This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 24, Kelvin Gastelum (16-7, 1 NC) had a golden opportunity. Entering 2021, Gastelum was not looking great in terms of being a top contender at middleweight.
The former interim title challenger had lost three fights in a row heading into 2021. Gastelum was scheduled to take on Ian Heinisch earlier this year and it was a fight that was pivotal for Gastelum moving forward.
The two fought at UFC 258 and Gastelum went back to his wrestling roots to snap his losing streak. With taking no damage in the Heinisch fight, Gastelum told the UFC that he would be ready to fill in if someone fell out of the upcoming middleweight main events.
Robert Whittaker (23-5) was set to headline UFC Vegas 24 against Paulo Costa. However, Costa ended up sick and had to pull out of the fight due to his inability to train. With that, Gastelum volunteered to step in.
Originally, Gastelum was supposed to face Whittaker at UFC 234 for the middleweight title. However, Whittaker had to pull out of that fight after having to undergo emergency surgery the day of the fight. If Gastelum was able to pull off a victory, he would’ve been right back in title contention.
However, that didn’t happen at UFC Vegas 24. Gastelum did have moments where he hit Whittaker clean, but overall he was a step behind all night. Whittaker rocked him a couple of times and ended up with a clean sweep on the judges scorecards.
What’s next after UFC Vegas 24?
With this loss at UFC Vegas 24, Gastelum is just 1-4 in his last five fights. A couple of years ago, Gastelum looked like he could be a middleweight champion, but it’s really hard to imagine that scenario now.
So where does Kelvin Gastelum go from here? Well, I personally would love to see Gastelum attempt to cut back to 170 pounds. I truly believe that if he did it the right way, Gastelum could be a force in the UFC’s welterweight division.
However, I don’t believe that’s likely. In looking at the middleweight division, I think a perfect next opponent would be Kevin Holland (21-7). Holland was 5-0 in 2020, but has come back down to earth in 2021 with headlining losses to Marvin Vettori and Derek Brunson.
Still, The Trailblazer is still ranked 12th at middleweight. He’s talked about moving to welterweight as well, but if he stays at 185 pounds, I think he would be the perfect opponent for Gastelum’s next UFC fight.