Two welterweights, looking to inch closer towards a title shot, face off at UFC 183 when Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley takes on the undefeated Kelvin Gastelum.
Both Woodley and Gastelum come into this Octagon foray off the strength of dominant, first-round finishes. The latter was last seen at UFC 180 choking out perennial 170-pound contender Jake Ellenberger, while The Chosen One dropped Korean striker Dong Hyun Kim with a right hand in August.
To both fighters’ credit, they are equally dominant. Gastelum went from the last pick on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter to top-10 welterweight in less than two years. Since his win over Uriah Hall in the finale, the No. 7-ranked welterweight defeated Brian Melancon, Rick Story, Nico Musoke and Ellenberger.
Though the 23-year-old Gastelum has improved in each bout after his TUF stint, he hasn’t fought anyone quite like Woodley.
The Chosen One is much more than your typical bruising knockout artist. Woodley is a former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, whose rise to stardom started in Strikeforce.
Woodley nearly went undefeated through 11 fights in the now defunct promotion. He notched four finishes in his first five bouts in Strikeforce, which included a run of three-straight submission victories to open his career.
As success mounted, so did Woodley‘s competition. The Chosen One deployed a wrestling-heavy game plan against the likes of strikers Tarec Saffiedine and Paul Daley, notching decisions in both contests.
Wins over the aforementioned Saffiedine and Daley helped propel Woodley into a bout for the vacant 170-pound belt against former UFC middleweight title challenger Nate Marquardt. The American Top Team staple ultimately fell short in his first crack at gold, losing in a back-and-forth affair via fourth-round TKO.
This stigma of being unable to hurdle the gates that separate the mixed martial arts elite from the would-be contenders has continued to haunt him throughout his UFC tenure. Woodley‘s flame has fizzled out on two instances.
He lost lackluster decisions to former top contender Jake Shields and fellow top-five welterweight Rory MacDonald in June 2013 and 2014, respectively. His performances, when the lights are at their brightest, have drawn criticism from UFC President Dana White.
This is in no way an indictment against his MMA repertoire. In fact, it’s because White expects more from the high-octane Woodley.
With a dominant win over Gastelum, the No. 3-ranked welterweight can close the door on the criticism. Gastelum, on the other hand, will be fighting on the main card of a pay-per-view for just the second time in his short professional career. It will also be his first, co-main event spot.
From underdog, to one of the main attractions at UFC 183, Gastelum has shown he has the heart of a future champion. The tenacious wrestler found success on the mat against Hall and Melancon but it was his striking, as well as his chin, that took center stage when he faced grapplers Story and Musoke.
Gastelum‘s fight with Story, in particular, showcased his expanded arsenal and ability to withstand a hard shot. Halfway into the first round, Gastelum connected with a head kick, nearly finishing Story in the process.
In the second round, the burgeoning contender was dropped by a straight left and kept his wits about him long enough to be saved by the bell. His last win over the heavy-handed wrestler Ellenberger was his most complete performance yet.
Following a tense few minutes, which saw each fighter record a takedown, Gastelum sunk in the rear-naked choke during the closing seconds of round one. The victory gave the Yuma United MMA fighter his first win over a top-10 opponent.
Woodley, though, is on a whole different playing field than any of the men Gastelum has faced. The Chosen One was once in the same position as his current undefeated foe.
Woodley has been through a title fight, fulfilled countless media obligations and was featured in Affliction advertising campaigns. He’s seen the peaks and valleys that the MMA universe has to offer and The Chosen One isn’t about to let another opportunity slip through his fingers.
The former collegiate wrestler from Missouri sports one of the best takedown defense rates in the welterweight division at 91 percent. Woodley also has the benefit of top-tier training partners such as former Missouri wrestling teammate, and Olympian, Ben Askren.
If Ellenberger, a Division II wrestler from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, can toss Gastelum around, then there’s no telling what Woodley can inflict upon him. The clinch is another aspect in which the Missouri native will have an upper hand.
Though Gastelum has fought at middleweight before on TUF, Woodley carries much more muscle and is the bigger of two. In fights against Saffiedine and Daley, more than half the shots Woodley landed were from the clinch.
The chances that The Chosen One gets dragged into Gastelum‘s world are slim to none. As a top-notch wrestler, and someone who hasn’t been submitted before, expect Woodley to intelligently defend himself should this bout with the choke-happy Gastelum hit the canvas.
Perhaps, most importantly, Woodley has demonstrated multiple times now that his one-punch knockout power is nothing to laugh at. He’s defeated Jay Hieron, Josh Koscheck and former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit by knockout.
Gastelum has been on one heck of a storybook run and has made significant improvements in the wrestling, striking and submission phases of his game. However, Woodley is much more complete than he is and should close the book on him come January 31.
Read more UFC news on BleacherReport.com
Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC