Kelvin Gastelum wiped his feet on Vitor Belfort and served notice to the rest of the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division as he did so.
“The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner blew away Belfort with first-round punches in the UFC Fight Night 106 main event on Saturday at the Olympic Training Center in Fortaleza, Brazil. Gastelum brought it to a close 3:52 into Round 1 and took one more step towards realizing the promise so many have seen in him. At 25, it seems as if he has only begun to scratch the surface -- a frightening thought for those who populate the 185-pound weight class.
Gastelum quite simply overwhelmed “The Phenom.” He floored Belfort twice with straight left hands, leaving him battered and bloodied. According to FightMetric figures, Gastelum landed 26 of his 49 strikes, all of them significant and all but one of them to the head. Belfort, who turns 40 in a matter of weeks, was powerless to stop him.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night 106 “Belfort vs. Gastelum,” here are five matches that ought to be made (online betting):
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Ronaldo Souza-Robert Whittaker winner: After leaving Belfort in his wake, Gastelum called for matchup with former middleweight champion Anderson Silva. He deserves better at this stage of his career. Gastelum has outclassed Belfort and Tim Kennedy in two appearances since returning to 185 pounds, stopping both of them with punches and sending the latter into retirement. While some still view him as undersized for the division, Gastelum now owns a 3-0 record as UFC middleweight. Souza and Whittaker will square off at UFC on Fox 24 in April.
Mauricio Rua vs. Misha Cirkunov: Rua may not be the apex predator he was in his prime, but he remains a formidable obstacle for those hoping to climb the light heavyweight ladder. The resurgent 35-year-old former champion pushed his winning streak to three fights and recorded his first finish in more than three years, as he took out Gian Villante with third-round punches in the co-main event. Rua has beaten Villante, Corey Anderson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira since being felled by Ovince St. Preux punches in November 2014. One of the promising young lions at 205 pounds, Cirkunov has rattled off eight consecutive victories, four of them since joining the UFC roster.
Edson Barboza vs. Eddie Alvarez-Dustin Poirier winner: Already assured of retiring with one of the most electrifying highlight reels of all-time, Barboza made Beneil Dariush his latest addition. This time, he did the honors with a flying knee and made an early play for “Knockout of the Year” honors. Barboza withstood heavy pressure from the Kings MMA standout, pushed their battle to a second round and uncorked a concussive blow while countering a level change. Dariush fell to the canvas 3:35 into Round 2, the impact having rendered him unconscious in an instant. Alvarez and Poirier will meet at UFC 211 on May 13.
Ray Borg vs. Henry Cejudo-Sergio Pettis winner: Considering his current trajectory, Borg could be in position to challenge for the UFC flyweight championship by the end of the year. The 23-year-old Jackson-Wink MMA prospect made another significant move at 125 pounds, as he outdueled former Shooto Americas champion Jussier da Silva to a unanimous decision. Borg has won five of his past six bouts, a decision loss to Justin Scoggins in February 2016 the lone misstep, and continues to show signs of development. In a division starved for contenders behind champion Demetrious Johnson, “The Tazmexican Devil” has become the hottest of commodities. Cejudo and Pettis have been paired opposite one another at UFC 211 on May 13.
Kevin Lee vs. Will Brooks-Charles Oliveira winner: Lee created more distance between himself and a surprising UFC 194 defeat to Leonardo Santos, as he submitted Francisco Trinaldo with a second-round rear-naked choke on the undercard. The Detroit native dazed Trinaldo with a head kick, countered a reactive takedown into top position and advanced to full mount before shifting to the back and cinching the choke. Lee, 23, has authored three finishes during his current four-fight winning streak. Brooks and Oliveira will collide at UFC 210 on April 8.