Former middleweight title challenger Kelvin Gastelum is heading back to welterweight to face Shavkat Rakhmonov on the September 16 edition of UFC Fight Night.
Gastelum vs. Rakhmonov will serve as the co-main event of a stronger-than-normal UFC Fight Night card. The card is headlined by the Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko rematch, making it the rare Fight Night card where a title is being defended.
This is a rather unique fight to make. Gastelum hasn’t competed at welterweight since 2016, and while undersized at middleweight, has hung around the top of the division for some time. In his last fight, Gastelum beat Chris Curtis, snapping a two-fight skid after dropping losses to Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier.
Rakhmonov has stopped all five of his opponents thus far. His last fight, a submission win over Geoff Neal at UFC 285, won Fight of the Night honors. In addition, he’s beaten the likes of Alex Morono and Neil Magny up to this point. There is plenty to like about Rakhmonov as a potential standout in the division.
Gastelum has fought bigger and better opponents than Rakhmonov and might serve as his toughest test yet. If Gastelum doesn’t kill himself getting back down to welterweight, this should be a good scrap. Then again, dropping down in weight is already hard enough, not to mention it will be against one of the better fighters in that division.
It’s likely the last stand for Gastelum, who despite all his talents, can’t catch a big win. If the drop-down doesn’t kill him, then he’ll quickly find himself in position for a major fight.
In all likelihood, Rakhmonov will be a big favorite in a very intriguing match.