Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight scrappers Kelvin Gastelum and Ian Heinisch will battle this weekend (Sat., Feb. 13, 2021) at UFC 258 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gastelum came closer than anyone else to defeating Israel Adesanya, and he would have captured a title in the process. His stock actually raised in defeat, but that big moment was immediately followed by consecutive losses that now have Gastelum on the outside of the title picture looking in. Having joined in 2018, Heinisch is still relatively new to UFC’s roster, but he pretty quickly dove into the deeper end of competition. He’s still looking for his first Top 10 victory, but Heinisch has nevertheless made an impact in just five fights.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 15-6 (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), Jack Hermansson (UFC Fight Night 172), Chris Weidman (UFC on FOX 25)
Keys to Victory: Not unlike Heinisch, Gastelum did not take long to fight high-level opponents inside the Octagon, and he debuted at just 5-0. The Southpaw is known for his lightning quick left cross, which has dropped a majority of his past opponents, and he’s also got some quality wrestling.
Gastelum is riding a three-fight losing streak, but it’s important to remember that caliber of competition. The losses to Adesanya and Till were extremely competitive, and he got caught in a low-percentage heel hook by Hermansson. Those losses still count obviously, but it’s not like Gastelum has been getting destroyed or looking washed.
In this match up, the game plan is clear. Gastelum is the far superior striker, and historically, his takedown defense is good enough to deny the vast majority of shots. Plus, Heinisch tends to wrestle defensively as much as anything; he’s yet to show the type of grinding wrestling style that Chris Weidman once used to great effect.
If Gastelum keeps his feet moving and feints flowing, that left hand will land.
Key Wins: Antonio Carlos Junior (UFC Fight Night 152), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 140), Gerald Meerschaert (UFC 250)
Key Losses: Omari Akhmedov (UFC 245), Derek Brunson (UFC 241), Markus Perez (LFA 22)
Keys to Victory: A decorated high school wrestler, Heinisch won his first two UFC bouts largely from scrambling his way into top position as his opponents tried to take him down. He struggled to land significant punches in his next two bouts, but his most recent knockout win over “GM3” indicates Heinisch’s offensive striking may be on the rise.
Against Gastelum, work rate is perhaps Heinisch’s best chance. Whether it’s on the feet or in the clinch, Heinisch has to be pressing his opponent, making him work and increasing the odds that a takedown becomes available. Heinisch cannot win a clean battle with Gastelum, but there is opportunity in an ugly, exhausting war of attrition.
At range, Heinisch should be digging low kicks as often as possible — put that Thailand training to use! Whenever Gastelum closes with punches, it’s time to duck down and wrestle, even if all he’s able to do is push Gastelum to the cage.
If Heinisch can smother the left and tire his foe, maybe he can pull off the upset.
It’s an important fight for both Middleweights.
Kelvin Gastelum has to work his way back to the Top 5. He’s not fallen terribly far down the ranks at No. 9, but three straight losses hurts regardless of the circumstances. Really, Gastelum has to impress in this fight, a clear step backward from his recent elite competition. If Gastelum can style on Heinisch, it will go a long way in putting some distance between him and those losses, allowing him to once again look up the ladder toward the ultimate goal of gold.
Alternatively, Heinisch is chasing the biggest win of his career. Even after the losses, Gastelum’s name holds serious value, and victory would change perception of Heinisch, marking him as a true contender. Perhaps equally important, Heinisch is looking to avoid his third loss in three attempts to Top 10 competition.
Another defeat to that level of competition could stand as Heinisch’s ceiling, preventing him from future opportunities.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 258 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 258, Kelvin Gastelum and Ian Heinisch will throw down. Which Middleweight will earn the win?