UFC Fight Night 106: Head-to-Toe Breakdown for Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum
After a winless 2016 (0-2), Vitor Belfort looks to get back on track against one of the hottest middleweights in Kelvin Gastelum. UFC Fight Night 106's main event is set for Brazil on Saturday.
Gastelum reluctantly moved to middleweight after another failed weight cut, but it's worked out for him thus far. He clobbered Tim Kennedy at UFC 206 and moved to No. 10 in the official UFC rankings. A win over Belfort, who's at No. 9, would put Gastelum right in the hunt for a title shot.
The matchup is a crossroads fight for Belfort. On the brink of turning 40, Belfort's window of opportunity is quickly closing.
Will Gastelum shut that window for good on Saturday, or does "The Phenom" have a little left in the gas tank?
Let's break down the action from head to toe to see how the two middleweight contenders stack up to one another.
If someone wanted to give Gastelum the edge here, I wouldn't argue too much. He's got good power and good technique, but I'm still going to favor Belfort.
Belfort's dynamic striking and quick hands are still dangerous even today. He just needs to let his hands go.
Gastelum's stats surpass Belfort. He lands 3.99 significant strikes per minute to Belfort's 1.54, per FightMetric. But that can be a little misleading because when Belfort connects his opponents usually are not around long enough for him to rack up statistics. The fight is usually stopped shortly thereafter.
This is a dangerous fight for both men while standing, but it's a little more precarious for Gastelum. Belfort won't be much of a takedown threat against him. It's Belfort's only chance to win.
This is Gastelum's real bread and butter. When he can out-grapple his opponent it's an easy path to victory.
Gastelum has solid takedowns, but more importantly, he has good control. Whether against the fence or on the ground. His defensive wrestling is not stellar, but his offensive grappling is strong.
Belfort's wrestling is a little undervalued, but it's just not his game. That's not what he does best.
Look for Gastelum to wear on Belfort early. He may not drop for a double, but Gastelum can make him carry all of his weight while against the cage. He'll slow down Belfort early so that he can put together his offense later in the fight.
Going with Gastelum again.
Belfort is a Gracie black belt, but he's rarely shown those skills at a high level inside the Octagon. The one time it shined was a failed attempt against Jon Jones, and that was more about the surprise factor than anything else.
On bottom, against Gastelum, it's unlikely he's going to get the space to attack. He'll be defending Gastelum's attack too much to try.
Gastelum will have the better positions to seek out a submission, and once Belfort is tired he'll be more susceptible to a choke. Another clear category for Gastelum here on the mat.
Belfort's X-Factor: What's Left?
This was already briefly touched upon, but the X-factor for Belfort is the simple question of what he has left in the gas tank.
He got smoked by Jacare Souza and Gegard Mousasi, and Gastelum looks excellent at 185. Belfort is being reduced to having a puncher's chance, and as he ages that chance gets lower and lower. His reaction time and ability to get off first diminishes by the day.
If he does have anything left, Saturday is when he needs to show it.
Gastelum's X-Factor: Patience
Belfort won't be a threat for 25 minutes. He'll tire and wear down, and he'll do so quickly if the fight has a good pace. Gastelum simply needs to be patient.
If he is, he'll be able to read Belfort like a children's book and easily pick the right time to take him out.
Do I want to believe Belfort can still contend? Of course. As a fan, I want to believe these old-timers can still compete. There's a fondness for the veterans who have been around the game for so many years.
But Father Time catches up to everyone, and Belfort hasn't done much to give anyone hope he can still compete against the young guns like Gastelum.
Unless Gastelum gets caught up in a fire fight, he should roll through the Brazilian. His style matches up well with Belfort.
Gastelum uses the first round to clinch and wear on Belfort, and in the second round he turns up the pace even more. Once on the ground, Gastelum can maul Belfort with strikes. Belfort turns to give him his back, and Gastelum sinks in the rear-naked choke without much resistance.
Gastelum makes another big statement in the middleweight division.
Prediction: Gastelum def. Belfort via submission in the second round