When Kelvin Gastelum entered the UFC in 2013 he was one of the most promising prospects at 170lbs. While he showed immense talent, the Californian also consistently struggled with the welterweight cut. This eventually lead to Gastelum making the climb to middleweight were although undersized, managed to work his way to an interim title shot. Mixed results following, Gastelum has now decided to return to his once home in the welterweight division for another run in his natural weight category.
Standing in his way is Sean Brady, a Philly fighter who entered the UFC in 2019 going undefeated up until his most recent fight with Bella Muhammad. Looking to avenge his first and only loss, the grappling ace will look to show Gastelum how the division has grown since his departure in 2015.
Sean Brady will welcome Gastelum back into the division with Brady the favorite.
Kelvin Gastelum is 5’9 with a reach of 71 inches. He fights in a southpaw stance with a base in American wrestling but has developed to be one of the better boxers in the UFC over his time in the promotion. He has earned his wins, six by KO/TKO, four by submission and seven by decision, fairly dispersed.
Sean Brady on the other hand stands 5’9 with 72 inches of reach making him extremely similar but fights out of the orthodox stance. Like Gastelum, Brady’s base is that of grappling, with incredible jiu jitsu and submission wrestling skills, however he has rounded out his skillset with good technical kickboxing as well. He has 3KO/TKOs, four submissions and eight decisions, lending credence to his affinity for putting people on the mat and controlling them.
Gastelum’s biggest problem in his career has been consistency. He struggles with the discipline of dieting and weight cutting, but on the other hand this makes sense as he typically does his best the more fun he is evidently having. Inside the octagon, when he is visibly enjoying himself he tends to execute his more creative striking, mixing up the tempo of his movements and breaking typical striking conventions. For example, while he does good work with his simple right jab left cross in all of his fights, he will change the usual retraction to contraction timing of the two shots to a Nate Diaz like double whip at times, or shift his back leg behind his lead when throwing the left cross which traditionally is bad form but works with his in and out floating style.
A confident Gastelum is a uniquely dangerous fighter, and it’s important that he establishes himself early in the fight. Sean Brady is very good technically, with little fat on his strikes. He sticks to the basics and keeps them sharp, primarily depending on straight punches and kicks to the legs and body. When he does throw the low kick, Gastelum has been particularly good at countering off of these kicks in flurries in the past, which should work well against Brady who A) wants to avoid exchanging in the pocket with Gastelum and B) has difficulty with pressure. Gastelum needs to be in his face and avoid a fencing match from the outside where they exchange single shots.
Brady will most likely be the one who shoots at some point although Gastelum should be the better wrestler. Brady likes to attack singles which allow him to drive his opponents to the cage, switch to the double leg and elevate and twist away from the octagon. He then does a good job of almost always taking the back. This tactic will be especially hard against Gastelum who will likely be the bigger fighter, and the better wrestler with his sprawl and rotation to the back. He is also supremely athletic especially at 170lbs, meaning he will be looking to explode out of a lot of positions making Brady work to stay on top. It’s important for Gastelum to not only deny the takedowns, but consistently use his constant footwork and mix uppercuts into his combinations to make timing the takedown difficult for Brady.
This is a very compelling matchup considering how good both men are in every area of the fight. A lot will also depend on how Gastelum returns to 170lbs, in the weight cut was difficult and we see a Gastelum who just doesn’t feel free and relaxed, we may see a less create version of him.
However if the move in division rejuvenates him, the high level wrestling may allow him to dictate where the fight takes place and force Brady to deal with his pressure boxing. If this is the Gastelum we get at his best, I do think he pulls of the upset as long as he keeps the flow of the fight moving at a high pace.
Pick: Kelvin Gastelum to win (-105 at MyBookie)