Live from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York, United States on Fox and UFC Fight Pass, Sat, Jul 22, 2017
--- Main Card (Fox: 8pmET/5pmPT) ---
Middleweight – 185 lbs: Chris Weidman (13-3) vs Kelvin Gastelum (14-2)
Featherweight – 145 lbs: Dennis Bermudez (16-6) vs Darren Elkins (22-5)
Light Heavyweight – 205 lbs: Patrick Cummins (9-4) vs Gian Villante (15-8)
Bantamweight – 135 lbs: Jimmie Rivera (20-1) vs Thomas Almeida (22-1)
--- Prelims (Fox: 6pmET/3pmPT) ---
Welterweight – 170 lbs: Lyman Good (19-3) vs Elizeu Zaleski (16-5)
Middleweight – 185 lbs: Rafael Natal (21-8-1) vs Eryk Anders (8-0)
Welterweight – 170 lbs: Ryan LaFlare (13-1) vs Alex Oliveira (17-4-1)
Heavyweight – 207-265 lbs: Damian Grabowski (20-4) vs Chase Sherman (10-3)
--- Fight Pass Prelims (UFC Fight Pass: 4pmET/1pmPT) ---
Featherweight – 145 lbs: Kyle Bochniak (7-1) vs Jeremy Kennedy (10-0)
Bantamweight – 135 lbs: Brian Kelleher (17-7-1) vs Marlon Vera (11-3-1)
Heavyweight – 207-265 lbs: Timothy Johnson (11-3) vs Junior Albini (13-2)
Featherweight – 145 lbs: Shane Burgos (9-0) vs Godofredo Pepey (13-4)
Lightweight – 155 lbs: Chris Wade (11-3) vs Frankie Perez (10-3)
If you were to find a list of the UFC’s brightest young stars, Kelvin Gastelum would surely be on it. Winning season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter at age 21 made Gastelum the youngest fighter to ever win the competition in it’s 25 season history. Still at just the young age of 25, Gastelum has proven to be one of the most talented fighters in both the UFC’s Welterweight and Middleweight divisions. The biggest problem for Gastelum so far in his young career has been managing his weight cuts and consistently hitting the 170 lb mark for Welterweight. After failing to make weight for four of his bouts in the division (one including a cancelled bout between him and Donald Cerrone due to how much he missed weight by), it led to a jump back up to the 185 lb division for the Yuma, Arizona native. Somewhat of a blessing in disguise as he's found great success and looks to continue that success against Chris Weidman at UFC on Fox 25.
Saturday’s UFC event will mark their fifth in the state of New York. The most recent being UFC 210 which was in Buffalo and headlined by Light Heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier as he defended his title against Anthony Johnson. Also on that card was former UFC Middleweight champion, Chris Weidman who fell short in his bout against Bellator’s most recent big name acquisition, Gegard Mousasi. After a somewhat controversial ending, Weidman ended up appealing his loss but was denied thus keeping his three fight losing streak active. He’ll look to right the ship and get back in the win column when he competes once again in his home state on Saturday.
Rivera vs Almeida
A top competitor at 135 lbs, Jimmie Rivera has been sidelined since UFC 203 back in September when he defeated UFC Hall of Famer and former WEC Featherweight champion, Urijah Faber by unanimous decision. However, Rivera hasn’t been out of action due to injury like most would assume. Rivera was scheduled to compete at UFC Fight Night 103 against fellow top 10 ranked fighter Bryan Caraway until Caraway had to pull out of the fight due to injury. Rivera considered staying on the card but figured it wasn’t worth it to face someone that wouldn’t advance him further in his career on such short notice. He now finds himself matched with the lethal Brazilian, Thomas Almeida. One of the most exciting fighters in the division and still one of the hottest prospects. Almeida has lost a bit of steam since acquiring the only blemish on his 23 fight career from the now champion, Cody Garbrandt. Almeida now looks to take a solid leap up the rankings with a potential win over Rivera.
A fight unlikely to go to the ground unless Rivera wants it there, this bout could primarily be a stand up affair. Mixing in takedowns or even the threat of takedowns would be in Rivera’s best interest if he wants to avoid the dangerous strikes of Almeida who can attack with just about any strike you can think of. Easily the owner of some of the most dangerous offensive striking in the Bantamweight division, Almeida’s biggest or at least most noticeable hole in his game has been his striking defense. He’s just so dangerous with his attacks that he’s been able to absorb the punishment his opponents have dished out on him where as they can’t handle it when he fires back. When it comes to Almeida’s ground game, we’ve seen virtually none of it and perhaps we’ll get a chance to see it if Rivera implements his great wrestling abilities on Saturday. Not one to get careless or engage in many brawls, Rivera strikes more technically and if he can mix the wrestling in successfully, he should be able to avoid any of the onslaught Almeida will have to offer. Thus making this the biggest question of the fight: Almeida can hurt Rivera but can Rivera hurt Almeida?
