12 Apr - 
UFC 236 breakdown: Could Kelvin Gastelum be Israel Adesanya's stylistic kryptonite?

MMA Junkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the co-=main event for UFC 236.

UFC 236 takes place Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and UFC Fight Pass.

Kelvin Gastelum (16-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 27 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 71″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Jacare Souza (May 12, 2018)
  • Camp: Kings MMA (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ “TUF 17” winner
+ 10th Planet jiu-jitsu purple belt
+ Wrestling base
+ 8 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ KO power
^ Dropped or stopped 7 of last 8 opponents
+ High-pressure approach
^ Good volume and combinations
+ Improved boxing
^ Accurate hooks and crosses
+ Hard left body kick
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Solid wrestling and scrambles
+ Strong from front-headlock
^ Always looks for back

Israel Adesanya (15-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 29 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 81″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Anderson Silva(Feb. 9, 2019)
  • Camp: City Kickboxing (New Zealand)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Regional MMA titles
+ Professional kickboxing experience (76-5-2)
+ Professional boxing experience (5-1)
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt
+ 13 KO victories
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Good feints and footwork
+ Creative striking flow
^ Variates well to the body
+ Dynamic kicking arsenal
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Good base and balance
+ Shows improved counter wrestling
^ Underhooks, getups, separations
+/- Limited overall grappling sample size

Point of interest: Pressure of young prodigies

The co-main event in Atlanta features an interesting style match for the interim middleweight title.

Known as “The Last Stylebender,” Israel Adesanya was introduced to martial arts at a young age and is no stranger to the big stage of competition.

The Nigerian started spreading his proverbial wings within the kickboxing arena in his adopted home of New Zealand, as well as in a brief stint in China, where he was able to showcase his skills to international audiences. Adesanya also dabbled in professional boxing while earning himself a 5-1 record and two tournament titles in the process.

A cunning martial artist, Adesanya earns his moniker with his creative striking flow. Seamlessly moving through space, Adesanya will intelligently use feints and footwork to establish his reads and set up his shots accordingly.

When feeling in stride, the 29-year-old talent will unleash a dynamic array of kicks, whether they’re powerfully thrown from the rear or sneakily delivered off of his lead. And when Adesanya smells blood in the water, he will celebrate his reach by varying his punches, using extended hands to hide the kill-shots to come.

From hand-traps that parlay into elbows to clinches that lead to knees, Adesanya shows solid answers at multiple ranges. Still, styles make fights, and I can’t help but wonder how he will stack up with the stout, southpaw pressure headed his way.

Enter Kelvin Gastelum.

If this was the middleweight division that boxing offered in the early 1980s, Gastelum may very well be our Roberto Duran.

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An inherent pressure-fighter who steps up to the plate no matter the size discrepancy, we have seen Gastelum’s striking skills come to fruition under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA. Having a history of transforming high-level grapplers (especially southpaws) into dangerous strikers, Cordeiro has seemingly imparted the same knowledge onto Gastelum, who now incorporates crushing liver kicks to his already potent punches.

Staying in the Southern California scene, we also have watched Gastelum make measurable improvements to his boxing and footwork. Pivoting more off of his right hand, Gastelum will now take better angles, getting the jump on opponents mid-exchange. And akin to the comparison above, Gastelum’s comfort when it comes to boxing in the pocket or countering on the inside has also improved.

Nevertheless, Gastelum’s pressure is a two-way street in regards to offense and counters, which makes me suspect that we will further see his noted durability tested in this matchup.

Next point of interest: Grappling for supremacy