It is now a year and two months since Kelvin Gastelum last tasted victory. The UFC middleweight had a phenomenal rise in 2018. First of all, he sent former champion Michael Bisping into retirement with a crushing KO win in Shenzhen. Then he defeated Jacare Souza to earn a title shot.
Ironically, that’s where it all started to go wrong for Gastelum. He fought Israel Adesanya for the title in what was one of the greatest UFC fights we’ve ever seen. Gastelum had his moments in that fight, knocking Adesanya down and staggering him multiple times. But in the end, the bell saved him from a referee stoppage.
That loss was tough to take but he followed it up with a frustrating defeat to Darren Till. Gastelum knew that to stay in contention he had to get a win on Fight Island against Jack Hermansson. The stakes were high for both men, but in the end, it was ‘The Joker’ who saw his hand raised.
Jokers are WILD! 🃏
🇸🇪 @JackTheJokerMMA needs just over a minute!
— UFC (@ufc) July 19, 2020
This was a frantic fight from start to finish. Hermansson looked for a body lock takedown from the beginning. Gastelum saw it coming and reversed it into a throw of his own. He ended up on top but didn’t get back to his feet quickly, which sealed his fate. Looking back, he’s going to hate this one.
Hermansson is one of the most underrated grapplers in the UFC today. He saw Gastelum’s ankle exposed and went for it. Then he adjusted and got the heel hook. Gastelum tried to wriggle free but was forced to tap because of the risk of damage to his leg.
Jack Hermansson with the heel hook to force submission just 1 min 18 seconds into the fight
— Sideline Sports (@sportsideline) July 19, 2020
This was equally important for Hermansson. Perennially regarded as one of the dark horses in the division, he suffered a tough loss to Jared Cannonier last time out. That ended a four-fight win streak, but now he’s back on track. Another win will definitely put him back in the title picture.
“Every time I step in here, it’s so much pressure,” Hermansson explained in the post-fight presser. “Everything I do in my life is for this goal, becoming the best in the world.”
With his submission game, he’s a threat to anybody. For Gastelum this will be extremely tough to take. Despite a three-fight losing streak, his job is safe for now. But his title hopes are definitely over for the near future.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 19, 2020
Meanwhile, Hermansson knows who he wants to fight next. Darren Till and Robert Whittaker are set to fight at the end of this month. If Till wins there is a good chance that the UFC will fast-track him to a middleweight title shot. A Whittaker fight is more likely as a title eliminator.
“I should fight the winner of that fight between Robert Whittaker and Darren Till,” Hermansson said about the upcoming main event on July 25. “I’m going to fight the winner of that fight.”