Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight talents Kelvin Gastelum and Jack Hermansson will collide this Saturday (July 18, 2020) from “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Despite seeing some ups-and-downs inside the Octagon, Gastelum has been in the title mix at whatever division he competes at since roughly 2014. Heading into this fight, Gastelum’s back is somewhat against the wall, losing his last two fights. However, considering one of them was a “Fight of the Year” with the current champion, counting out Gastelum too soon would be a mistake. Hermansson was closing in on a title shot last year, riding a four-fight win streak over some pretty significant names. However, he ran into Jared Cannonier and was unable to implement his wrestling talents, forcing him to trade hands with the heavier puncher (watch highlights). Now, he’s looking to rebound and get back in the win column.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 15-5 (1)
Key Wins: Ronaldo Souza (UFC 224), Michael Bisping (UFC on FOX 27), Johny Hendricks (UFC 200), Tim Kennedy (UFC 206), Rick Story (UFC 171)
Key Losses: Israel Adesanya (UFC 236), Darren Till (UFC 244), Chris Weidman (UFC on FOX 25), Tyron Woodley (UFC 183)
Keys to Victory: Gastelum is not a complicated fighter ... he’s a natural one. The Southpaw has a lightning quick left hand that finds chins with a shocking regularity, and his wrestling background has proven quite valuable in denying takedowns even from bigger opponents.
There are clear paths to victory for each man here. In Gastelum’s case, he has to remain evasive. Hermansson is a long and strong Middleweight with a pretty deep gas tank. He wants a grinding, ugly match, and Gastelum has to use his feet to keep away from the lanky “Joker.”
Plus, Hermansson isn’t one to fight a slow-paced fight. He throws punches in bunches, and if Gastelum is hard to find early, he’s only going to up the aggression. Based on Gastelum’s incredible accuracy and power with his left hand, that sounds like a pretty perfect recipe to land a fight-changing shot.
Otherwise, Gastelum just needs to be mindful of the judges. Both men are somewhat accustomed to 25 minute fights, and that seemed to bite Gastelum in his decision loss to Till, as he only turned it up in the final round. If Gastelum is being evasive but landing nothing in return, he’ll have to choose his moments to get aggressive wisely and ensure he stays ahead on the cards.
Key Wins: Ronaldo Souza (UFC Fight Night 150), David Branch (UFC on ESPN 2), Thales Leites (UFC 224), Gerald Meerschaert (UFC on FOX 31)
Key Losses: Jarred Cannonier (UFC Fight Night 160), Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 119), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 100)
Keys to Victory: Hermansson is pretty skilled everywhere. On his feet, Hermansson uses long punches and kicks to pull his opponent into counters, and he likes to attack in bursts. More often, Hermansson pursues the takedown, and he’s a really brutal finisher if able to gain top position.
Hermansson is a good deal longer than Gastelum, and there’s a chance his jab-pull style could land some big shots on the former title challenger. However, it just seems risky — Gastelum’s left hand tends to land at some point, and most don’t survive it.
Instead, Hermansson should make full use of that size advantage by weighing on Gastelum in the clinch. That’s a style that has produced mixed results against Gastelum, based largely on the conditioning of the wrestler attempting to hold Gastelum down. Fortunately, Hermansson’s gas tank is generally excellent, particularly when he’s clinching rather than getting punched in the face.
Size, strength and takedowns are the best way to nullify a really nasty puncher.
One contender bounces back, the other slides further from grace.
Gastelum remains a frustrating case of unreached potential. His dietary problems have forced him to Middleweight, where he’s forced to overcome size disadvantages in every fight. Yet, he still finds himself ranked among the top ten in the world, and he still has an argument for an eventual rematch with “Stylebender.”
Gastelum cannot afford a third-straight loss if he’s to remain relevant at Middleweight.
Meanwhile, Hermansson’s unexpected run into the title mix ended disastrously back in Sept. 2019, but he’s still a highly-ranked contender. Dispatching Gastelum would be a pretty significant feather in Hermansson’s cap, one that quickly sets him up for high-profile fights. On the other hand, consecutive losses would definitely see Hermansson lose his status as a potential title contender.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 2 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC on Fight Island 2: “Figuieredo vs. Benavidez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC Fight Night 172, Kelvin Gastelum and Jack Hermansson will battle in the co-main event. Which man will earn the victory?