On a three-bout losing streak and facing the pressures of fighting in front of a home crowd in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, Chris Weidman found his way back to the win column in a big way at UFC on Fox 25. The former champion defeated Kelvin Gastelum via third-round submission Saturday.
UFC on Fox provided the video of the finish:
FOX Sports: UFC @UFCONFOX
Chris Weidman IS BACK! A big submission victory over a game Kelvin Gastelum in round three! #UFCLongIsland https://t.co/5jelU8uvVZ2017-7-23 02:26:42
Weidman started out looking like he was ready to return to championship form. He established distance from his shorter opponent with kicks and jabs before shooting for a successful takedown in the early minutes.
From there, Weidman patiently worked his top game, taking side control and eventually working on a kimura. The submission attempt gave Gastelum the opportunity to stand up and led to the first signs of life from the former welterweight.
A straight left smashed into Weidman's jaw and nearly ended the fight. UFC on Fox provided the highlight:
FOX Sports: UFC @UFCONFOX
Kelvin Gastelum finally connected with a big left hand at the end of the round on Chris Weidman! #UFCLongIsland https://t.co/zqS2b9V9cS2017-7-23 02:15:27
Fortunately for the All-American, the bell allowed him to regroup. He once again secured a takedown early in the second and took control of Gastelum's back. Unlike the first round, Gastelum didn't find his way up, and it was all Weidman.
Jason Floyd of The MMA Report had the stats after a dominant two rounds from Weidman, save the knockdown:
Jason Floyd @Jason_Floyd
41-12 Weidman in total strikes landed after 2 Rounds and he’s 5/7 in takedown attempts2017-7-23 02:21:33
In the third frame, the former champion let his hands go and showed he still had plenty of cardio left to keep pressuring. The UFC passed along the highlight:
What a fight! @ChrisWeidmanMMA returns the favor with a flurry of punches! #UFCLongIsland https://t.co/TZmTyMxJLt2017-7-23 02:23:35
The threat of the striking game set up yet another takedown opportunity. Weidman reminded the hometown fans that he is an elite grappler as he set up the arm-triangle choke that announced he's back as a force in the middleweight division and put Gastelum out.
Weidman didn't shy away from making a not-so-veiled callout of current middleweight champion Michael Bisping, per MMA Fighting:
Weidman: That British bum who’s crying in his house right now! I’m back! What’s up?! Let’s go! #UFCLongIsland2017-7-23 02:31:47
The main event provided a memorable moment and performance to end a card that was marked by a trio of decisions and gritty performances from ranked contenders. Here's a look at the results for the entire card and a closer look at the main card fights.
UFC on Fox 25 Main Card
- Chris Weidman def. Kelvin Gastelum, submission (Round 3, 3:45)
- Darren Elkins def. Dennis Bermudez, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Patrick Cummins def. Gian Villante, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Jimmie Rivera def. Thomas Almeida, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-26)
Prelims on Fox
- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Lyman Good, split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27)
- Eryk Anders def. Rafael Natal, knockout (Round 1, 2:54)
- Alex Oliveira def. Ryan LaFlare, knockout (Round 2, 1:50)
- Chase Sherman def. Damian Grabowski, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Prelims on UFC Fight Pass
- Jeremy Kennedy def. Kyle Bochniak, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Marlon Vera def. Brian Kelleher, submission (Round 1, 2:18)
- Junior Albini def. Timothy Johnson, TKO (Round 1, 2:51)
- Shane Burgos def. Godofredo Pepey, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-28)
- Chris Wade def. Frankie Perez, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Dennis Bermudez vs. Darren Elkins
It might be time to start taking Darren "The Damage" Elkins seriously in the featherweight division. The perennial midtier featherweight picked up his fifth consecutive win in the co-main event with a hard-fought split decision over Dennis Bermudez.
