This past weekend at UFC Vegas 34, we saw a big time headliner in the middleweight division. Top contender Jared Cannonier (14-5) was taking on former interim title challenger and Ultimate Fighter winner Kelvin Gastelum (17-8, 1 NC).
It’s been an interesting few years in the UFC for Kelvin Gastelum. In May of 2018, Gastelum edged out Jacare Souza and that win put him in line for a title shot against Robert Whittaker.
Gastelum was supposed to fight Whittaker in Australia, but Whittaker had to pull out the day of the fight. The UFC then created an interim title and had Gastelum fight Israel Adesanya. To date, Gastelum has still had the best fight against Israel Adesanya at 185 pounds.
That said, Gastelum fell short. That loss started a streak where Gastelum went just 1-4 in five fights. On Saturday night, he was looking to get back into the title picture with a win over Cannonier. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
At UFC Vegas 34, Cannonier was just a step ahead of Gastelum for three rounds. Gastelum was incredibly competitive, but couldn’t put it together enough to win three rounds. All three judges gave the fight to Cannonier with a 48-47 scorecard.
What’s next after UFC Vegas 34?
With this latest loss, Gastelum is now just 1-5 in his last six UFC appearances. After winning The Ultimate Fighter, Gastelum attempted to move down to the welterweight division. That seemed to be the division the UFC wanted him in and the one he’s best suited for.
However, after constantly struggling to make the weight, he moved up to 185 pounds. He started strong there with wins over Tim Kennedy and Vitor Belfort although the Belfort win was overturned due to THC in Gastelum’s system.
After the Belfort fight, Gastelum is just 3-6 in the UFC’s middleweight division. Granted, half of those losses were to UFC champions and the other half were to contenders ranked inside the top ten.
Now, you really have to think about what’s next for Gastelum. I’m with the UFC’s original plan in that I wish he could make 170 pounds. I don’t see any scenario where Kelvin Gastelum becomes at champion at 185. However, he would be a problem at 170 if he could do it.
That said, we know he’s not likely going down that path. So, what should the UFC do with him next? Well, I think it’s time for a bit of a reset. One option could be a fight with Brad Tavares (19-6). Tavares has won two straight and he’s just outside the top ten.
This would give Gastelum a ranked opponent still, but it would be the step back in competition he needs. Another option could be the winner of the upcoming matchup between Kevin Holland (21-7) and Kyle Daukaus (10-2).
These two are scheduled to fight in October and whoever wins will likely be looking for a ranked opponent. This is another potential matchup that makes sense for Gastelum. At the end of the day, if he’s staying at 185, it’s time to step back in competition.