UFC Fight Night 25 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Long Island
Chris Weidman had to stop the skid. Would home cooking help him do the trick?
Two years ago, Weidman was the UFC middleweight champ, with a 13-0 record, two wins over GOAT candidate Anderson Silva and a high perch on pound-for-pound lists everywhere to his name.
It was a quick and precipitous fall.
Various injuries hampered him. Then there was that knockout loss to Luke Rockhold that saw him relinquish his belt. Then he lost his next two—both by knockout.
So as Weidman came into UFC on Fox 25 Saturday—taking place on his native Long Island, New York—he had to stop the torrent of bad news. He still had the great pressure and wrestling and ground-and-pound. But when he faced Kelvin Gastelum, would it matter? Or would Gastelum be able to use his hands and his own pressure game to hand Weidman another thump on a suddenly suspect chin?
This was only one of 13 fights on the card. As always, the final stat lines don't reveal it all. These are the real winners and losers from UFC on Fox 25 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Winner: Chris Weidman
He needed a win. He got the win.
Weidman showed a full complement of skills as he controlled and ultimately submitted Gastelum in the third round.
It was impressive, but it didn't come without a struggle. At the end of the first round, a smaller but faster Gastelum swooped inside to throw a combination. The first right hand missed, but a big left hand connected flush, sending Weidman to the ground. If the horn hadn't sounded to end the round a few seconds later, the fight might have gone to Gastelum, with a fourth consecutive KO defeat for Weidman.
In the second, Weidman went back to his wrestling advantage, using takedowns, control and pressure to keep Gastelum on the mat. Gastelum—perhaps hoping to use the five-round fight's later rounds to take advantage of Weidman's suspect gas tank—seemed content to bide his time as Weidman worked ground-and-pound.
It was the same story in the third. Weidman began to mix in more standup, however, at one point connecting on a series of straight shots that took some starch out of Gastelum.
He landed another takedown and, in a matter of just a few seconds, was able to lock on the choke.
"Keep doubting me, people," Weidman told broadcaster Brian Stann in the cage after the fight. "These other dudes around the world, I dare you. Keep doubting me."
But he got a little more specific. He called out UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, who is currently injured but has long shown reluctance to sign on for big opponents like Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero or Weidman.
"That British bum who's crying in his house now, where are you at?" Weidman told Stann.
It will be interesting to see how UFC brass match up Weidman next. He may need another win or two before getting another title shot, but in this outstanding display Saturday, it's clear his days at the top of the UFC food chain are far from over.
Loser: Dennis Bermudez
In the co-main event, give credit to Darren Elkins. Most hardcore fans know that his "real job" (isn't it weird that pro fighters need such things?) is as a pipefitter, and after his latest blue-collar grindfest win Saturday, he's closer to contender status than he's ever been in his career.
But there was a reason Bermudez was a -200 favorite or better. Bermudez is a good wrestler with a deep gas tank and a lot of strength. Bermudez appeared to be potentially immune to the body locks and control wrestling of Elkins.
It was not the case.
Instead of staying disciplined in his own attack, using the basic strikes and takedown attempts that earn him success, Bermudez instead swung for the fences with low-percentage techniques. Jumping switch kicks, anyone? How about wild knees?
And as the fight wore on and Elkins doggedly stuck to his strategy, Bermudez departed further from his. Although the fight was good and it was close—Elkins grabbed a split decision—it seemed like a winnable fight for Bermudez until it wasn't.
Maybe Bermudez learned something from his victor's approach Saturday. At age 30, he's lost two straight and four of six. Learning a new trick or three might be just the ticket.
Winners: Jimmie Rivera and Thomas Almeida
The rare double winner goes to Jimmie Rivera and Thomas Almeida for waging the best fight of the evening and maybe one destined for Fight of the Year finalist lists.
In a back-and-forth affair, Rivera, who lives in New Jersey and trains in New York, used precise, efficient, heavy boxing to drop Almeida and win every exchange in the pocket. His left and right hands were brilliant, and he used them to good effect, dropping Almeida twice in the opening frame while evading Almeida's offense without much trouble.
Almeida found his rhythm in the second. Defense becomes less of an issue when you're a freaking tornado. The Brazilian put Rivera on the canvas once in this round, and it may have swayed the round his way in the eyes of some observers.
Another action-packed round closed the fight, with a couple of Rivera takedowns probably making the difference.
This is Almeida's second straight loss. But seeing that he's still 22-2 at only 25 years old—and considering his only losses were to champ Cody Garbrandt and now Rivera—he'll probably be OK. Perhaps hard-hitting John Lineker or John Dodson are next for Almeida?
As for Rivera, he called for a title shot later this year with Garbrandt (who is currently battling a back injury), an interim fight with T.J. Dillashaw or ex-champ Dominick Cruz, who was in the building doing commentary.
"I came in here, I’m 5-0 right now," Rivera told Stann. "If Cody is still hurt, I’ll fight TJ for the interim belt, and if Cruz is done sitting on the bench then let’s fight in November, MSG baby.”
