Starting with his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17, Gastelum has continued to surprise mixed martial arts (MMA) fans as the constant underdog. Last night, the tables were turned, as Gastelum entered the bout as a significant favorite and looked to prove that the betting world knew its material.
Ellenberger was entering this fight coming off of two straight losses and without any major victories over top welterweights in several years. To stay relevant as a Top 10-ranked fighter, he desperately needed a victory.
However, Gastelum was just too sharp in every area for the former Top 10 mainstay.
Gastelum was looking to work the jab early, as his first level change was denied. Ellenberger landed a nice right hand in an exchange, but Gastelum absorbed it without issue.
About two minutes in, Ellenberger landed a nice combination that landed cleanly. In response, Gastelum shot a strong double-leg takedown and drove "Juggernaut" to the mat. For about one minute, Ellenberger ate some elbows from within the guard before getting back to his feet.
Then, Gastelum landed a hard jab before pushing into the clinch. Ellenberger spun around to Gastelum's back and slammed Gastelum to the mat. However, Gastelum quickly sat out and spun around. In an instant, Gastelum scrambled from the turtle position into back mount.
Then -- as Gastelum often does -- he sunk in a quick rear naked choke, and Ellenberger tapped quickly.
Gastelum's days of being an underdog are long gone. The young fighter is more and more impressive in each performance and growing at a rapid pace. He's an undefeated finisher and is no more than a couple victories from a title shot.
Gastelum did an excellent job striking with Ellenberger. He respected his opponent's power but was not fearful, staying in range and picking his shots. When Ellenberger did land some punches and gain confidence, Gastelum was quick to disrupt his rhythm with a beautiful shot. Additionally, Gastelum continued to show off his excellent jab from the Southpaw stance, which is a fairly rare trait.
For his next bout, Gastelum undoubtedly deserves another top 10 fighter. If the UFC really has faith in him, a bout with Tyrone Woodley would surely result in fireworks and produce a fighter with a legitimate claim to a title shot.
Unfortunately for Ellenberger, it appears that "Juggernaut" is on his way out. On the first three-fight losing streak of his lengthy career, Ellenberger may be unable to defeat anymore elite fighters.
To put it in perspective, the last truly elite welterweight Ellenberger defeated was Jake Shields, and that bout took place in 2011. Since then, his victories are over Diego Sanchez, Jay Hieron, and Nate Marquardt.
That's hardly the resume of an top Welterweight in 2014.
For his next bout, it might be wise to pair off Ellenberger with a fighter outside the Top 15 who will still pose a challenge to him. Alternatively, a rematch with the returning Carlos Condit could tell us a lot about the direction each man is heading.
At UFC 180, Kelvin Gastelum put on the best performance of his career at the expense of Jake Ellenberger. Is The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner a future champion?
For complete UFC 180 "Werdum vs Hunt" fight results and play-by-play click HERE.
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