Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman entered Saturday’s UFC on FOX 25 main event bout against Kelvin Gastelum on a three-fight losing skid. Weidman got back in the win column with a third-round submission victory in front of a hometown crowd on Long Island. To say the win gave Weidman a boost in confidence would be an understatement.
“I’m the champ. I’m the best guy in the world, and I think people know that,” Weidman said at the post-fight news conference. “If (UFC middleweight champ Michael) Bisping grows some balls, that fight will happen. I know (Robert) Whittaker just did a great job winning the interim belt (against Yoel Romero at UFC 213), but I think he’s hurt. He’s got knee surgery. I’m available. I’m ready to go. We’ll see what happens.”
Weidman wasn’t the only fighter to take a step in the right direction at NYCB LIVE in Uniondale, N.Y. Below are 10 memorable moments from the event.
1. Picking a fight
After securing his first win since May 2015, Weidman did his best to pick a fight with Bisping, calling the champ a “British bum.” Unsurprisingly, Bisping didn’t let the remark slide and the two engaged in a social media skirmish that lasted well into Sunday.
Despite his efforts, Weidman (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) isn’t likely to get a title shot with a 1-3 record in his last four fights. You can’t blame the guy for aiming high after his win over Gastelum (13-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC), especially in the current landscape where potential pay-per-view sales are one of the driving forces behind which title fights get booked.
At the very least, Weidman’s victory adds another wrinkle to a division that’s getting a bit crowded at the top.
2. An impressive run continues
Darren Elkins has been one of the bigger surprises of 2017. Well into the 10th year of his professional career, Elkins’ profile has never been higher. Fighting in the first co-main event of his UFC run, Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) eked out a split decision over Dennis Bermudez (16-7 MMA, 9-5 MMA) to extend his unbeaten streak to five straight.
“The grind is my game, and those are the fights I’m going to succeed in,” Elkins told MMAjunkie after the win. “It’s not the prettiest stuff sometimes, but I make it work, and I make it work good.”
Elkins went on to say he’s looking to face a top-five fighter in his next outing, naming Chan Sung Jung or Cub Swanson as possible opponents. While Elkins doesn’t have the biggest name in the featherweight division, it’s going to be hard to deny him the type of fight he’s looking for considering the run he’s enjoying.
3. Wearing it
Maybe it was Gian Villante’s penchant for throwing strikes with the intent of turning out his opponent’s lights. Maybe it was Patrick Cummins’ ability to take an indecent amount of abuse over the course of a fight. Whatever it was, there was something about the light heavyweight bout between Villante (15-9 MMA, 5-6 UFC) and Cummins (10-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) that made it feel like fans were in for a nasty fight.
By the end of the contest, Cummins’ right eye was swollen shut and a piece of gauze hung on the cut that opened on his head after an accidental first round headbutt. Despite looking far worse than Villante, Cummins walked away with a split-decision victory.
Cummins displayed his trademark toughness throughout the fight. He also set a career high in significant strikes landed with 86, while showing an improved defensive striking game.
4. Looking for the next test
When the bantamweight bout between Jimmie Rivera and Thomas Almeida came to an end, the striking numbers were awfully similar. Rivera (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) landed 70 significant strikes while Almeida (21-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) landed 72, with both fighters connecting on 43 percent of their attempts. The difference was in the knockdowns, takedowns and octagon control – three aspects of the contest where Rivera had the advantage, knocking down Almeida twice while landing two takedowns on his way to the unanimous decision win.
Rivera has somewhat quietly climbed the rankings, and he’s now on a 20-fight winning streak, with the last five of those wins coming in the UFC. Despite his under-the-radar rise, Rivera is hopeful his win over Almeida will earn him a title shot or a fight against a former champ sometime around November.
5. Holding back
When Lyman Good plopped down on his stool at the end of the second round of his welterweight fight against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, his coaches asked him why he was holding back. Good’s response did not go over well.
“I don’t want to get knocked out,” Good said.
That reluctance to fully engage his opponent might have cost Good (19-4 MMA, 1-1 UFC) the fight. Two judges scored the bout in favor of Santos (17-5 MMA, 2-2 UFC), giving him the split-decision win and extending his UFC winning streak to three straight.
