Gastelum sneaks past Souza, makes case for middleweight title shot

Kelvin Gastelum defeated Jacare Souza by split decision at UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AP Photo/Leo Correa

Middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum (15-3) appears poised for a title shot after defeating former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (25-6) via split decision on Saturday at UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro.

Two judges had it 29-28 for Gastelum, while a third scored it 29-28 in favor of Souza.

Gastelum, 26, dug an early hole on the scorecards as he allowed Souza to take him down in the opening round and even move to full mount. Gastelum defended himself well off his back, however, and still appeared fresh in the second round.

Souza, who is 12 years older than Gastelum, did not handle the pace well as the fight continued. Gastelum dropped him with a left hand in the center of the Octagon midway through the second round, and although Souza survived and continued to throw right hands, he looked exhausted from that point forward.

At the end of the second round, Souza, who trains out of Orlando, could barely stand. He landed a few good shots early in the third, but Gastelum's gas tank, hand speed and takedown defense took control in the final minutes.

"I definitely felt his shots, but I didn't feel they would knock me out," said Gastelum, a former welterweight. "I didn't feel dazed or anything like that. I was a little tired, but I knew he was a little tired and I had to pick up the pace."

Gastelum is now 3-1 since moving to the middleweight division. He would like to face the winner of next month's championship bout between Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero.

Lineker scores walk-off KO against Kelleher Brazilian bantamweight John Lineker (31-8) did what he does best, with a one-punch, walk-off, knockout victory over Brian Kelleher (19-9) at 3:43 of the third round.

Lineker, of Paranagua, Brazil, walked Kelleher down with right hands to the body and left hooks all night, and it was eventually too much for the New York native. The final blow was a crushing left hook to the chin that flopped Kelleher over on his back. The 135-pound bout was stopped immediately.

The left hook actually dropped Kelleher twice in the fight. The first knockdown came in the opening minutes, but Kelleher managed to get back to his feet and fight through it. It was not a bad performance overall by Kelleher, but he simply could not match Lineker's power or take him down when he needed to.

Lineker has won eight of his past nine contests. His only loss during that time came via decision to current champion TJ Dillashaw.