Middleweight division be warned — Kelvin Gastelum has arrived.
The former “Ultimate Fighter” winner has long been touted as a top prospect in the UFC, but weight-cutting issues kept Gastelum with a very large asterisk next to his name throughout his troubled times competing at 170 pounds.
While Gastelum was undefeated in the UFC as a middleweight, he still resisted the move up to a new division. But the constant struggles getting down to welterweight eventually forced his hand.
Now in his last two fights at 185 pounds, Gastelum has managed to earn knockouts over two top-10 ranked, opponents including a blistering finish over Vitor Belfort on Saturday night in Brazil.
Gastelum was definitely stepping into enemy territory going against Belfort in his native country, but he showed no fear while engaging in a stand up battle with arguably one of the most dangerous strikers in the history of the sport.
Belfort put together a couple fast combinations in the opening moments of the fight, which brought the crowd to its feet while watching the former champion land some fast punches that snapped Gastelum’s head back.
To his credit, Gastelum never got panicked and instead reset himself before returning fire while landing with surgical precision to counter Belfort’s potent offense.
Gastelum started to find a constant home for his punches and with one landing after the other in rapid-fire succession, he dropped Belfort to the mat before swooping in to look for the finish. Belfort crashed to the ground but somehow got his bearings back while doing his best to defend from the punches flying down from above.
Belfort survived, but it was only a momentary reprieve because Gastelum smelled blood and knew this was his chance to put a stop to this fight.
Once the fighters got back to the feet, Gastelum continued to pour on the punishment before landing another vicious series of punches that sent Belfort tumbling to the ground again. This time, Gastelum jumped on top with a few more punches and the referee saw more than enough to stop the fight.
The victory put Gastelum’s record at 4-0 as a middleweight and it didn’t take the 25-year-old very long after the win to ask for another UFC legend in his next fight.
“There’s a guy really close to me that I know that started a legends ass-whooping tour and I want to finish it,” Gastelum said, paying homage to his former “Ultimate Fighter” coach Chael Sonnen. “June 3 I want to go against Anderson [Silva] maybe in Rio. Who knows?”
Silva is coming off a win over top-10 ranked Derek Brunson in his last fight and there’s no doubt he would be a huge addition to the upcoming UFC 212 card in his home country of Brazil. It certainly seems like Gastelum is more than happy to step back into the lion’s den to make the fight happen and possibly avenge Sonnen’s two prior losses to Silva in the Octagon at the same time.
As for Belfort, he has now dropped his last three fights — all by way of knockout or TKO. While it was tough to drop another fight in Brazil, Belfort says he has at least one more left in him and he hopes to do it when the UFC returns to Rio de Janeiro in June.
“I have one fight left on my contract [with the UFC],” Belfort said. “I’d like to do that fight in my hometown in Rio. We’ll see what’s next, but I want to fight at home.”
Belfort seemed to hint at retirement following his last fight, but perhaps he has designs on one last performance at home in Brazil before bringing his Hall of Fame career to an end.