With the loss, Good, fighting for the first time in two years due to an injury and a tainted-supplement-related suspension, saw his six-fight unbeaten streak come to an end. One positive for Good is the exciting striking battle did win “Fight of the Night” honors, earning both fighters an extra $50,000.
6. Short notice, shorter fight
Eryk Anders made some news at the official weigh-in for UFC on FOX 25, when he touched the towel being held in front of him while he stood on the scale, much to the chagrin of the New York State Athletic Commission. Anders made more positive news on fight night when he scored a first-round knockout in his UFC debut, putting away Rafael Natal with left hands to the head.
Anders (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), the former LFA middleweight champ, took the fight against the much more experienced Natal (21-9-1 MMA, 9-7-1 UFC) on short notice. Anders made the most of his opportunity, landing 79 percent of his significant strikes on his way to his eighth straight win. After the fight, Anders put the rest of the middleweight division on notice.
“I’m ready to take over this middleweight division, and any middleweight (is) getting the same treatment (as Natal),” Anders told UFC commentator Brian Stann.
7. Eat your words
Some fighters are wound tight as a spring. Alex Oliveira is not one of those fighters. The Brazilian dances and sings on his way to the cage, and between rounds he shares smiles and jokes with his corner. While he fights, Oliveira remains extraordinarily loose and relaxed. Oliveira’s personality seemed to rub Stann the wrong way early in his fight against Ryan LaFlare.
“There’s a point where you’re too loose,” said Stann between the first and second rounds. “You’re too friendly; you’re having too much fun. You’ve got to get down to business if you want to win a fight.”
Less than two minutes later, Oliveira (18-3-1 MMA, 7-2 UFC) ended the welterweight bout with a brutal uppercut that dropped LaFlare (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) face-first onto the canvas.
After the fight, Stann owned up to his remarks, telling Oliveira he proved him wrong with the “Performance of the Night” winning knockout.
8. A score to settle
Marlon Vera extended his unbeaten streak to three straight with a first-round submission win over the favored Brian Kelleher in Long Island. The end came when Vera (10-3-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC) quickly transitioned from a standing kimura to an armbar when Kelleher (17-8 MMA, 1-1 UFC) decided to take the fight to the mat while Vera remained latched to his arm.
After his win, Vera reminded everyone he had unfinished business with Jimmie Rivera who withdrew from a fight against Vera early this year.
“Me and Rivera got business,” Vera said. “I don’t know what happened. He just backed out (of the fight), because he said he was too much for me in January. It was really tough for me because I cut 15 pounds in two days for that fight. I wanted to be in the gym or be in the sauna because I was super motivated to fight a tough guy.”
9. Passing grade
Junior Albini (14-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) accomplished two significant feats at UFC on FOX 25. The first, scoring a TKO victory in his UFC debut against a heavyweight fighter with UFC experience in Timothy Johnson (11-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC). The second, taking home a “Performance of the Night” bonus.
“I was never able to buy her a toy or something like that,” Albini said of his 2-year old daughter after his win. “All of her toys were like shampoos, empty bottles, because we didn’t have much money. My wife was following my dream, too, together, so it means a lot to me right now that I can make a living and give back to them what they suffered together with me – the pursuing of this dream.”
With his TKO victory Albini extended his unbeaten streak to 10 straight, with eight of those wins coming by stoppage.
10. Local boy makes good
Godofredo Pepey did his best to goad Shane Burgos into a brawl and/or a grappling match, but Burgos refused to bite. Instead, the featherweight prospect stayed calm and used excellent striking, especially his counters, to pick apart Pepey on the feet.
Burgos (10-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) dropped Pepey (13-5 MMA, 5-5 UFC) three times, and had he gone to the body earlier and more often, he might have managed to get the stoppage he desired instead of a unanimous decision.
Burgos, a New York-based fighter, has fought on three UFC cards in his home state, and judging by the crowd’s response to his efforts, he’s become a local favorite.
For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 25, check out the UFC Events section of the site.
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie