UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Weidman Preview

A preview of Friday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Boston.

Updated: Oct. 16, 2019 • 3:36 PM ET

Chris Weidman is attempting to earn his way back to a title shot.

The UFC will invade Boston and the TD Garden on Friday for UFC Fight Night, an event featuring a light heavyweight bout between No. 4 Dominick Reyes and former middleweight champion Chris Weidman.

Reyes is undefeated (11-0, 5-0 UFC) and coming off a split-decision victory over former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir in March. The 29-year-old Reyes is considered a top prospect in the light heavyweight division with key victories already over Ovince Saint Preux and Jared Cannonier.

He respects his opponent, but hasn’t had the opportunity to accomplish what the former champion has.

“The exciting thing about fighting Chris Weidman is, he was a champion, he knows how to be a champion, he’s fighting with a lot of experience,” Reyes said via the Boston Herald. “He knows how to pace himself throughout the fight. He’s a great martial artist. That will be an exciting challenge. But I think I’m just too big, too strong, too much for him.”

Per usual, Reyes is looking for a spectacular finish in Boston.

“I’m actually a grinder, but you wouldn’t know it because my fights don’t ever get that far,” Reyes said. “The way I approach fighting is, it’s my job to finish the fight. If I don’t finish, I feel like I did myself a disservice. Finishing is the goal.”

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With a win on Friday, Reyes could be next in line to challenge champion Jon Jones for the title, or at the very least be primed for a title eliminator fight with someone in the top 3 of the rankings.

Weidman is 1-4 in his last five fights and will make his debut at light heavyweight on Friday. The losses have all come by knockout or TKO, starting with losing the middleweight title to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 in 2015. The other losses have come at the hands of Yoel Romero, Gegard Mousasi, and in his last fight to Jacare Souza at UFC 230 in November.

A positive for Weidman is that he has taken plenty of time off to regroup. He fought well in each of the losses, but how he was finished in several of them is alarming. And after years of back-and-forth battles, perhaps his chin has lost its durability. Weidman will have to avoid big shots from Reyes, a fighter who has already proven he has tremendous power.

Despite the run of losses, though, Weidman is confident that he can defeat Reyes.

“I have a lot of experience fighting on some big stages against some really good guys,” Weidman told Submission Radio. “And I’ve never had an easy fight, and I love that. And I’m expecting a war with him regardless, because I know he’s hungry and he believes in himself, but I think once I’m in the positions that I know I can get to, it’s gonna be some rude awakening.”

Weidman believes he spotted holes in Reyes’ game during his last fight.

“Well, he’s never really even faced a wrestler, let alone a wrestler of my pedigree and my MMA experience, and he’s never even tasted any of that,” Weidman said. “I mean, he got taken down three or four times (against) Oezdemir. And Oezdemir, I don’t think had more than two takedowns in his UFC career.

“So, I think the wrestling, along with my jiu-jitsu, is really the X-factor and the pace. Everybody can stop one or two or three takedowns, but I’m not gonna stop coming. And he also has to worry about my hands hitting his chin. So, I think I just I bring a lot of danger to the table.”

It’s difficult to think that a win over Reyes would set Weidman up for an immediate title shot, but given that he’s a former champion who has defeated some of the best fighters in history and the division isn’t necessarily stacked with elite talent, an immediate title shot can’t be completely dismissed.

The 35-year-old Weidman has victories over Demian Maia, Mark Munoz, Anderson Silva (twice), Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for me to make a real big statement in the 205-pound division, as opposed to me taking a guy on that most people think I can beat and they’re not ranked as highly,” Weidman said. “This is a guy a lot of people are believing in and thinking he’s got a chance of fighting for the belt and possibly being a champion one day, and so for me to come along and go out there and have a good performance against him, I think it puts me right in the discussion at 205. So, I think it’s a great opportunity for me.”


Co-main event

Friday’s co-main event will be a featherweight fight between No. 7 Yair Rodriguez and No. 8 Jeremy Stephens. The two originally met in September, but the fight was ruled a no-contest seconds into the first round after Stephens suffered an accidental eye poke and was unable to continue.

The fans in Mexico City, not to mention Rodriguez’s team, were not pleased with the result. The crowd threw debris into the Octagon, forcing many staff members to take cover. After the chaos in the arena, video surfaced of Stephens and Rodriguez getting into a war of words and a scuffle in a hotel lobby. The tension has clearly boiled over, which should lead to a dynamic fight in Boston.

Prior to the first encounter with Stephens, Rodriguez produced one of the best knockouts of 2018, using a vicious elbow to finish Chan Sung Jung in one of the best fights of the year. The 27-year-old Rodriguez also has victories over B.J. Penn, Alex Caceres and Andre Fili; and a win over Stephens would solidify his presence as a real title threat.

Rodriguez was visibly emotional after the premature ending to the Stephens fight and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind afterwards.

“I don’t know how to feel right now, honestly,” Rodriguez said on the UFC Fight Night Post Show on ESPN+. “All of my friends are telling me don’t be disappointed, that this (expletive) happens. I really did my all for this camp. I honestly put a lot of effort, a lot of time. It was the hardest training camp I ever had. I put a lot of meditation into it. A lot of people came here with a lot of time. They left their families back home for a long time with kids and stuff. I understand that’s hard for them and for me, as well.

“My family came here, all my friends came here, and you always have to give the benefit of the doubt to your opponent. You don’t know how he’s feeling. But he’s the only one who is going to have to live with that in his mind for the rest of his life, if it was a lie.”

Stephens entered the first bout with Rodriguez on a two-fight losing streak with losses to Jose Aldo and Zabit Magomedsharipov. A victory over Rodriguez would be a major rebound for the 33-year-old, and he responded to Rodriguez’s theory that he was faking the eye injury.

“Yair, you think I’m faking it, brother,” Stephens told ESPN’s Karyn Bryant. “You’re the one that poked me in the eye. Let’s run it back, four or five weeks, two weeks, whatever. I’ll be ready. Just a deep scratch, deep bruise. You’re the one who poked me. Let’s run it back, mother(expletive). Let’s go.”

Stephens has fought in the UFC since 2007 and collected key victories over fighters such as Rafael Dos Anjos, Sam Stout, Rony Bezerra, Darren Elkins, Dennis Bermudez, Renan Barao, Gilbert Melendez, Doo Ho Choi and Josh Emmett. A win over Rodriguez would remind everyone that he’s still one of the most dangerous featherweights on the planet.


The rest of the main card on ESPN+

Heavyweight bout - Greg Hardy vs. Ben Sosoli

Lightweight bout - Joe Lauzon vs. Jonathan Pearce

Women’s flyweight bout - No. 12 Maycee Barber vs. No. 15 Gillian Robertson

Middleweight bout - Deron Winn vs. Darren Stewart


ESPN+ Prelims

Featherweight bout - Charles Rosa vs. Manny Bermudez

Women’s flyweight bout - Molly McCann vs. Diana Belbita

Featherweight bout - Kyle Bochniak vs. Sean Woodson

Bantamweight bout - Randy Costa vs. Boston Salmon

Welterweight bout - Court McGee vs. Sean Brady

Middleweight bout - Brendan Allen vs. Kevin Holland

Heavyweight bout - Daniel Spitz vs. Tanner Boser

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