Kelvin Gastelum vs Rick Story: UFC 171 'Fight of the Night' early pick

Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com

Two talented welterweights will fight in the UFC 171 "Prelims" when Kelvin Gastelum takes on Rick Story. With similar skill sets and equal hunger to make their marks, this fight could be the sleeper 170-pound bout on a card loaded with Welterweight talent.

Two welterweight fringe fighters, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 champion Kelvin Gastelum and Octagon veteran Rick Story, will look to get closer to a Top 10 ranking with a win on the "Prelims" portion of UFC 171 fight card, which takes place at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, later this evening (Sat., March 15, 2014).

It's the under-the-radar 170-pound bout that promises to deliver great mixed martial arts (MMA) action.

Both men are very skilled fighters, tending to favor a "wrestle-boxer" style. The pair came into the sport with great wrestling ability and have since learned to complement it with potent boxing technique, which makes both of them hard fighters to best in any area.

Despite not being around for that long, Story has faced -- and even beaten -- some of the stiffest competition in the division. Wins over Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger and Thiago Alves are impressive notches on his record and are indicative of his ability as a fighter.

Indeed, Story has the edge over Gastelum with his experience -- 23 professional fights teach a fighter lot about MMA.  And, as mentioned, Story has already been in the cage with very high level competition. He's known to come at opponents early with big volleys of hard punches and strong clinch exchanges, which is something Gastelum definitely has to look out for as the fight begins.

Gastelum is a very good young talent, and for him to be competing in UFC already speaks volumes to his potential as a fighter. At only 22 years old, Gastelum could be on the brink of the Welterweight division's Top 15 with a win over Story, which means there is a lot for him to gain in this fight.

Gastelum's overall game is, as already mentioned, very similar to Story's. His bread and butter is his wrestling, but he is more than capable of holding his own in striking exchanges. He showed just how good he is in his one-round drubbing of Brian Melancon at UFC Fight Night 27, and it will be interesting to see what improvements he's made leading into his fight with Story.

The real X-factors here  are Gastelum's speed, fight IQ and athleticism. He showed against a much more physically impressive Uriah Hall that he is smart in his approach and is very good at bringing the fight where he needs it to go. That is what will make this fight interesting. After dropping to 170 pounds, Gastelum's speed looked incredible, and his striking was very sharp, and I could see him using this to pop Story with quick punches before escaping his attempts to get in close.

This fight will be a game of cat and mouse, with Story definitely being the early aggressor. As the fight drags on, Story's pressure will only be effective so long as Gastelum plays into his hands, which I just can't see happening. At that point, expect striking exchanges to open up and those could be anyone's to win. I don't think we'll see either fighter go down easily, which could make for a brilliant striking battle between two sluggers.

At UFC 171, expect Rick Story and Kelvin Gastelum to put on an entertaining show. This will be a big step up for Gastelum, but he has all the ability to make the fight interesting .... and even "Fight of the Night" worthy if he brings his "A" game.

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