Donald Cerrone will be seeking his fourth straight win since moving up to welterweight against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 205 on November 12. Will Cowboy continue his ascendency at 170 or will the younger Gastelum bring Cerrone’s rise to a halt?
Cowboy has obliged himself to UFC fans due to his prolific, hard-boiled approach to the sport. He’s among the company’s all-time leaders in wins and post-fight bonuses despite being with the UFC for just five years. While his muay thai and submission game have always been crisp, his wrestling has improved greatly in recent performances: Cerrone scored a well-timed take-down against big Rick Story and has rebuffed 70% of take-down attempts in his UFC career.
Gastelum, a state champion wrestler, has shown tremendous durability and composure for his age. While he’s only 24-years-old, the Arizona native holds wins over veterans Rick Story, Jake Ellenberger, and Johny Hendricks.
Cerrone brings an overall striking advantage to the cage against almost all of his opponents. The same will be true against Kelvin Gastelum. Cerrone is great at scoring and setting up combinations with his rangy kicks.
Kelvin will have a presumptive advantage in wrestling and scrambling ability; he’s great at dictating the pace of his fights. Cerrone, however, handily dealt with Rick Story’s celebrated wrestling and scrambling ability with precision and tact. Not only did Cowboy maintain an effective striking range against Story, he even did well in the wrestling department.
Gastelum is more spry and athletic than Story so perhaps the comparison is moot — Gastelum even beat Story himself. But they fight in a similar fashion and Cerrone already dispatched the more-seasoned Story easily.
This fight will hinge on Cerrone’s ability to avoid close-quarters with Gastelum. The favorite might be able to hold his own in wrestling exchanges with Gastelum, but instead of engaging with Kelvin on his terms it might be best for Cerrone to operate from safer kicking range.
Cowboy’s submission game is more wily and well-rounded; Gastelum won’t be able to breathe easy even if he gets on top. There’s no doubting that Gastelum has more brute force, though, which will favor him in scrambling situations. His ground-and-pound is savage and he’s honed a great rear-naked, too.
It’s going to be a tough fight, but Cowboy’s experience and well-roundedness should be able to overcome Gastelum’s strength. Expect Cerrone to escape some hairy situations and eventually finish the tough up-and-comer.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone by TKO (round 2)