The MMA community may be putting Uriah Hall on a pedestal and deeming him to be the next great thing to hit the UFC, but one fighter in particular isn't prepared to accept that reality.
Kelvin Gastelum is going to do everything in his power to steals the show this Saturday at the TUF 17 Finale in Las Vegas. Underdog or not, the 21-year-old knows the only thing standing between him and a UFC contract is the lights-out striking of Hall.
In fact, if you've followed the storylines of this season of The Ultimate Fighter, the Yuma-based Gastelum was the underdog from jump street. He was selected to be a member of Team Sonnen and earned his way into the house by defeating Kito Andrews in the preliminary round.
While his first fight went to the scorecards, it would be his only bout of the tournament to do so. With his place in the competition intact, Gastelum set about smashing his way toward the six-figure contract at the end of the road.
Throughout the tournament, Gastelum pulled upset after upset until he secured his place in the finals by defeating Josh Samman. And while he doesn't quite understand why so many have overlooked him, Gastelum has his biggest opportunity yet to shock the world, and he plans on seizing the moment on Saturday night.
"I'm definitely looking to make another upset," Gastelum told Bleacher Report. "I don't know why people keep underestimating me. I have proved them wrong time after time, but it is what it is. This is going to be another great fight and another upset.
"I put the motivation and all the pressure on myself because I really want to win this UFC contract. I want to be The Ultimate Fighter and derail the Uriah Hall hype-train."
While Gastelum's journey through the tournament was impressive, it was relatively silent in comparison to Hall's run. With every trip into the Octagon, the New York native produced highlight-reel material as he disposed of his opposition in brutal fashion.
Hall's elimination-round knockout of Adam Cella looked more like an execution, and the video footage of the brutal finish made headlines at every major MMA media site. The moment appeared to have a ripple effect on the opposition to come, as Hall's next two opponents appeared to be trigger shy and timid once they entered the cage.
Gastelum recognizes that Hall's past opposition were beaten before they stepped in to fight, and he promises this won't be the case when the cage door closes this weekend in Las Vegas.
"The guys that he fought weren't there mentally or prepared physically," Gastelum said. "They didn't bring the fight like I'm going to. The plan is to keep the pressure on him and get right in his face. This is going to be a war because I'm not going to go down and he's not going to go down. This is going to be a battle of wills and we are going to see who wants it more."
Regardless of what happens at the finale on Saturday night, Gastelum will always have the unique experience of being on The Ultimate Fighter under his belt.
As a member of a season being heralded as one of the best in the series history, Gastelum was able to train and be mentored by Chael Sonnen, who proved to have amazing coaching chops.
While this season certainly delivered action, Sonnen's job of guiding his team of young, up-and-coming fighters was definitely one of the highlights of the experience for Gastelum.
"Chael should win an award for 'Coach of the Year," Gastelum said. "It was great working with him. I was a huge fan of his before I went on the show and had a chance to meet him. It was an honor to work with him and his team.
"It was awesome to be a part of, and Chael really brought the team together. He made it more of a team environment, which made the experience that much better."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
Lead photo courtesy of MMAOddsBreaker.com.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!