Kelvin Gastelum Upsets ‘Jacare’ Souza At Home, Gunning for Title Shot Next

Kelvin Gastelum walked into enemy territory on Saturday night and walked out with a split decision win over Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza to take one more step towards a middleweight title shot.

Kelvin Gastelum walked into enemy territory on Saturday night and walked out with a split decision win over Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza to take one more step towards a middleweight title shot.

Fresh off a win over former champion Michael Bisping this past November, Gastelum was hoping to put his name in title contention by facing one of the most feared fighters in the entire 185-pound division.

Rather than play a striking game with Gastelum as the fight got underway, ‘Jacare’ was quick to look for the takedown as he tried to bring the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner into his world on the ground.

Souza failed on his first attempt but then he dropped down for a leg lock that forced Gastelum to defend and that allowed the Brazilian to grab onto him after the escape to bring the action down to the mat.

From there, Souza was a machine on the mat as he advanced his position, moved into mount and stayed dominant with Gastelum defending on the bottom. With time ticking away in the round, ‘Jacare’ went for an armbar but Gastelum did an outstanding job playing defense to never allow the submission to get locked on.

The second round was almost a complete reversal of the first with Gastelum putting the pressure on Souza, who was seemingly running on fumes after exerting a lot of energy to get the finish during those first five minutes.

Gastelum cracked Souza with a rapid fire right-left combination that dropped the submission specialist to the mat as he looked for the finish without getting drawn back into a ground battle.

Rather than following him to the floor, Gastelum motioned Souza back to his feet where he continued to dominate with his combinations that constantly found a home on the Brazilian’s chin. When the horn sounded at the end of the round, ‘Jacare’ was on wobbly legs before being helped to his corner.

By the start of the third round it seemed both athletes were slowing down a bit after a frantic pace defined the first 10 minutes of the fight.

While Gastelum was still the faster fighter with his quick combinations, Souza was able to use his power shots to stage a comeback before then looking for the takedown. Gastelum was able to stave off those attempts to get the fight back to the ground as he continuously shrugged off the takedowns while working his boxing game on the feet.

When the final horn sounded, it was clear the judges had a tough job ahead of them as the co-main event was going to be very tough to score. Ultimately, Gastelum earned the win by split decision with two judges scoring the fight in his favor as he picks up a huge win over a top three ranked opponent in the middleweight division.

“Hopefully I’m in line next for that title,” Gastelum said following his win. “I feel like the winner should fight the winner of Yoel [Romero] and Robert [Whittaker] later on this year, preferably in Madison Square [Garden].”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.