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UFC Fight Night 78: All eyes on Kelvin Gastelum

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We all make mistakes. Example: my girlfriend bought a cobbler for us to share from a local bakery this week. Lost in the deliciousness of it all, I ate her half after she went to bed.

Ashamed of my great error, I begged her forgiveness, and though she did accept my apology (after great supplication, mind you), it was on the condition that I buy another cobbler for us.

This was a win-win for me. Not only did I get to eat her half of the cobbler, but now I had an excuse to buy another one, which I would have done either way.

Of course, this has nothing to do with this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 78 in Monterrey, Mexico. But it brings to mind a fighter who’s probably had his fair share of cobbler: Kelvin Gastelum.

Winner of the Ultimate Fighter 17, Gastelum is on a tear right now. Only one loss in his last seven fights, Gastelum has looked excellent at welterweight.

That is, when he can actually make the weight.

Having competed on TUF at 185 lbs, Gastelum followed the game plan laid out by previous tournament winners and immediately made the cut to 170 for the remainder of his UFC tenure.

Since then, though, Gastelum has missed the welterweight mark in two separate engagements. After the second infraction, in which Gastelum came in at a hulking 180lbs against welterweight Tyron Woodley, UFC president Dana White made it clear he wasn’t happy with the young fighter.

“He’s done nothing to prove he can make 170lbs,” White told reporters after the weigh-in. “No matter how much I like him, or how much he says he can do it, I don’t believe him.”

Having your boss publicly shame your weight issues would be enough for some fighters to bid adieu to the lower weight classes; the kerfuffle Anthony Johnson experienced after missing weight time and again was enough for “Rumble” to look for solace in a weight class 35 lbs heavier than when he first started competing.

Gastelum has, briefly, had to do the same. After a unanimous decision loss to Woodley, Gastelum was forced back up to 185lbs where he met Nate Marquardt in Mexico City.

Utilizing his speed and power, Gastelum nearly knocked Marquardt out early in the fight, and ended up forcing Nate’s corner to throw in the towel between rounds.

Now, nearly six months removed from his win over Marquardt, Gastelum is back in the UFC’s good graces and has been given another opportunity to make the 170 lb limit against Neil Magny this weekend.

But for a fighter with a nearly .500 record of making welterweight, the odds aren’t in Gastelum’s favor. Should he fail to make the 171 lb limit, he’ll be closing the doors on a welterweight title run for good. And given the monsters that inhabit middleweight, his chances of ever cracking the top five in either division seem slim.

The UFC wants Gastelum to succeed, though, and has even shelled out the cash for a nutritionist to help Gastelum make weight.

It could prove to be a great investment; Gastelum is articulate, has a built-in audience from his TUF 17 run, and, most importantly to Dana White and Co., he speaks Spanish and English fluently.

Having a bilingual star like Gastelum could do wonders for Zuffa, especially given their frantic march towards globalization within the coming years. An American champ that can get speak Spanish in one of the UFC’s fastest developing markets?

That’s a thought that gets Dana White salivating. He almost had it with Cain, but given the heavyweight’s track record of inconsistency, Gastelum might prove to be the next best thing.

So it all comes down to this weekend. If Gastelum can make weight, and take out Magny along the way, he’ll have proved himself as a valuable commodity for the UFC.

That’s a tall order, though. Magny is 8-1 himself in his last nine UFC appearances. His lone loss came against jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia, and outside of that performance he’s looked unstoppable.

Should Gastelum miss weight and lose (which is an unfortunately likely outcome), I wouldn’t want to be his manager. The UFC has cut ties with fighters over far less, and this is Gastelum’s third chance already.

Either way, though, I’ll be watching, cobbler in hand.

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