Bermudez—who was once one of the top fighters in the division—tried to ply his aggressive striking game, but quickly found that Elkins is capable of finding ways to turn things into a grappling match pretty quickly.
This takedown from late in the first round was a perfect example of Elkins simply imposing his will on The Menace, courtesy of the UFC:
What a takedown by @DarrenElkinsMMA #UFCLongIsland https://t.co/x1RrmsJpiR2017-7-23 01:32:16
Bermudez fought back in the second round. He kept Elkins at bay more effectively and scored a takedown of his own to make it an interesting fight to score. In the end, it wasn't enough to convince more than one judge that he won.
Elkins might not be the most exciting fighter, but he seems to have elevated his game. Sports Illustrated contributor Ryan McKinnell attributed the improvements to the time Elkins has spent at Team Alpha Male.
Ryan McKinnell @RyanMcKinnell
The advancements Elkins has made since moving to Alpha Male, specifically in the striking department, are beyond impressive.2017-7-23 01:42:30
Where Elkins was once considered a gatekeeper, the 33-year-old just continues to win fights he isn't supposed to. Going into the top 10 now, he's an opponent no one in the featherweight division wants to fight.
Gian Villante vs. Patrick Cummins
The longer a fight goes, the more the momentum shifts to Patrick Cummins. That's the lesson Gian Villante had to learn the hard way in a battle of ranked light heavyweights.
Hometown favorite Villante got off to a strong start. He landed one of the overhand rights that have become his calling card and rocked Cummins early, as the UFC showed:
A devastating overhand by @GPVillante rattles Cummins! #UFCLongIsland https://t.co/wbMkkFCKwh2017-7-23 00:55:34
However, Cummins is the kind of fighter who will keep coming. When Villante didn't finish the job in the first round, he was in a precarious position.
After surviving the initial damage, Cummins went to work plying his smothering pressure game. He controlled Villante in the clinch and against the cage, fighting his fight and forcing an ugly, exhausting match.
As the bout went on, Cummins' volume allowed him to start getting the better of the striking exchanges, too.
Villante did make a bit of a come back in the third round. He landed a few more shots that seemed to have an impact, but it wasn't enough to convince the majority of the judges he earned the nod—even if Cummins looked like anything but a winner when he took to Instagram after the fight:
The win marks back-to-back victories for Cummins and a likely trip into the top 10.
It isn't going to be pretty with the former All-American wrestler, but he has to get props for neutralizing a dangerous striker.
Jimmie Rivera vs. Thomas Almeida
You'd be forgiven if you forgot about No. 4 bantamweight Jimmie Rivera. Going into UFC on Fox 25, he hadn't fought since September 2016 when he picked up a unanimous-decision win over Urijah Faber.
Rivera put together a nice reminder to fans that he's a contender to watch with the same result over Thomas Almeida to kick off the main card.
Rivera's power was on display early as both fighters engaged in exchanges on the feet. Rivera scored two early knockdowns as Almeida's penchant for getting hit early set him up for failure again. UFC Canada tweeted out the first knockdown:
UFC Canada @UFC_CA
OH! @JimmieRivera135 strikes first, knocking down Almeida at #UFCLongIsland! https://t.co/g5P1KD9HFF2017-7-23 00:20:50
Almeida had his own moments. He floored Rivera in the second round, but the man who started his MMA career 21-0 now has lost two of his last three fights. At 25 years old, Almeida still has plenty of time to develop.
The bothersome thing is that so many of his problems come from a lack of head movement, and there are many fighters who never get that figured out.
Where Almeida has struggled to evolve of late, this was an impressive showing of Rivera's diverse skill set. Luke Thomas of MMA Fighting praised his well-rounded performance:
Luke Thomas @lthomasnews
Rivera's game isn't flashy, but not blue collar either. He has core fundamentals and a streamlined modern offense. Impressive guy.2017-7-23 00:31:49
Now that he's back in the conversation, Rivera's next fight should be a high-profile title eliminator.