UFC On Fox 25: Chris Weidman vs Kelvin Gastelum

Date: Sunday 23rd July, 1am (BST)

Location: Uniondale, New York

Venue: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Chris Weidman vs Kelvin Gastelum

‘The All-American’ Chris Weidman is fighting for everything this weekend. He is fighting on his home patch on the back of three losses and to add more pressure, he is fighting the young Kelvin Gastelum, who has looked unstoppable since moving up to middleweight.

Weidman has had quite a remarkable fall from grace. He was unbeaten in the UFC when he met Anderson Silva; the imperious champion and unbeaten at the time. Weidman shocked the world, clipping a complacent Silva and then won his rematch after checking a kick, breaking Silva’s leg. Weidman then went on to beat two more Brazilian legends in Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort.

With the MMA world in his hands, he could not have dreamt of a better start to his career…but then he met Luke Rockhold. This bout was hugely anticipated, not due to the entertaining trash talk but also the skill and well-roundedness on show. Rockhold went on to prove his class and finish Weidman in a great battle, who handed his belt over to a worthy champion.

Looking to bounce back from his first loss, Weidman was handed a monster in the prime of his career for his debut in New York. The stage was set for Weidman but Yoel Romero had other ideas, kneeing his dome into orbit. Weidman shot in for a takedown but was met with a devastating flying knee.

Weidman was now in unfamiliar territory after experiencing two convincing losses. He next faced another elite fighter in Gegard Mousasi and looked impressive, controlling Mousasi in the grappling exchanges. However, the fight ended very controversially with Mousasi taking the spoils. Weidman was furious with the outcome and has been left to stew on three straight losses on his record.

People are beginning to write Weidman off but the truth is that Rockhold, Romero and Mousasi are three of the very best middleweights in the world, and if these losses were more scattered on his record, nobody would question if Weidman still has what it takes.

The test will come this weekend.

Gastelum is hugely talented but has flown under the radar most his career. After winning The Ultimate Fighter as the last pick, he continued his surge as a welterweight, tallying up 10 wins without defeat. However, Gastelum really struggled to make the 170 lb mark. At 5’9” he should be able to make it easily but the temptations of his preferred Mexican cuisine has tested his discipline. During his struggles, he experienced his only two losses – against Tyron Woodley and Neil Magny –and decided to move up to middleweight.

Although he is small for the division, he has looked at his very best. As a middleweight, he has run through Nate Marquardt, Tim Kennedy and Vitor Belfort, putting the whole division on alert. However, discipline let him down when he was caught for marijuana use after his KO finish over Belfort, converting his win into a ‘no-contest’. Whether marijuana is ‘performance-enhancing’ is up for debate, but rules are rules and as a consequence he has also lost his #4 ranking and is temporarily out of them completely.

This will be such a fascinating fight. All the pressure is on Weidman and although he is the bigger, stronger ex-champion, picking a favourite will not be straightforward. Gastelum has never been beaten convincingly and relishes battles against bigger opponents. He will surely take the same approach as he did with Belfort and Kennedy, overwhelming them with relentless forward attacks and slick combinations.

Weidman has proven he can finish on the feet but due to the occasion he may play it safe and rely on his grappling. Although Gastelum is an exceptional grappler himself, Weidman is one of the best wrestlers in the division and if he can get his hands on him, he will be fully expected to use his weight advantage to control the fight on the mat and in the clinch.

See below for a statistical breakdown:

Weidman v Gastelum

Dennis Bermudez vs Darren Elkins

‘The Menace’ and ‘The Damage’ grace the co-main. These two veterans will throw down to solidify a top 10 status and hope to make a run for Max Holloway’s featherweight title.

Bermudez – one of only three men who boast a win over the current champion – is coming off a brutal KO loss at the hands of Chan Sung Jung. He faces another rangy featherweight who is experiencing a resurgence in his career. Prior to stringing four wins together, Elkins had serious doubts about his future in MMA and considered hanging up the gloves altogether. However, after his loss to Hacran Dias, he decided to uproot his family to Sacramento and begin training with Team Alpha Male.

The move completely rejuvenated him with four impressive wins, none more so than one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history; Mirsad Bektic dominated the opening two rounds of the fight and seemed to be cruising to a decision victory, but with less than two minutes left of the fight, Elkins stunned and finished Bektic with punches and a high kick. An unbelievable feat, showing his enormous heart.

Bermudez will have to match his heart and keep up with Elkins’ ferocious pace if he is to have his way in the fight. Elkins has the most strikes landed in UFC featherweight history (1412) and will hope to deliver his usual output in this fight, which should produce a stand up war with Bermudez. Contrastingly, Bermudez is a quick and explosive striker and has the best takedown defence (91.67%) in the division, so he won’t be worried by Elkins’ grappling and may even leverage his own superb wrestling to control the fight.

See below for a statistical breakdown:

Bermudez v Elkins

Patrick Cummins vs Gian Villante

Cummins has experienced mixed fortunes in the cage since bursting onto the UFC scene as a late replacement to fight Daniel Cormier at UFC 170. As anticipated, Cormier dominated, finishing the fight with a KO. Cummins showed a lot of bravery to step up with only four fights to his name against an elite level fighter, but this was the making of Cummins who was working as a baker at the time, struggling to pay the bills.

He went on to win his next three fights in the UFC, but since has lost three of his last five. However, these were against top light heavyweights Ovince Saint Preux, Glover Teixeira and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Despite an unflattering record, Cummins has still impressed as an inexperienced fighter, and in particular his powerful wrestling. Undoubtedly his strongest weapon, he will look to close the distance and get his hands on the seasoned slugger who matches up almost identically physically.

Villante is also fighting on home turf, joining his friend and training partner – Chris Weidman. Looking to excel in front of his home fans, Villante is no stranger to putting on ‘fight of the night’ performances with his exciting and aggressive style; an approach which carries a lot of risk and as the stats suggest, he is not too far from a human punching bag.

Clearly preferring to stand and bang, Villante possesses the fifth best takedown defence (80.56%) in the division and will have to be on point on the night. Cummins has landed the most takedowns (33) in the division and is the fifth most accurate (74.13%), which should create an intriguing contest.

See below for a statistical breakdown:

Cummins v Villante

Jimmie Rivera vs Thomas Almeida
A huge clash at bantamweight between two fighters most of the division seem to be avoiding. You just have to look at the stats of these young fighters to see how good they are. They have a combined record of 42-2, with Rivera’s loss coming in only his second fight and Almeida’s in a recent fight against Cody Garbrandt, who went on to beat the best bantamweight of all time, Dominick Cruz, to become champion.

These strikers have become very well-rounded and the winner will begin to be mentioned in the same conversations as the top three of the division; Cody Garbrandt, TJ Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz, who have all shared the belt of late. Rivera comes off the back of his most impressive win, earning his 14thdecision against Uriah Faber.

Almeida also comes off a win, bouncing back from his sole loss with a KO over Albert Morales. He showcased his ferocious hand speed which he will use to test the chin of Rivera, who is also fighting in front of his home fans. Another thrilling bout with exciting consequences.

See below for a statistical breakdown:

Rivera v Almeida