This Saturday night in the featured prelim of UFC 287, we are going to see a banger which features two top fifteen middleweight contenders. Former interim title challenger and Ultimate Fighter winner Kelvin Gastelum (17-8) takes on “The Action Man” Chris Curtis (30-9).
Curtis’ story is well documented. The middleweight contender retired after a loss in the PFL to Ray Cooper but the retirement was extremely short lived. Instead, he won five straight fights and then got the call from the UFC to take on Phil Hawes.
He won that fight by knockout then proceeded to win two more fights which earned him a fight against Jack Hermansson. He lost a lackluster decision that night but bounced back strong with a knockout win over Joaquin Buckley.
This will be Kelvin Gastelum’s first fight in a year and a half. He’s had fights fall through due to cuts and injuries but now he’s back. In 2019, Gastelum had a ton of momentum leading him to an interim title fight against Israel Adesanya.
He pushed Stylebender to the limit, but ultimately lost a decision. After that fight, he’s gone just 1-4 in his last five fights. He’s now fallen to fifteenth in the rankings and he’s in desperate need of a win.
UFC 287 Prediction
On paper, the skillsets are there for these two men to make this an absolute war. Chris Curtis has some of the best pure boxing in the division and when he’s on point, he can light up just about anyone. However, we’ve seen him be a little too conservative at times.
Kelvin Gastelum is a guy that when on, loves to lead the dance. He will fight with a lot of volume and bring high energy when he’s on his game. Gastelum’s forward pressure does play into Curtis’ counter striking which could of course make him a little more tentative than usual.
I’m expecting Gastelum to attempt to use his wrestling in this fight. If he can consistently get Curtis down, he’s going to keep going in that direction. While Gastelum has very good boxing himself, I don’t think he wants to play around on the feet with Curtis.
If Curtis keeps things standing at UFC 287, I love his chances in this fight as long as he pulls the trigger. If he’s firing, he should get the better of the boxing exchanges. However, if he allows Gastelum’s volume to outweigh his big shots, he could be on his way to losing another decision.
I don’t see a finish in this one and I think it’s going to be razor close. Perhaps a split decision. I don’t feel good about this pick, but I lean towards Gastelum because of the wrestling and volume.
Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum by Split Decision