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UFC 244 card: Kelvin Gastelum vs Darren Till full fight preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strikers Kelvin Gastelum and Darren Till will collide this Saturday (Nov. 2, 2019) at UFC 244 from inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.

Fresh off his “Fight of the Year”-worthy defeat to Israel Adesanya, Gastelum isn’t too far off from a potential rematch with “Stylebender,” particularly since Paulo Costa tore his bicep. It’s a huge fight for the long-time talent, one where Gastelum will look to demonstrate the reason(s) he’s worthy of another title shot. It’s a similarly important bout for Till — if he manages to make it through United States customs in time — who will finally move up to Middleweight after a continuous struggle to make weight at 170 pounds (as well as consecutive losses). It’s true that Till has suffered a pair of devastating losses, but it’s also easy to overreact: both losses came to elite fighters, and Till remains just 26 years old.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Kelvin Gastelum

Record: 15-4 (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), Chris Weidman (UFC on FOX 25), Tyron Woodley (UFC 183), Neil Magny (UFC Fight Night 78)
Keys to Victory: Gastelum is continuing proof that an overly complicated approach is not necessary to be an elite contender. Gastelum has scored huge wins and found plenty of success with a very simple approach to combat, as he does a vast majority of his work with the classic one-two combination.

In this bout, the goal is to extend exchanges in the pocket. Between the two former Welterweights, Till will still be the taller and longer man, likely looking to snipe at Gastelum with straight punches and kicks. However, recent bouts have shown that Till’s defense in the pocket is less than perfect, and that’s precisely where Gastelum’s left hand tends to level opponents.

In a match up between Southpaws, the jab becomes of extra importance, and luckily, Gastelum’s jab is brutally effective. Coming from his lower, athletic stance, it should be a huge tool here. As such, I’d like to see a lot of sharp, cutting jabs from Gastelum. Once Till begins to fire back, Gastelum should stay engaged.

Whether he pulls back slightly or blocks, Gastelum should be look to fire that left hand as Till pulls away. In short, Gastelum’s ideal sequence here is to fire the jab, pull/block/slip, return with the left.

Darren Till

Record: 17-2-1
Key Wins: Stephen Thompson (UFC Fight Night 130), Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 118), Bojan Velickovic (UFC Fight Night 115), Wendell de Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 67)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 228), Jorge Masvidal (UFC Fight Night 147)
Keys to Victory: Yes, Till has lost a couple times, and there are some fixes that need to occur with his head movement. At the same time, Till is still a brutally effective and smart offense striker with a piston of a left hand.

Though Till is a very different striker from Adesanya, there is still much the Englishman can learn from Adesanya’s battle with Gastelum. Namely, Adesanya had an extraordinarily difficult time fighting as a pure counter fighter. Adesanya may have held a significant height and reach advantage, but Gastelum’s incredible hand speed proved more than an equalizer.

Rather than wait to take a few lefts — any of which could end the fight if landed perfectly — Till should learn from Adesanya and lead the dance. “Stylebender” found a lot more of his success when he was the one backing Gastelum up, landing hard kicks at every opportunity. Since the two are both lefties, Till should have a clear target in Gastelum’s lead leg, and damaging the leg would go a long way in mitigating that speed advantage.

Bottom Line: The position of next contender at 185 pounds is suddenly up for grabs, and the winner of this bout will be — at the very least — considered.

While it is a definite negative that Gastelum fought Adesanya so recently, the incredible action and strong performance from Gastelum really helps overlook that issue. It was an all-time great title that was decided in the final five minutes, which means minor adjustments could earn Gastelum the victory next time. It may not be everyone’s first choice, but few would argue another chance at such an amazing bout.

As for Till, this is an opportunity to restate himself as one of the best young contenders on the planet. There’s a fair argument that he was rushed to the top too quickly, but Till is also quite talented. If he can rebound here, it’s less likely that he receives an immediate title shot than Gastelum, but he wouldn’t be more than one more victory away.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 244 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 244: “Masvidal vs. Diaz” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC 244, Kelvin Gastelum and Darren Till will scrap in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?

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