In one of the closest fights on the entire card, The Ultimate Fighter 17 champion and Yuma's own Kelvin Gastelum edged out UFC veteran Rick Story in their matchup at UFC 171.
The welterweight bout closed out the prelim card on Fox Sports 2 and left the sold out crowd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX standing in ovation as both men looked absolutely exhausted from their 15-minute war.
The opening round showed the Pride of Cibola high school putting on a striking clinic. Utilizing a stiff right jab, Gastelum kept his opponent guessing the entire round until he unloaded with a head kick that dropped Story to the mat. As Gastelum wrestled for position, Story made a mad scramble to his feet and swung widely with a left hook but only connected with air.
The second frame picked up right where the last one left off as Gastelum looked to continue to use his hard right jab to keep the fight standing. But with little over a minute left in the round Story landed a vicious left hand that rocked Gastelum. Smelling blood, Story pressed the attack and dropped his opponent and began to pour on the blows from the top. But Kelvin weathered until the clock signaled for the end of the round.
"When I dropped him the only thing going through my head was to pick my shots and make them count because he's so tough," said Story. "I've made the mistake of flurrying before and I've gassed myself out as a result. I really thought I had him."
Gastelum showed tremendous poise as he shook off the end of the previous round and looked to pick up the pace early in the final round. But halfway though the round Story reversed Gastelum's takedown attempt and looked to secure back control and lock on a tight rear naked choke. However Gastelum once again fought through the submission attempt and scrambled back to feet where the two men trade thunderous blows until the bell signaled the end of the round and fight.
In the end, two of the three judges thought the "Ultimate Fighter" winner had done just enough to walk away with the narrow decision.
Gracious in defeat, Story revealed he thought he had done enough in the final round to secure the victory but in the end blamed himself for letting the fight go the distance.
"I had his back in the third round which is a pretty dominant position to be in. He landed some good shots but I gave them right back to him," said Story. "It is what it is. You can't leave it in the hands of the judges."
This victory pushes Gastelum's perfect career record to 8-0 with a 3-0 record inside UFC octagon but a hard fought victory over a name like Story will undoubtedly launch the Arizona native up the 170-pound rankings.
"I expected an all-out war because Rick is a super tough guy," said Kelvin. "He's been near the top of the division for a long time for very good reason. I don't think the weigh in affected my performance tonight at all. My rehydration process went very well and I felt awesome. This is a big win for me and I'm eager to hear who the UFC has next for me. I'm taking on all comers."