Kelvin Gastelum is dropping back down to welterweight and will face a formidable opponent upon his return in the shape of Shavkat Rakhmonov in what will be the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 227 in Las Vegas on September 16th.
You’d have to go back to the summer of 2016 to find the last time Gastelum fought at 170lbs, earning a unanimous decision victory over former champ Johny Hendricks that night.
That left Hendricks with a 5-2 run at welterweight, but he’d been plagued by weight-cutting issues during that period which had led to several fights having to be fought at a catchweight, and so when another botched weight-cut led to a fight with Donald Cerrone being scrapped at UFC 205 in November of that year he was forced to make a permanent move up to middleweight.
Since then Gastelum has experienced mixed results at middleweight, though he did earn notable wins over the likes of Michael Bisping, Tim Kennedy, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza along the way. However, heading into this year he’d lost five of his last six bouts, so a decision win against Chris Curtis back in April was an important lifeline for him, and has led to the 31-year-old’s decision to now try to carry that momentum into a fresh start back down at welterweight.
The 28-year-old Rakhmonov is arguably one of the toughest tests for him in his former weight class though as he’s currently undefeated in his 17-0 career, including five wins in a row since joining the UFC in 2020.
All of those wins came inside the distance, with Alex Oliveira, Michel Prazeres, Neil Magny and most recently Geoff Neal all being defeated by submission, while he also claimed a spinning heel kick KO of Carlston Harris along the way too, which has helped him up to No.6 on the 170lb ladder.
Rakhmonov vs. Gastelum features as the co-main event of a UFC Fight Night 227 card which will take place at the T-Mobile Arena rather than the APEX facility, and is headlined by a women’s flyweight title rematch between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko.