Kelvin Gastelum has come a long way since playing the role of the ultimate underdog during Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter. The 22-year-old fighter tore through all the competition that was placed in front of him and the undersized middleweight survived the heavily-favoured Uriah Hall to take the title. Since winning the competition, Gastelum felt a move to welterweight would be more beneficial, and he made a dynamic 170-pound debut at Fight Night 27 by submitting rugged veteran, Brian Melancon.
Gastelum had been slated to tangle with fellow TUF winner Court McGee at UFC on FOX 9 but a knee injury forced him to withdraw from the Sacramento event. On the bright side, he didn’t require surgery and was hoping to make his return at UFC 171 in Dallas. Well, that wish has been granted as Gastelum will square off against Rick Story on the March 15 card.
Gastelum has been impressive in his brief career as he’s unbeaten in seven fights. He’s only been to the scorecards once as he has 3 knockouts and 3 submission victories. He’s tremendously strong, has power and a sturdy chin, but this will definitely be a major step up in competition.
“The Horror” rejuvenated his career with a dominant unanimous decision victory in Las Vegas at UFC 167 over Brian Ebersole. It was a badly needed victory after a tough split decision loss to Mike Pyle at UFC 160. Story is known for his grinding ways as nine of his sixteen career victories have come by decision. He’s a straight-forward pressure fighter with an iron chin as he has never been knocked out.
Story has been in with the stronger competition during the course of his Octagon career holding victories over Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves and also having fought the likes of Demian Maia and Martin Kampmann. In fact it was Story’s win over “Bigg Rigg” that led then-champion Georges St.Pierre to bring him in as a training partner in advance of his recent title clash against Hendricks. Story’s frenetic pace will get a good test in Gastelum who also has a strong gas tank. He’s a seasoned veteran having fought 14 times with the UFC having posted a respectable 9-5 record.
This contest will certainly carry some interesting plotlines. The youngster Gastelum would be looking to continue his rise in a new division and put himself in line to face top-10 competition with a victory. Story worked hard to get his career back on track with that triumph against Ebersole, and another defeat on March 15 would certainly drop him well down the 170-pound ladder. If he’s able to hand the TUF winner his first-ever loss, it’ll be Story who would find himself poised for another high-profile fight.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports