As Kelvin Gastelum returns to the welterweight division, here are the 3 fights that make the most sense.
In an announcement that sent waves through the UFC's welterweight division, former UFC middleweight title challenger Kelvin Gastelum (17-8 (1NC)) announced he will make his return to the 170-pound division, a weight class he has not competed in since 2016.
Before making the jump up to middleweight, Gastelum was a respectable 5-2 in the division, with wins over Jake Ellenberg and Johnny Hendricks. His performances were clearly not the issue but rather his continues weight misses.
He first missed weight by 1.75 pounds when he faced Nico Museke and probably made his mind up to move up to 185 when he faced Tyron Woodley in a catchweight bout after Gastelum missed weight by 10 pounds. He would enjoy a great run almost all the way to the title before he was stopped by Israel Adesanya in an interim title clash. He never recovered from the fight of the year winner and has since gone 2-4, failing to pick up consecutive wins and tumbling down the rankings.
Despite his career seemingly coming to a stop, it is easy to forget that Gastelum is only 31 years old. He finally got a solid win again when he defeated Chris Curtis at UFC 287. With the UFC backing his move down and Gastelum's expectation that he will fight in September, here are the three best matchups for 170-pound Gastelum.
The three fights to make for Kelvin Gastelum's return to welterweight
1. Vicente Luque vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Ever since the news broke that Gastelum will be returning to 170 pounds, this was the first fight that fans were begging for. Gastelum is currently ranked at No. 11 in the middleweight rankings so we are expecting him to immediately get a ranked opponent. We all know Gastelum is always game for a scrap so let's give him a welterweight who is sure to stand with him and bang.
That'll be the no.10 ranked Vicente Luque. He is coming off two consecutive losses, including his first ever loss by knockout last year against Geoff Neal, but is still one of the most dangerous 170 pounders out there. A clash between the two could easily headline a UFC Fight Night given their popularity and produce a potential fight of the year contender.
2. Neil Magny vs. Kelvin Gastelum
This one is a rematch that would be eight years in the making. Back in 2015, Gastelum and Neil Magny met in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 finale in Mexico. Magny was a last second replacement but would somehow find the way to beat Gastelum by a razor-thing split decision.
The fight was easily the fight of the night as both men put everything into winning their first UFC main event. They were both prospects at the time and the fight now means way more than it did all the way back in 2015. They are both ranked, with Magny and Gastelum both No. 11 in their respective rankings, making a rematch of what was a fantastic first fight all that more enticing. Magny last lost to Gilbert Burns in January in the first round by submission so he should be ready to go by September to welcome Gastelum back to 170 pounds.
3. Geoff Neal vs. Kelvin Gastelum
If you haven't seen the trend in how we are picking these fights, let me quickly explain it to you. Gastelum is a man who only knows how to put on good fights so why not match him against welterweights who have proven to do the same?
We've also avoided prospects as nobody wants to see Gastelum end somebody's run or immediately be labeled a gatekeeper. That's why I went with the no.8 ranked Geoff Neal. Perhaps the toughest test from all the three, there's a reason why he is called 'Hands of Steel' and prior to his defeat, was finally coming into his own in the UFC.
He might have lost his last fight at UFC 285 but nobody has pushed Shavkat Rakhmonov to the limit as much as Neal did. A fight against Gastelum all but guarantees a fight of the night bonus for both men and could headline any UFC Fight Night event across America.