Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s world class jiu-jitsu held sway in the opening round. Kelvin Gastelum roared back with a killer performance in the second. The third round was a wild, back-and-forth affair.
It was going to come down to a coin flip of a judges’ call, and in this case, Gastelum got the nod. The TUF 17 winner heads home to Arizona the winner after a thrilling UFC 224 co-feature bout in Rio de Janeiro. Gastelum got the better end of two out of three 29-28 scorecards to earn the split decision.
Souza, an eight-time World Jiu-Jitsu Championships gold medalist, demonstrated why by putting on an absolute clinic in the opening round. He finished through on a single to score a takedown, slowly improved his position, and has Gastelum cranked in an armbar when the round expired.
But Souza noticeably slowed in the second, and Gastleum dropped him with a heavy hand. Souza got back to his feet, appeared to be out on his feet as Gastelum continued to throw, but Souza somehow managed to land counters of his own.
The third was back and forth, with zombie Souza landing big shots and Gastelum replying by turning up the pace in the final minutes, which likely sealed the deal.
“I definitely felt the shots but I didn’t feel like it would knock me out,” Gastelum said. “I didn’t feel damage or anything like that. I was a little tired, but I knew he was a little more tired so I knew I had to pick up the pace and that’s what I did.”
Gastelum (15-3, 1 NC) has now won two straight, and four of five minus a no-contest. Souza (25-6, 1 NC) lost for the second time in his past three outings.