Chris Weidman is back. In the main event of UFC on Fox 25, the former UFC middleweight champion mostly dominated Kelvin Gastelum and took home a third-round submission victory. Gastelum was in the fight for approximately 10 seconds - when he dropped Weidman at the end of the first round - but other than that, it was all Long Island.
It really was a masterful performance. He used his size and strength advantages perfectly, controlling Gastelum with long strikes on the feet and with some great grappling on the ground. Gastelum was just overmatched, and he seemed to know it. This puts Weidman right in the mix at middleweight again, and gave him a badly needed confidence boost after three consecutive losses.
It must be a really great feeling to have a crowd behind you like that, and then going out there and delivering in your home town. I think Weidman is often maligned by fans, and I’m not really sure why. I think he’s a really talented fighter, and I liked his callout of Bisping. Not exactly unique, but still a good idea.
- Dennis Bermudez and Darren Elkins put on the razor-close fight most expected. I personally thought Bermudez's speed and striking would be the difference, but Elkins has improved so much with Team Alpha Male. It was a good fight that could have gone either way, but Elkins got the W.
- Gian Villante gives away fights. He starts strong but fades, and that's exactly what happened here. Patrick Cummins should probably have been finished in the first - he was seriously hurt - but he persevered and actually outstruck Villante over the final two rounds because he couldn't get a takedown. He looked like he got shot by a tank by the end of the fight, and bled a gusher from a clash of heads early in the contest, but he still managed to pick up arguably the biggest win of his career.
- Jimmie Rivera and Thomas Almeida put on the great fight we all thought they would. Rivera dropped Almeida twice in the first. Almeida dropped him in the second. But when Rivera went to his grappling game in the third, it became easy to pick a winner. I don't agree with 30-27 or 30-26 scores here, as I felt Almeida pretty clearly won the second. But Rivera fought a great, smart fight, and the only thing I didn't like about the bout is that it was only three rounds. Those guys deserved to be a main event somewhere and to go five.
- Lyman Good and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos was a perfect example of how a 30-27 fight can still be super close. A lot of people disagreed with the scoring of the fight and had it for Good. I disagree. I had the first two rounds for Zaleski based on damage and landing the much harder shots. Did Good outland him? Maybe. But that's not the only criteria for scoring. The third was super close, and I actually gave it to Good. But I think the right man won that fight, despite it being very close (and very entertaining).
- Eryk Anders hits ridiculously hard. Rafael Natal isn't exactly know for stellar fight IQ, and Anders took serious advantage by lighting him up. I mean, he hit him so hard that Natal RAN all the way across the cage and slammed face-first into the fence. That was absolutely hilarious. It was the beginning of the end for him, because Anders crushed him less than a minute later.
- Wow did Alex Oliveira ever wreck Ryan LaFlare. After a first round stuck underneath his grappling-heavy opponent, he destroyed him with an uppercut and scored the walk-off KO. That was pretty badass. I like how Brian Stann ate some crow too - on commentary he said that Cowboy was maybe joking around and not taking this seriously enough, but he opened up to it in the post-fight interview and told Oliveira exactly what he said, and admitted how wrong he was. I like that.
- Chase Sherman looked very different from the last time we saw him. He still got caught with some shots (Damian Grabowski's pitcher-like right hook isn't something that should connect a lot), but he didn't eat too many of them and did a great job staying on top of Grabowski otherwise. Good win, though the fight dragged at the end. Pretty typical for heavyweights.
- Jeremy Kennedy's wrestling is unreal. I don't think anyone keeps track, but he might have scored the fastest takedown ever to start a fight. And he had another seven takedowns after that - he has 21 in three UFC fights! - to completely control Kyle Bochniak. I'm a big fan of his since he grew up about 15 minutes away from me, and he has completely delivered in the UFC so far. Nice to see some Canadians getting some shine.
- Marlon Vera picked up a slick submission win over Brian Kelleher in the second straight surprising result. Like the rest of the TUF Latin America class, he has improved immensely since the show and really belongs in the UFC now. His English is also really good.
- Junior Albini surprised the hell out of me. Tim Johnson has never been knocked out in his career, and Albini just dusted him. A beautiful combination ended with a right hook right on the button. That was the beginning of the end. I didn't even know who Junior Albini was yesterday and now he's likely to be a ranked heavyweight.
- Shane Burgos is a bonafide prospect at featherweight. His striking is slick and he fights smart. Godofredo Pepey is one of my favorite average fighters in the UFC and he has a lot of heart, but he was totally outclassed by Burgos out there. Trying to pull guard didn't help Pepey's case with the fans, but he was getting busted up. Good, fun win by Burgos there.
- Chris Wade and Frankie Perez opened the show with an average, grappling-heavy fight. Perez just couldn't handle Wade's wrestling, and it was the difference.