Kelvin Gastelum knew he was in a must-win situation at UFC 258 and he delivered with a unanimous decision over a tough-as-nails opponent in Ian Heinisch.
Following three consecutive losses dating back to a heartbreaking defeat to Israel Adesanya in an interim title fight, Gastelum was well aware what a fourth straight defeat could mean for his career and there was no way he was going to allow that to happen. Over three rounds, Gastelum used every tool in his arsenal to stifle Heinisch on the feet and on the ground to ultimately get the job done.
The judges scored the fight 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 with Gastelum earning his first win since 2018.
“I’m trying to hold back tears. I’m so happy,” Gastelum said afterwards. “It’s been three years since my last win. Coming from back-to-back-to-back losses, it’s not easy.
“I expected my experience to pay dividends in the fight and that happened.”
An early takedown from Heinisch resulted in a wild series of scrambles on the ground and then back on the feet as Gastelum looked to escape and then turn tables with some grappling prowess of his own. Gastelum had to endure a fast start from Heinisch but once he got settled into a rhythm, the former middleweight title contender started to take control.
Gastelum showed fast hands and when Heinisch did attempt a flying knee in the second round, he countered with a perfectly timed takedown to bring the action back down to the mat. While Gastelum wasn’t doing a ton of damage, he was definitely landing the better strikes and then controlling Heinisch from the clinch as well as the wrestling exchanges.
Another jumping knee strike resulted in a huge slam from Gastelum in the third round and despite getting stuck with Heinisch on his back momentarily, he escaped without incident. Gastelum continued to counter Heinisch’s every attempt to mount a comeback until time finally ran out
Despite a trio of losses on his record, Gastelum was still ranked inside the top 10 at middleweight heading into Saturday night and he made the most of his main card opportunity with the fight against Heinisch. Now that he’s back on track with the win, Gastelum promised to stay ready just in case the UFC needed a potential replacement for the upcoming fight between former champion Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa in April.