Following the news that Kelvin Gastelum plans to return to the UFC’s welterweight division, the unbeaten Shavkat Rakhmonov has offered to welcome him back to the weight class.
Gastelum was the middleweight winner of Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter, but quickly added five UFC victories at welterweight to extend his overall record to a perfect 11-0.
The 31-year-old did fail to make the welterweight limit for several of those early UFC bouts, and following a split decision loss to then-future champion Tyron Woodley at UFC 183, he made the move up to the 185-pound division.
The former TUF winner’s early run at middleweight went fairly well, although the size difference did appear to cause a few problems against larger opponents like former champion Chris Weidman.
Gastelum and Israel Adesanya put on a sensational fight at UFC 236 that saw Adesanya claim the UFC’s interim middleweight title, and that loss kicked off a difficult stretch where the 33-year-old only collected one win over his next five fights.
Shavkat Rakhmonov Presents Difficult Welterweight Return For Kelvin Gastelum
Gastelum returned after a significant layoff and defeated Chris Curtis at UFC 287, and the 33-year-old could jump right back into the deep end of the welterweight talent pool if he accepts the #6-ranked Rakhmonov’s challenge.
Should I be the one to welcome Kelvin back to 170? @danawhite @seanshelby https://t.co/1zuIontmkH
— Shavkat “Nomad” Rakhmonov (@Rakhmonov1994) May 23, 2023
“Should I be the one to welcome Kelvin back to 170? (Dana White) (Sean Shelby)”
One of the true rising stars on the UFC roster, Rakhmonov has made short work of almost every opponent he’s faced since debuting for the promotion in 2020. His pre-UFC career saw “Nomad” win every fight via finish, and that trend continued when he defeated his first four UFC opponents without going past the second round.
The 28-year-old’s last bout with Geoff Neal saw the Kazakh fighter go to the third round for the first time in his career, but a guillotine choke with less than a minute remaining maintained Rakhmonov’s perfect finishing streak and extended his pro record to 17-0.