Last night (Sat., June 28, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Kelvin Gastelum and Nicholas Musoke squared off in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 44 from AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 winner, Gastelum, came in off a split decision victory over seasoned veteran Rick Story at UFC 171, his second win at 170 pounds after cutting down following the show. However, he struggled to make weight prior to this bout, coming in at two pounds over.
Yet to taste defeat in mixed martial arts (MMA), No. 11-ranked Gastelum was getting close to a Top 10 spot in arguably the most stacked division in the sport.
He had his hands full with Musoke, the dangerous Swedish finisher who was making his United States debut. "Nico" had racked up two straight wins in the Octagon, decisioning Viscarde Andrade at UFC Fight Night 36 and knocking out Alessio Sakara at UFC Fight Night 30.
Momentum was on the line when Gastelum and Musoke locked horns in San Antonio. When it was all said and done, Gastelum extended his perfect run with a convincing display of skills.
When the opening bell sounded, Musoke came out winging some hooks and a head kick. The rangier Swede snapped a strong combination ending with a stiff right hand. Gastelum tried to turn the tables in the clinch, but Musoke maintained position to get a takedown. "Nico" had Gastelum's back for a few seconds, but he got right back up.
Perhaps he shouldn't have, as Musoke scored a huge lifting slam. Musoke had Gastelum's back once again as he sought a rear naked choke. Finally Gastelum spun out to and on top as a one-sided opening round for Musoke came to a close.
In the second, Gastelum winged a big shot. A good exchange ensued, and Gastelum found a home for several kicks and a flurry of hard punches as the crowd went wild. Gastelum scored with a body kick and continued to slug big punches. Musoke countered with a left hand before eating another huge shot.
Gastelum landed a knee and more kicks and punches as the tide began to turn. More strikes found a home from Gastelum as Musoke was stifled with shots to the body and head. The dominant round ended with Musoke having no answer on the feet.
The final round saw Musoke attempt to clinch as Gastelum continued to press forward with his kickboxing.
Despite missing weight, Gastelum appeared fresh as he continued with a high volume of accurate strikes. Uppercuts landed, followed by a head kick. "Nico" clinched but was reversed as Gastelum landed a good combo.
Gastelum fell but got back up to continue working the body. He was putting on a show with flurries and knees as the final minute approached. Gastelum ended the bout strong with some high kicks and a hard left hand.
The Yuma, Ariz., Native took home a hard-fought, come-from-behind decision over the Swedish prospect, showing his heart after losing the grappling in the first round. His striking looked diverse, and he showed an excellent gameplan by adjusting to Musoke's tendencies in the later rounds.
With four straight victories in the Octagon, the promotion suddenly has a very marketable up-and-coming star in underdog Gastelum.
But with his recent performances, he's no longer the underdog. He could be due for a Top 10-caliber challenge. The loser of August's UFC Fight Night Macao bout between Tyron Woodley and Dong Hyun Kim would make for an exciting match-up with Gastelum. Falling star Jake Ellenberger would also make for an exciting fight.
The loss is a setback for Musoke, who obviously has some bad habits to correct before he can contend with the top welterweights in UFC. He needs to work on his striking defense and timing, and perhaps his conditioning as well, but he still has time to rebound and become a force in the Octagon. An opponent towards the bottom of the Top 20 makes sense for "Nico."
Kelvin Gastelum extended his UFC wins streak by weathering an early storm to unleash a striking clinic on "Nico" Musoke. Is he ready to take on the elite 170-pound fighters in the world?