Doesn't sound like a bad idea.
Losers: New York Fighters
Yes, Weidman owned the main event, and overall it was a pretty good TV card. So it wasn't a terrible night for Empire Staters, but as for collective performance, the numbers are not in their favor.
New York area fighters finished 4-6. Weidman, Chris Wade, Shane Burgos and Rivera, who lives in New Jersey but now trains in New York, all came out with impressive victories.
But on the bad side of the ledger, Brian Kelleher, Ryan LaFlare, Rafael Natal, Lyman Good, Gian Villante and Bermudez all took an L. That stings a little more given that Bermudez, LaFlare, Good and Kelleher were all substantial favorites.
It was still a fine card, but if it wasn't for Weidman, the hometown faithful would have been heading home pretty dejected.
Winner: 1-Punch Knockouts
UFC and Fox officials had to be pleased with how the Fox undercard unfolded.
First, in a welterweight battle, Ryan LaFlare was using takedowns and solid ground skills to control Alex "Cowboy" Oliveira and cruise to a likely win in the first round.
It was all looking great until, about halfway through the second stanza, LaFlare charged forward for a left but ran right into a perfectly timed right uppercut and was out before he hit the ground.
That looked to be the clear favorite for a Performance of the Night bonus. Until the very next fight happened.
Middleweight Eryk Anders, who played linebacker for the University of Alabama's 2009 national title team, made his UFC debut against Rafael Natal. Some people felt inclined to write off Anders as a novelty.
He quickly wrote himself back in by walking Natal off.
Anders showed great control of distance and fired his granite left hand. He moved well for such a big middleweight, shook of a Natal right hand like he was being accosted by a T-shirt cannon, then landed a left of his own. That left initiated a final sequence that was ended with another left, this one putting Natal down for good.
"I'm used to playing on the big stage," Anders told Stann in the cage after the fight. "There's ice water running in these veins."
Oliveira is a little more well-known, but both men took big steps forwards with one-punch victories that fans will remember for a while.
Winner: Chase Sherman
The Vanilla Gorilla has been racking up fans for his go-for-broke style—all 10 of his wins have come by knockout—and his hilarious Twitter account.
But Chase Sherman showed a smarter side Saturday when he defeated aging Pole Damian Grabowski by unanimous decision.
Sherman won each round of the fight by controlling range, avoiding major damage, working leg kicks and landing thudding counter combinations. By the end, he was far fresher than the 37-year-old Grabowski, who was slow throughout but was downright statuesque at the end. Although that's a relative victory, it's a victory nonetheless for Sherman, who has faced questions and concerns over his own gas tank.
What's next for Sherman? There's always room, especially in a thin heavyweight division, for a fighter with the in- and out-of-cage talents of Sherman.
Winner and Loser: Junior Albini
According to OddsShark, Junior Albini was a +185 underdog to defeat established heavyweight Tim Johnson. It was the UFC debut for the 26-year-old Albini, the Brazilian who came up on local circuits.
It didn't take him long to flip the tables on everyone. He showed sharp boxing from the beginning. A beautiful combination—knee to the midsection, left hook, right hook—put Johnson on the floor, and a couple of ground strikes sealed the deal. The end came before the first round's three-minute mark.
So why is he a loser?
After the fight, broadcaster Ariel Helwani spoke with Albini and passed along some sobering news. Although the New York State Athletic Commission does not release salary, the UFC's typical payment for a debuting fighter is somewhere around $10,000 for showing up and another $10,000 for winning. That's not going to put anyone high on the hog, but it will be a lot more than the $0 he says he got for his last nine fights.
Albini said he has less than $100 to his name. In fact, it's so bad his two-year-old daughter has had to play with empty shampoo bottles instead of toys—though that changed when Albini spent his UFC per-diem money on toys this week.
If that doesn't tug your heartstrings, you may have internal problems. The UFC gets plenty of heat, and rightly so, for its low levels of fighter pay. But this shows it isn't just a UFC issue. Here's hoping Albini has richer days ahead.
UFC on Fox 25 Full Card Results
Chris Weidman def. Kelvin Gastelum by submission (arm triangle choke), 3:45, Rd. 3
Darren Elkins def. Dennis Bermudez by split decision
Patrick Cummins def. Gian Villante by split decision
Jimmie Rivera def. Thomas Almeida by unanimous decision
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def. Lyman Good by split decision
Eryk Anders def. Rafael Natal by KO, 2:54, Rd. 1
Alex Oliveira def. Ryan LaFlare by KO, 1:50, Rd. 2
Chase Sherman def. Damian Grabowski by unanimous decision
Jeremy Kennedy def. Kyle Bochniak by unanimous decision
Marlon Vera def. Brian Kelleher by submission (armbar), 2:18, Rd. 1
Junior Albini def. Tim Johnson by KO, 2:51, Rd. 1
Shane Burgos def. Godofredo Pepey by unanimous decision
Chris Wade def. Frankie Perez by unanimous decision