Over the course of his six years in the UFC, Kelvin Gastelum has put together some impressive wins against the biggest names in the sport. Despite having never laid claim to UFC gold, Gastelum is one of the most widely respected middleweight fighters and is known for being an exceptionally tough matchup for any opponent.
UFC 244 will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
Coming off a loss for the interim middleweight title to Israel Adesanya, Gastelum bounces back with yet another tough matchup in Englishman Darren Till. Till recently fought for the welterweight title where he came up just short to former champion Tyronn Woodley. Tasked with introducing Till to the middleweight division, Gastelum has his work cut out for him in what will undoubtedly be another difficult fight.
So just how did Gastelum make a name for himself as one of the toughest middleweights on the UFC’s roster?
Kelvin Gastelum’s Most Dominant Wins: Retiring Michael Bisping
By far Gastelum’s most notable win, his decapitation of Michael Bisping sent shockwaves through the sport. While Bisping was older and past his athletic prime, he had only recently lost his middleweight title belt to Georges St-Pierre three weeks prior and many expected him to still have plenty of years left in the tank.
Gastelum had different ideas and decimated Bisping with a brutal first-round knockout. The punch would nearly detach Bisping’s eye from his socket and forced him into early retirement. While the fight would put an end to Bisping’s illustrious career, it vaulted Gastelum back to the top of the middleweight division and helped put him in position for his title shot against Adesanya. It would also finally put Gastelum in the public eye. He previously had mostly headlined free cards, though following the epic knockout, he has been featured prominently on three consecutive PPV cards.
Kelvin Gastelum’s Most Dominant Wins: Choking out Jake Ellenberger
While not as notable as his fight against Michael Bisping, Gastelum’s dominant win over UFC veteran Jake Ellenberger was the fight that finally got him consideration as a legitimate contender. From the opening bell, Gastelum was all over Ellenberger. Showing a mix of a competent standup game and a slick, yet powerful ground game, Gastelum utterly dominated one of the UFC’s most well-rounded and respected veterans. Eventually taking Ellenberger’s back and finishing him with a rear-naked choke, Gastelum showed off the diverse skill set that he would come to be known for.
The fight moved Gastelum to a perfect 10-0 at the time and set up a highly anticipated showdown between him and fellow welterweight contender (and future champion) Tyron Woodley. Woodley would come away with a split decision win in a hotly contested decision before going on to win the belt in his next fight.
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Kelvin Gastelum’s Most Dominant Wins: The Massacre of Vitor Belfort
While the fight was eventually overturned due to a failed drug test for marijuana metabolites, that doesn’t take away just how brutally Gastelum dismantled UFC legend Vitor Belfort. Vitor came out swinging for the fences and landed numerous shots though Gastelum waded through them unphased. After only a few minutes, Gastelum seemed to have a read on Belfort’s timing and repeatedly cracked him with brutal counterpunches.
Dropping the UFC legend on multiple occasions, Gastelum would eventually put him out for good late in the first round. Though Belfor was far from the fighter that had defeated former champions like Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Rich Franklin, he was still widely considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the sport. Showcasing an impressive ability to take damage and keep coming forward, Gastelum took home the performance of the night bonus for his efforts. Unfortunately, he was also slapped with a 90-day suspension from the UFC following the results of his failed drug test.
Kelvin Gastelum’s Most Dominant Wins: Beating Nate Marquardt Into Submission
Gastelum has been ordered by UFC President Dana White to move up to the middleweight division on two separate occasions due to him having repeated struggles cutting down to 170 pounds. The first time he was forced to step up he faced off against respected UFC veteran Nate Marquardt. Gastelum picked up a huge statement win by utterly brutalizing Marquardt in a masterful performance.
Effectively picking Marquardt apart with a combination of crisp striking and vicious ground and pound, Marquardt’s corner was forced to throw in the towel in between the second and third rounds due to the accumulated damage Gastelum inflicted on the veteran fighter. Gastelum suffocated Marquardt from the jump and barely took any damage from the crafty veteran. Able to get inside at will against Marquardt, not a moment went by where Gastelum was unable to dictate where and how the fight went down. Though Gastelum would go on to have a number of great performances at middleweight, his debut was arguably his most well-rounded performance in the octagon.
Kelvin Gastelum’s Most Dominant Wins: Retiring Tim Kennedy
Though retiring Michael Bisping tops his list of most dominant wins, Gastelum retired another MMA legend earlier in his career. Strikeforce and UFC legend Tim Kennedy made a return to the octagon after a hiatus of nearly two years to face Gastelum at UFC 206. Notoriously tough to finish, Kennedy had only previously been stopped by Yoel Romero – arguably the hardest pound for pound puncher in UFC history – and via a doctor stoppage in his first career fight against Scott Smith.
Kennedy actually came out looking fairly good against Gastelum and scored some nice points early on the back of a good takedown, solid top control, and heavy knees from the clinch. Gastelum was able to escape and while slightly winded, would go on to establish his distance on the feet and repeatedly tag Kennedy with big shots over the next two rounds. From the start of the third round, Gastelum swarmed Kennedy and brutalized one of the sport’s toughest men – giving him no room to breathe. Finishing things with a vicious combination that sent Kennedy crumbling to the ground, Gastelum closed the book on Kennedy’s storied MMA career.