Kelvin Gastelum

Kelvin Gastelum is returning, determined to finally find his footing in the division since losing an interim title bid to Israel Adesanya in 2019. After the close decision, Gastelum dropped two straight, won a unanimous decision over Ian Heinisch, and then dropped two again to contenders Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier.

His next fight will be a slight drop in competition, going from contenders to #14 ranked Chris Curtis, still one spot above Gastelum at #15. Curtis is coming off of a KO victory over Joaquin Buckley in December and is 4-1 in the UFC since signing with the promotion.

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Betting Odds

Oddsmakers have swayed back and forth with the pair initially opening up with both negative odds each. However, Gastelum has since shifted as the favorite despite his losing streak.

Fight Breakdown

This matchup benefits Gatelum’s style far more than any of his fights in recent memory. In general, Gastelum is an experienced wrestler, who dived head first into his boxing when making the switch to MMA, and as time went on he developed, slick footwork, power, and smooth hands, as well as an iron chin. For the most part, his best success in the UFC has come by way of his fast boxing skills, and moving from welterweight to middleweight, speed became is most prominent attribute against larger opponents. However, being a short fighter saw him struggle against good rangy kickboxers like Israel Adesanya and Darren Till, and similarly to the blitzing karate style of Whittaker, that allowed no inward battle in which Gatelum could box. Chris Curtis, himself is a boxer and will be there looking to enter and engage in the pocket much more readily than most opponents.

That being said, while this benefits Gastelum more than those able to avoid his boxing, it’s an extremely tough matchup as both men are razor-sharp boxers.

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Chris Curtis is a Southpaw with a short stance. He keeps a tight guard on his left side and uses his right hand to poke and prod with his jab or hand fight. As a southpaw, he usually looks to hand fight to open up his left and power hand to lead his combinations, but Gastelum is also a southpaw so this may shake up his usual entries. Look for him to pressure Gastelum back towards the cage so that he can land body shots as Gastelum tries to circle out. He is also always looking to bait out the right hand so that he can slip and counter with a left uppercut to the right hook.

Gastelum is a bit lighter on his feet with more in and out and springy movement. His left cross is lightning, and a sharp right hook is often added to the tip of his combinations to find the chin as he exits. He will throw a lazy right jab to set up a hop left cross, and that same movement can hide his potential double-leg attempts. While we may see a competitive boxing match between these two, it’s the added dimension of the takedowns that make Gastelum the more complete mixed martial artist. He does have better variety with his dance control, and Chris Curtis has shown frustration when he is unable to cut off the cage and is instead willing to chase. If Gastelum can box and then break that gap to get away, watch for Curtis to march forward and find Gastelum on his hips. Gastelum is extremely powerful when he gets in deep as he can elevate and turn the corner on takedowns with a lot of power for his size. He is also great at riding the back, and has a grip difficult to break, but does so on his own terms and often is the one landing cleaner on clinch breaks.

Prediction and Betting Guide

I see a compelling striking contest, done mostly with boxing weapons and skills, but Gastelum’s ability to get to and control range will force Curtis to at times work overzealously trying to find him at which point, Gastelum can find his wrestling opportunities. If he comes out looking for the takedown without trying to set it up, Curtis has too good takedown defense to get caught easily by the obvious. I think he will get Curtis settled at the boxing range and then mix things up to get the victory.

Pick: Kelvin Gastelum to win (-133)

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