When I heard that Season 17 The Ultimate Fighter king was making the drop to 170, I said to myself, “I kind of saw that coming.” We’ve seen numerous fighters come out of TUF and go to lower weight classes. So, for TUF Champ, Kelvin Gastelum (6-0 MMA 1-0 UFC), this made sense.
I called his coach, Jamie Huey, on the way to link up with them and I asked him how the weight cut was coming along. “We got Dolce.” said Huey. I replied, “Ah!! That’s all you gotta say.”
When I arrived to meet the two of them, I was wow’d by how great Gastelum looked. Not surprised, but wow’d. Not only does Gastelum’s face look less filled out, but he was still wearing that prize winning smile and in a great mood. How many fighters do you know are still seemingly happy when cutting weight? Well, that’s just the type of work that makes Mike Dolce who he is. “The weight is coming down and we’re right on track” said Gastelum.
Talking about his upcoming fight at UFC Fight Night 27 against Brian Melancon (7-2 MMA 1-0), I took a step in reverse and asked him about his previous match up with Paulo Thiago (15-5 MMA 5-5 UFC). Gastelum told me that that was the fight he had chosen out of the multiple choices he was given. “Joe Silva gave me a couple of names and that was the one I chose to face me. There were some good guys, but he was the one with the biggest name,” said Gastelum. “I really wanted to test myself. I really felt he was the best match up for me.”
Coach Jamie Huey also felt that the move for Gastelum to face Thiago was a good move for him. “When you can get a guy like that out of there, you can move up the ranks much faster,” said Huey. “We’re obviously in this to become world champion. You gotta be able to fight anyone, anywhere, at any time.” Coach Huey stated just observing the way that Gastelum handled the pressure of the Ultimate Fighter, then winning, he was more than confident that the young TUF champ could handle such an experienced veteran.
However, Thiago had to pull out with a knee injury and would be replaced by 1 fight UFC welterweight, Brian Melancon. Again, Gastelum showed an array of confidence in the change of opponent. “He’s a guy who likes to mix it up” said Gastelum. The California native made it quite clear he’s equally prepared for Melancon’s ground game and stand up which was well on display in his R1 KO of Seth Baczynski at UFC 162.
UFC Fight Night 27 will take place this Wednesday at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at the box office. For those unable to make it, UFC FN 27 can be viewed on Fox Sports 1.
Oh, and did I mention? Gastelum, during cut week, was continuously wearing a smile the entire time. However, I think the most impressive thing to me was Gastelum’s flexibility and adapting to the change in the opponent change. You don’t find that that often from guys his age. That’s rare…and it’s special.