Saturday, May 12 – 11:30 am (ET) / 3:30am (GMT)
The co-main event slot at UFC 224 contains what should be a memorable duel between Jacare Souza and Kelvin Gastelum. Both of these guys bounced back to winning ways in their last appearance inside the UFC’s Octagon and now look to take one step closer to joining the mix of top guys in the middleweight division.
Jacare Souza is about as terrifying as it gets – seriously. “The Gator” has a well-balanced striking game combined with a persistent takedown threat and silky-smooth submission ability. The last time we saw him, he torched Derek Brunson in just under four minutes. He walked Brunson down and finished the job in that first round and now looks to do the same to Kelvin Gastelum in this fight.
The win was a much-needed one for Souza as he returned after a fair layoff. He had previously been beaten by the current champion Robert Whittaker inside two rounds. His only other loss since 2011 was to the ever-dangerous Yoel Romero. Souza is for real and a win here puts him on track for another dance with Whittaker very soon.
Kelvin Gastelum’s rise did come to an abrupt ending when he met Chris Weidman in July last year. Gastelum couldn’t hang in there with the former champion and eventually succumbed to the pressure. But, as a true warrior does, Gastelum returned to form with a big-time win over the former champion of the division, Michael Bisping. Gastelum controlled the contest from the very beginning and eventually landed a flush series of punches that sent Bisping crashing to the mat in the first round. It’s sent Gastelum back on this up-and-down streak of fights that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, but he still continues to improve every time we see him in the UFC’s Octagon.
There’s a lot to love about this matchup.
Firstly, Kelvin Gastelum’s hands are about as dangerous as it gets in the middleweight division right now. He’s got super-snappy straight punches that he can flick out and tag his opponent to the head or body. It’s not just his hands, though, he has usually good takedown defense and next-level determination. What’s invisible, too, is Gastelum’s ability to adjust and create setups for his punches to land. We saw this against Bisping in the short time that it lasted, and it wasn’t the first time. He’s patient when he needs to be and aggressive when it matters, as well.
But he’s going to need to find a way to control the distance against a fundamentally sound navigator inside the Octagon. Souza moves his opponent around the cage by using feints and effective footwork. He doesn’t throw an overwhelming volume of strikes, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. However, he does use an array of kicks and punches to punish his opponent. He strikes hard, as well. It’s the type of power that commands instant respect from an opponent.
Of course, the real threat in this matchup, though, is the ground game of Souza. He’s a nifty submission artist who poses a significant challenge to anyone once he is on the mat with them. Robert Whittaker managed to return to his feet (surprisingly) and eventually knocked out Souza. Can Gastelum do the same?
Jacare Souza’s proven track record sees him sitting at -143 all while Kelvin Gastelum is tempting value at +130 . As for total rounds, Vegas is expecting this one to easily make it past 1.5, so there is excellent value if you believe it will end quickly.
Gastelum is fast, explosive, and powerful. However, he’s going to have a hard time sneaking inside the range of Souza. If he does, Souza should be able to evade the danger before either returning his own weapons or taking the fight to the mat where he will likely submit Gastelum.
Jacare Souza by submission – Round 2
Best Bet: Total Rounds – Under 1.5: +155 at BetOnline.
There’s just too much value here in the Under 1.5 Rounds market for two guys who have finishing capabilities in a division that provides power.