UFC Fight Night: Weidman vs. Gastelum Preview
A preview of UFC Fight night, set to take place Saturday in New York.
Updated: July 20, 2017 • 8:22 AM ET
Chris Weidman is looking to get back to the top of the UFC's middleweight division.
The UFC travels to Long Island, New York on Saturday for a card headlined by a fighter who is ready risk it all for a win in his native state — a win that he has chased for quite some time. That fighter, No. 5 ranked middleweight and former title-holder Chris Weidman, will face rising star and No. 8 ranked middleweight Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of the evening.
Weidman has lost three straight fights, including a title defense against Luke Rockhold and loses to Yoel Romero and most recently Gegard Mousasi in April. He hasn’t won a fight since May 2015, and his loss to Mousasi was as confusing to the fans as it was to him.
After absorbing consecutive knees to the head that were initially declared illegal by the referee Dan Miragliotta, Weidman was given the official time to recover. But, after a short review and discussion with New York State Athletic Commission officials, Miragliotta ruled the knees were actually legal, resulting in a KO for Mousasi after Weidman was ruled unfit to continue.
Weidman was beside himself in the ring and at the post-fight press conference, as the loss was also his second consecutive in the place he proudly calls home. The New Yorker hopes for a “third time’s the charm” type of fight against Gastelum.
Weidman won five fights in a row leading up to his title shot at UFC 162 against arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time, Anderson Silva. The result was one of the biggest upsets and shocking knockouts in MMA history, after Weidman dropped Silva with a flurry of punches in the second round. He went on to successfully defend the middleweight title three times, defeating Silva in a rematch, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort.
Weidman had won nine straight fights leading up to his title defense against Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 in December 2015, but that’s where his streak ended and the three-fight losing streak started. Rockhold TKO’d him in the fourth round of an exciting fight.
The UFC granted Weidman an immediate rematch with Rockhold that was scheduled to take place at UFC 199, but Weidman was forced to withdraw from the fight due to injury — but that seems like a distant memory. Michael Bisping stepped in on two weeks’ notice and shockingly won the title that Weidman was trying to get back. If Weidman wants to get back to his winning ways, he’ll have to be at the top of his game against a young and hungry lion.
Gastelum looks like he has finally found a home in the middleweight division after struggling to make weight for fights in the welterweight division. In his last bout, he looked impressive against Belfort, finishing him in the first round and winning Performance of the Night honors. However, the fight was later overturned due to a positive marijuana test. Prior to the Belfort fight, Gastelum dominated Tim Kennedy at UFC 206 with a third round KO, cementing his place in the division.
Gastelum, 25 years old, showed tremendous hand speed and the ability to take a punch in both fights, making him a far more dangerous fighter than he’s often given credit for. Now fighting at a more comfortable weight, he has shown speed and athleticism that give him the potential to wreak havoc in the 185-pound division.
Gastelum’s only losses in the UFC have come by split decision to welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and No. 6 ranked welterweight Neil Magny. Aside Kennedy, he has key victories over Uriah Hall, Johny Hendricks, Nate Marquardt and Jake Ellenberger. A win over Weidman could catapult Gastelum up the middleweight rankings, while a win for Weidman could potentially land him back into title contention.
The co-main event will be a featherweight matchup between No. 10 Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez and No. 11 Darren “The Damage” Elkins. Bermudez is coming off a first-round TKO loss to Chan Sung Jung in February and prior to the loss, he had won two straight. He’s known for tremendous heart and endless cardio, and he’ll need every last bit of both against Elkins.
“The Damage” is coming off one of the most thrilling comebacks in the promotion’s history at UFC 209. After being beaten bloody and nearly unrecognizable for three rounds by Mirsad Bektic, he stunned Bektic with a right hand, which wobbled him, and soon after ended the fight with a flurry of punches and a kick to Bektic’s temple. The win was Elkins’ fourth in a row and one the 33-year-old fighter needed to remind fans new and old of his no-surrender fighting style.
Other fights on the main card
The main card also brings a light heavyweight bout between No. 11 Patrick Cummins and No. 13 Gian Villante. The 36-year-old Cummins is coming off a decision win against Jan Blachowicz at UFC 210. Villante, a native of Levittown, New York, is coming off a KO loss to Shogun Rua in March.
Rounding out the main card will be an intriguing bantamweight matchup between No. 4 Jimmie Rivera and No. 9 Thomas Almeida. The 28-year-old Rivera is 4-0 in the UFC with his last win coming against Hall of Famer Urijah Faber at UFC 203. He has a 20-1 overall record, brings a well-rounded game to the Octagon and is on a strong surge for a title-shot.
Almeida, 25 years old, is 5-1 in the UFC with his lone loss coming to bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt by KO. He’s 22-1 overall and is considered one of the top young prospects in the UFC. Almeida’s momentum was somewhat stifled by the champ, but a convincing win over Rivera will most certainly put him in the title conversation and remind everyone of the wave he was riding before his loss to Garbrandt.
Welterweight fight: Lyman Good vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
Middleweight fight: Rafael Natal vs. Eryk Anders
Welterweight fight: No. 13 Ryan LaFlare vs. Alex Oliveira
Heavyweight fight: Damian Grabowski vs. Chase Sherman
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Featherweight fight: Kyle Bochniak vs. Jeremy Kennedy
Bantamweight fight: Brian Kelleher vs. Marlon Vera
Heavyweight fight: No. 12 Timothy Johnson vs. Junior Albini
Featherweight fight: Shane Burgos vs. Godofredo Pepey
Lightweight fight: Frankie Perez vs. Chris Wade