at UFC Fight Night 27 against the dangerous Brian Melancon. Gastelum was the underdog story of this past TUF middleweight season being the last selection of head coach Chael Sonnen. During the series, he was consistently matched against favored opponents and bested them all. He received the much-coveted UFC contract after derailing the Uriah Hall hype-machine in the TUF final by grinding out a split decision win. Gastelum believes the weight cut to welterweight is a better move for his UFC career moving forward and should negate some of the size and strength disadvantages he felt at 185 pounds.
For his part, Melancon couldn’t have asked for a more explosive Octagon debut in taking out Seth Baczynski in vicious fashion in the opening round of UFC 162. The 31-year-old veteran has showcased a strong striking game and solid durability during the course of a career that’s seen him on the UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator stages. A key to success could end up being takedown defense, as Gastelum can be a handful in the ground game and could easily stifle Melancon’s attack with his grappling skills. Melancon is filling in for an injured Paulo Thiago at this event.
The 21-year-old Gastelum has a stellar wrestling base and has shown a strong ability to finish fights during his brief MMA career. His victory over Hall was the rare occasion where he had to wait to hear the scoring from the judges’ scorecards. He displayed during the TUF season how solid his finishing ability was against Robert “Bubba” McDaniel and Josh Samman and blasted out Collin Hart via punches. Gastelum clearly has no fear, as he wasn’t intimidated at all by Hall despite the many destructive finishes he produced.
That type of grit and heart will be needed against Melancon who himself has exhibited a fan-friendly style of swinging for the fences and being able to take a shot. It will be a good test for Gastelum in his 170-pound debut and we will find out whether the weight cut has indeed made him stronger. Strangely enough, with the high profile TUF title, no underdog status for Gastelum this time around. With both fighters not ones to shy away from a good brawl, it could produce plenty of excitement.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.