Prediction: Almeida RD2 (T)KO
Cummins vs Villante
Patrick Cummins has had quite an interesting UFC career so far. Making his debut as the replacement for Rashad Evans against Daniel Cormier who was making his Light Heavyweight debut at the time, Cummins was just some no name that people expected to get steamrolled by the future 205 lb champion...which to be fair is exactly what happened. However, Cummins showed he wasn't just some tomato can who was filling in just to lose his next so many bouts and go back on his marry way to the local circuit. After losing to Cormier, he then went on a three fight winning streak and even found himself in the UFC's top 10. Since that streak, Cummins has gone 2-3 in his last 5 with all his losses coming to fellow top 10ers. He'll be looking to string together another set of wins just like those that proved his worth initially.
For the New York native, Gian Villante, he'll be looking to rebound off his TKO loss in Brazil to former UFC champion, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. An entertaining bout it was but one that Villante found himself on the wrong side of most of the action. Having his moments and even hurting the legend with punches in his homeland, it just wasn't enough to put him away. Now when it comes to his next match up with Cummins...we've seen Villante be out grappled in the past (most recently against Ilir Latifi). With Cummins being the caliber of wrestler that he is (two-time NCAA Division I All-American and two-time US National Team Member), it should be no hard task for him to achieve and Villante will have to avoid that at all costs if he hopes to get the W. Also, showing a questionable gas tank at times, this really could turn out to be a very bad night for Villante. But...if he can avoid being taken down or even land some shots before the take downs arrive, his chances go way up as we've seen Cummins be hit and hurt many of times in his career so far.
Prediction: Cummins RD3 (T)KO
Bermudez vs Elkins
The last time we saw Darren "The Damage" Elkins, he was accumulating plenty of just that…damage. But it did not matter for the Portage, Indiana native. At UFC 209, Elkins took on top Featherweight prospect, Mirsad Bektic who was beating him from pillar to post for the first two rounds before mounting one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory. Elkins dug deep in the third and final round, managing to defend off a take down up against the cage and ending up taking Bektic's back, Elkins started to unload punches as he knew he needed the finish. The shots hurt Bektic and he started to fold as Elkins finished him off with a kick to the head for good measure while Bektic flopped over forward and Elkins let out a scream of joy in victory, extending his current winning streak to four.
Elkins has been known throughout his career mostly for his grinding, pressure wrestling style of fighting. He has definitely been one of the UFC’s most consistent grinders over the recent years. Relentless with his wrestling when he gets a hold of you and incredibly durable, it makes Elkins a tough fight for most anyone at 145 or 155 lbs. Despite his great durability, Elkins best route to victory would be through the grappling department which could create some interesting exchanges and scrambles or make for rather boring results. After looking back at how Bermudez rebounded from his loss before his most recent recent (against Jeremy Stephens), he admitted to wanting to fight a bit smarter which led him to utilizing his wrestling to it’s fullest when he defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri by unanimous decision. Therefore, this bout has a great chance of being a grinding mat battle.
For Dennis Bermudez, his last outing didn’t quite turn out as well as it Elkins' did. Bermudez main evented UFC Fight Night 104 against the returning “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. Bermudez found early success and even had Jung hurt at one point, only to find himself on the end of a nasty uppercut that was just too much as Bermudez was finished in the very first round. It’s this kind of unpredictability that makes this sport so interesting and exciting. Bermudez himself isn’t at all a bad wrestler. Being in his fair share of fantastic fights and with wins over some of the best at Featherweight (including current champion, Max Holloway), Bermudez will not be shy to engage in a war with Elkins.
Prediction: Bermudez RD3 Sub
Weidman vs Gastelum
“Must win” may be the perfect description for Chris Weidman when it comes to this fight with Kelvin Gastelum. Fighting back at home and looking to snap what is now a three fight losing streak, Chris Weidman hasn’t won a fight since UFC 187 when he defended his Middleweight title against Vitor Belfort. Belfort also happens to be Gastelum’s last victory as well (at least it was until being overturned due to a failed drug test for marijuana). Despite the losing streak, a win over a former champion in Weidman would undoubtedly be Gastelum’s biggest and a win that would put him just a fight or two away from a potential Middleweight title shot.
A true clash of riding all the momentum vs needing any win, this really could make for one of those classic fights. Pretty evenly matched are the two when it comes to skill, it's just the variables surrounding that make it even more interesting than it already is. Weidman being the bigger fighter should give him the significant edge in the grappling. Not to say Gastelum isn't a good grappler as well, the size just may be too big of a difference in that department. It may not be though as in Gastelum's return to 185, he defeated equally talented wrestler/grappler in Tim Kennedy who even got Gastelum down three times to none in the fight but could not hold him down for very long and unload much damage. Weidman, however, is a much more offensive grappler than Kennedy therefore making it much more dangerous for Gastelum to be underneath him than it was with Kennedy because of his mixed submission threats. In the striking they're pretty evenly matched as well. Though it's safe to say that Gastelum has the speed advantage and has just been putting it all together lately. His combos and footwork have just looked so crisp and fluid in his recent outings and really show how much he's improving. Truly a great match up and one that no matter the results will make the Middleweight division's future that much more exciting.
Prediction: Gastelum RD4 (T)KO
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