FORTALEZA, Brazil – Kelvin Gastelum picked up the biggest win of his career at middleweight, stopping ex-champ Vitor Belfort in the first round.
Belfort (25-14 MMA, 14-10 UFC) survived a knockdown from Gastelum’s (14-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) fast left hand before a subsequent attack forced a stoppage at the 3:52 mark of the opening frame.
The middleweight bout was the main event of today’s UFC Fight Night 106 event at Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste in Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. It aired on FS1 following additional prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.
Prior to meeting Belfort, he hinted at a desire to return to the welterweight division. But after stopping “The Phenom,” he borrowed a phrase from his former coach on “The Ultimate Fighter 17,” former UFC contender and Bellator star Chael Sonnen.
“There’s a guy really close to me that I know (that) started a legends ass-whipping tour, and I want to finish it,” Gastelum said. “June 3, I want to go against Anderson (Silva).
The date coincides with UFC 212, which currently is headlined by a featherweight title unifier between undisputed champ Jose Aldo and interim champ Max Holloway. The fight takes place at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
A fight with Silva (34-8 MMA, 17-4 UFC) suggests Gastelum is more interested in building his own star than battling back to a particular division. In the arena Saturday night, he played the spoiler against Belfort, one of Brazil’s biggest MMA stars.
Belfort, three weeks shy of his 40th birthday, met Gastelum in the midst of a bad slump, having lost three of his past four bouts. Another setback was an invitation for retirement speculation.
As with all of his fights, Belfort showed flashes of his dangerous skills, popping Gastelum with his left hand as the young contender closed distance. But the flashy spinning kicks that ended other opponents’ nights simply missed, and Gastelum capitalized with a jab, bloodying his nose in the process.
When Belfort retreated from an exchange, Gastelum pursued and fired off left hands until one connected, knocking Belfort to the canvas. Instantly, Gastelum pounced and pounded away. But Belfort managed to survive and return to his feet.
The crowd’s exuberance at Belfort’s toughness was short lived. Gastelum again closed and fired off a pair of two-punch combos, and again caught Belfort with his left hand. This time, the Brazilian went to his side and signaled he wanted no more, prompting referee John McCarthy to step in.
“I’m confident in my skills to finish any fight, and I’m ready for what’s next,” Gastelum said.
Gastelum’s request for another word was then denied by UFC commentator Brian Stann, who instead gave Belfort the floor and teed up a retirement speech. But Belfort wasn’t ready to call it quits.
“Kelvin was the better fighter tonight; he landed some shots I wasn’t expecting,” the ex-champ said. “I have one fight left on my contract – I’d like to do that fight in my hometown in Rio. We’ll see what’s next, but I want to fight at home.”
Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 106 results include:
Kelvin Gastelum def. Vitor Belfort via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:52
Mauricio Rua def. Gian Villante via TKO (strikes) – Round 3, 0:59
Edson Barboza def. Beneil Dariush via knockout (knee) – Round 2, 3:35
Ray Borg def. Jussier Formiga via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau declared majority draw (29-27 Reneau, 28-28, 28-28)
Alex Oliveira def. Tim Means via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:38
Kevin Lee def. Francisco Trinaldo via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 3:12
Sergio Moraes def. Davi Ramos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Joe Soto def. Rani Yahya via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
Michel Prazeres def. Josh Burkman via submission (north-south choke) – Round 1, 1:42
Jeremy Kennedy def. Rony Jason via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Paulo Borrachinha def. Garreth McLellan via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 1:17