This Saturday night (June 28, 2014), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Kelvin Gastelum and Nicholas Musoke will go to war in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 44, airing live at 10 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1 from AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
No. 11-ranked The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 winner Gastelum has looked impressive since cutting down to welterweight after the show. He most recently won a split decision over seasoned veteran Rick Story at UFC 171 after submitting Brian Melancon in his 170-pound debut at UFC Fight Night 27.
Gastelum has yet to taste defeat in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career, but he'll have his hands full with Musoke, the Swedish talent who most recently won a decision over Viscardi Andrade at UFC Fight Night 36 in February. Unbeaten in his last eight bouts, "Nico" is looking to become a dark horse contender in what may be the UFC's most talented division.
There's no doubt that both Gastelum and Musoke are both promising prospects; one will rise to the next level this weekend. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Gastelum vs. Musoke:
Record: 8-0 overall, 3-0 UFC
Key Wins: Rick Story (UFC 171), Brian Melancon (UFC Fight Night 27), Uriah Hall (TUF 17 Finale)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Never the most talented fighter in the gym, Gastelum has made a career out of being the underdog that just gets the job done. He has a solid, if not spectacular, all-around game that centers on wrestling, boxing, and a dangerous set of chokes on the mat.
Musoke is a well-rounded finisher in his own right, and despite the fact that "Nico" isn't highly known quite yet, he's an under-the-radar threat that could provide several problems for Gastelum. To avoid his first loss, Gastelum need to establish the pace on the feet and use his strikes to set up his takedowns.
Musoke has only tapped out once due to an armbar, but if Gastelum can overpower him in a few scrambles, the opportunity for a fight-ending choke could present itself.
With two split decision victories in his three official UFC wins after finishing each of his five opponents outside the Octagon, it's clear that the competition is beginning to catch up to him.
Because of that, Gastelum could definitely use a finish to continue his upward trend. It's safe to say he'll relentlessly pursue one on Saturday; he just can't get careless while doing so.
Record: 12-2-1(1) overall, 2-0 UFC
Key Wins: Viscardi Andrade (UFC Fight Night 36), Alessio Sakara (UFC Fight Night 30)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Musoke is poised to make an assault on the UFC 170-pound division in 2014.
He'd make waves by defeating Gastelum, and his best chance to do so may lie in his stand-up skills. "Nico" fared better against Sakara once the fight hit the ground, but "Legionarius" is far from the wrestler Gastelum is.
If Musoke can turn this into a technical kickboxing match, he might be able to score points at range while making it difficult for Gastelum to take him down. Musoke has four knockouts and five submissions to his name, proving he's lethal anywhere the fight goes.
However, it's going to be extremely difficult to add Gastelum to that list. Despite his accomplished mat skills, getting into a wrestling match with Gastelum may not end well for Musoke.
If he does get slammed to the canvas, Musoke definitely has enough surprising holds from the bottom to turn the tables. Musoke could potentially lull Gastelum into a false sense of security by allowing a takedown only to reverse with a slick sweep or transition.
Overall, Musoke is a dangerous foe with an extensive arsenal. He should have a bit of a technical edge over Gastelum, so avoiding a gritty, grinding affair should tip the scales in his favor here.
Bottom Line from San Antonio: The bottom line for this fight is that it presents an opportunity for both fighters to substantially rise up the tough welterweight rankings.
It's a shame that one of the fighters' unbeaten streaks has to come to an end, but it had to happen eventually.
If he wins, Gastelum will be prime for a big fight just a little over a year removed from TUF, no small feat in and of itself. Uriah Hall was supposed to be the superstar coming out of that season, but somehow Gastelum has made the best of the opportunity with his unstoppable work ethic and determination.
Musoke, on the other hand, will be fighting in the United States for the first time ever. That could potentially affect his performance, as the crowd will undoubtedly be very pro-Gastelum. He's proven to be a focused and complete competitor thus far in his career, and has the chance to arrive on the scene by scoring the upset.
Expect a stand-up battle to favor Musoke, while a more grappling-centric match should favor Gastelum. Just don't discredit Musoke's ability to lock on a fight-ending submission in an instant.
With both fighters' complete skillsets, however, this bout could go either way no matter where it ends up. Expect a hotly contested back-and-forth brawl in San Antonio, and enjoy the fight.
Kelvin Gastelum looks to continue his undefeated streak against lethal up-and-coming prospect Nicholas Musoke at UFC Fight Night 44. Will the TUF winner win his fourth straight UFC bout, or is it time for "Nico" to score his highest profile victory?