Plenty of MMA-watching eyes will be firmly secured on UFC Fight Night 78 this Saturday, as Kelvin Gastelum headlines his first event inside of the Octagon. Ignoring the perennial weight issues surrounding Gastelum and his tenure in the 170-pound division, Today’s Knockout’s MMA writers gather to answer a few questions regarding the UFC’s third trip to Mexico.
How much does an opponent change hurt Kelvin Gastelum’s potential stock?
Riley Kontek: The opponent change for Kelvin Gastelum should not hurt his potential stock. Yes, Matt Brown is ranked better than Neil Magny, but we should judge Gastelum’s stock based on quality of performance, as opposed to quality of opponent. This is the UFC. There are no easy bouts, especially considering both Brown and Magny are in the top 15. If Gastelum can actually make weight safely and effectively, that will be huge in his stock at welterweight. Throw in an impressive win, and you have Gastelum’s stock rising rapidly.
Dan Hiergesell: Going from Matt Brown to Neil Magny is not good for anyone’s stock. While Magny has displayed an evolved fight game over the past two years, he’s not someone you really want to build a resume off of. Brown is.
Magny does offer a different fighting style than Brown, specifically his length and scrambling abilities, so Gastelum will certainly have to tune his preparation this week leading up to Saturday’s main event.
But at this point in time, making weight is Gastelum’s biggest opponent. He must first show the UFC that he can successfully make the cut down to 170 pounds, while maintaining his normal effectiveness come fight night.
With a victory, Gastelum will be back in the welterweight win column and probably on his way to a rescheduled bout with Brown.
Jordy McElroy: The change of opponent doesn’t hurt Kelvin Gastelum’s stock at all, in my opinion.
He’s still one of the top fighters at 170 pounds when he’s on weight. A win over Matt Brown would have gone a long way towards putting him into position to challenge for the UFC title, but I assume the UFC would want to see him make weight a few times before risking an entire fight card with him headlining.
Neil Magny isn’t a cakewalk opponent by any stretch of the imagination either. Gastelum would do well not to overlook the Elevation Fight Team prodigy. Magny looked sharp in his split decision win over Erick Silva in August.
Go Paolo: It hurts a lot because Magny is lower ranked and less prestigious of an opponent as Brown, but is still dangerous and is a very different fighter. Magny is one of the biggest welterweights and has the longest reach. He also has cardio for days. Gastelum previously struggled against the lanky Nico Musoke a few fights back and Magny could give him similar issues. Magny also trains with Brown so he’s probably more prepared than Gastelum. The last-minute opponent change favors him more (he’s also used to it).
Gastelum should still win the fight especially if he comes in with a good weight cut. He has a good chance to finish Magny in the first three rounds but the longer it goes the more it favours Magny. Anything short of a dominating win hurts Gastelum’s stock however especially that he’s a 3-1 favourite.
Is this Henry Cejudo’s final test before a meeting with Demetrious Johnson?
RK: Demetrious Johnson has basically cleared out the flyweight division, for the most part. That is, of course, with the exception of Henry Cejudo. Cejudo represents the biggest challenge left for Johnson, but he first must get past Jussier da Silva in Mexico. Stylistically, I don’t see that being an issue. You never want to look past an opponent, but Cejudo’s impending showdown with Johnson in the near future is the best and only fight left for Johnson at 125. Saturday night will just serve as a showcase for the former wrestling Olympian.
DH: If it isn’t, it should be.
With one of the most depleted group of contenders in any UFC division, the flyweight crop is in desperate need of fresh blood capable of stacking up against champion Demetrious Johnson.
We’ve yet to witness the striking that will be needed to at least keep DJ in check, but Cejudo’s wrestling and raw strength are on a whole different level compared to other suitors in the division.
He’ll have a chance to solidify his title shot aspirations with a victory this Saturday over Jussier Formiga, who has subsequently become a gatekeeper since coming to the promotion in 2012.
A victory for the Olympic gold medalist will leave him with a four-fight UFC win streak and an undefeated 10-0 record overall. That should be good enough for Cejudo’s chances of being Oil Can Harry to Johnson’s Mighty Mouse (look it up).
JM: Demetrious Johnson is going through flyweight contenders like customers at a McDonald’s drive-thru. Henry Cejudo remains the biggest challenge out there Johnson has yet to face. Unless the UFC plans on doing Johnson vs. Benavidez reruns like the Andy Griffith Show, it only makes sense to see Cejudo next in line for a shot at UFC gold.
The former Olympian’s star power has yet to take off in MMA, but given the humdrum personalities in the flyweight division, no one is really paying attention to his marketing power. The UFC only needs fresh bodies to feed Johnson at this point.
GP: I would like to think so and it’s logical to think if he beats Formiga soundly he’s next in line but Cejudo famously stated he will not be fighting in Vegas and you never know how UFC matchmaking really works. Maybe he can fight Johnson in the next Mexican card or in his home state of California. But so far Cejudo has been getting favorable matches and it’s a clear sign the UFC is giving him a path to a title shot.