Who should the UFC have Kelvin Gastelum face at welterweight?

Apr 8, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Chris Curtis (red gloves) fights Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) during UFC 287 at Miami-Dade Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, former UFC title challenger Kelvin Gastelum (18-8) announced that he was officially moving down to the welterweight division. This is the weight class where Gastelum always belonged, but he never showed the discipline to make the weight consistently.

After trying early in his UFC career, Gastelum scrapped the idea of fighting at 170 and focused on fighting at 185. He did hold his own, but there was a gap between him and the very best guys in the world. Gastelum did pick up a huge win over Chris Curtis in his last fight just a couple of months ago.

In that fight, Gastelum looked like the Gastelum that was a title challenger. The one who pushed Israel Adesanya to the absolute limit in their war for the interim UFC title. After getting that big win, Gastelum was sitting at 11th in the middleweight division. Instead of focusing on the top ten there, he’s moving back to welterweight.

Who should the UFC pair him with?

In my opinion, given his name and history, I think the UFC needs to move him up the ladder pretty quickly. There’s one name that I think would make for the perfect fight for Gastelum as well as this young contender. That would be a bout with Shavkat Rakhmonov (17-0).

Rakhmonov is coming off the biggest win over his career with a submission over Geoff Neal. He’s still never gone to a judge’s scorecard in his career. It’s pretty clear that he’s the real deal, but before throwing him into the title picture, I think a fight with Gastelum will tell us everything we need to know.

Whoever were to win a potential bout between the two men would jump right into the title picture. If not next, they’d only be about a win away from the UFC welterweight title. It’s a big test for both, but considering the state of the division around them, I think it makes a lot of sense.

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