When the ban on mixed martial arts was finally lifted in New York, the UFC immediately hit the market in November of 2016. It would be a historical return to New York, as Conor McGregor would become the UFC’s first ever two-division champion at Madison Square Garden. The UFC didn’t stop there either, as they’ve already hosted events in Buffalo, Albany and Brooklyn. Now, the UFC comes the Island – Long Island.
Headlining the card is the former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, who takes on rising contender and TUF 17 Winner Kelvin Gastelum. In what should be a great fight, the implications for the winner weigh heavily.
The Long Island native Weidman, has lost three fights in a row and is in must-win territory. A win would re-establish himself back into title contention and a loss would force either move to Light Heavyweight or fights against lower-tier Middleweights. As for Gastelum, the move to Middleweight has been very successful. A win over perennial contender Tim Kennedy, as well an annihilation of Vitor Belfort (overturned due to Marijuana) proved that Gastelum’s short stature means nothing. Skill overcomes brawn.
Anyways, let’s just get to the predictions!
UFC on FOX 25 Main Card (8 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum – This is a solid fight in the Middleweight division. Weidman comes into this bout on a three-fight losing streak and desperately needs to win here. Gastelum is on a two-fight win streak, although we all know it’s a three-fight win streak (Belfort win overturned). Weidman is a serviceable striker with superior wrestling and top control. His bread and butter is when he’s able to get into top control and reign down ground-and-pound. Gastelum on the other end has some wrestling abilities, but is more known for his technical striking. It doesn’t hurt that he packs a punch too.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Weidman. If you think about it, he’s a poor spinning back kick away from maybe not losing his title, a flying knee in the third round away from edging out a decision victory over Romero and a controversial/weird ending against Mousasi away from possible a decision victory. All hypothetical though… Anyways, I think that Weidman is going to have at least 20 pounds on Gastelum come fight night and add that with the fact that he’s 5 inches taller and will have a 6.5 reach advantage. I believe Weidman will have success on the feet, which will lead to his patented take downs. He’s going to be heavy on Gastelum and I think he will eventually sneak in a submission.
145 lbs.: Dennis Bermudez vs. Darren Elkins – So, I got Bermudez here. I think that while Elkins is one of the most durable fighters in the world, his skills are very simple. He’s a strong grappler that has subpar striking. He’s not an athlete, but he makes up for that with his ability to take punishment and keep coming forward with his ridiculous cardio. The problem here is that Elkin’s is basically a poor man’s Bermudez.
Bermudez is solid wrestler, with heavy hands and cardio for days. He’s also shown the ability to take punishment and keep coming forward, despite his recent losses. His athleticism alone is going to cause problems for Elkins and I envision a beat down here. I can see a route to a finish here, but Elkins is so damn tough. So with that, I got Bermudez via decision.
205 lbs.: Patrick Cummins vs. Gian Villante – This is a tough fight to call, just because of each’s weaknesses. Cummins is a great wrestler, but his striking abilities are subpar and his striking defense is even worse. Villante is power striker with no killer instincts and a porous gas tank. The deeper this fight goes, the better for Cummins. However, I just can’t trust Cummins chin to take a punch from Villante. So with that, I have Villante via KO.
135 lbs.: Thomas Almeida vs. Jimmie Rivera – Interesting fight with big implications for the winner. Almeida, has collected a 5-1 record in the UFC, with four of those wins coming via knockout. He’s a heavy handed striker, who will eat a punch just to throw a punch. However, that’s not going to work against Rivera. He’s a cerebral fighter, who will use a combination of leg strikes and punches to pick you apart. He doesn’t have huge power in his hands, but his volume will wear you down. Rivera also is a solid wrestler and could use that here to neutralize Almeida striking.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Rivera. With 19 consecutive victories, four of which are in the UFC, Rivera is clicking at the right time. Although the Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt is injured and challenger T.J. Dillashaw is awaiting that title shot, Rivera with a win will creep into contention. A fight against former Champion Dominick Cruz in my opinion would make sense. Anyways, Rivera via decision.
UFC on FOX 25 Prelims Card (6 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Lyman Good vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos – Honestly, this is a tough fight to call. But, from what I’ve seen is that Good is physically a brute and he’s got solid wrestling abilities. And While dos Santos is a volume striker, his takedown defense hasn’t looked all too sharp. I think Good could exploit that and take this one via a hard fought decision.
185 lbs.: Rafael Natal vs. Eryk Anders – Normally i’d side with the veteran in Natal here, but he’s been on a steady decline. And while he gets a debuting fighter, I think the athleticism of Anders is going to be too much. The former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker had a very successful amateur career and now he’s 8-0. While this is a very tough fight and on short notice, I think he’s going to find that Natal’s chin is on the decline. So with that, I have Anders via TKO!
170 lbs.: Ryan LaFlare vs. Alex Oliveira – This is a fun fight and a tough one to call. On one end, I can see LaFlare using his volume striking mixed with takedowns for three rounds en route to a decision victory. On the other, I can Oliveira catching LaFlare on the feet or even in guard. Ughhh…. I’m going to go with Olivieira. Despite his gas tank issues, he’s more dangerous on the feet and on the ground. LaFlare is not a power puncher or a finisher, so Oliveira is going to have three rounds to get it done. I think he does, as I have Oliveira winning this via submission.
265 lbs.: Chase Sherman vs. Damian Grabowski – I used to be high on Grabowski and always wondered why the UFC never signed him. Well they did and he’s looked like dog shit to be frank. It doesn’t get better here, as Sherman is going to hand Grabowski his pink slip after he wakes up. So with that, I have Sherman via knockout.
UFC on FOX 25 Prelims On Fight Pass (4 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Kyle Bochniak vs. Jeremy Kennedy – I’ve got Kennedy here, as I think he’s already shown to have a strong wrestling game with solid ground and pound. He’s already 2-0 in the UFC and his victory over veteran Rony Jason already proved to me that he’s got a bright future in the Featherweight division. So with that, I got Kennedy via decision.
135 lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs. Marlon Vera – I like Vera and I think he has potential, but his take down defense is poor. And it’s going to lead to his downfall in this fight, as Kelleher is going to take him down at will. So with that, I have Kelleher cruising to a decision victory.
265 lbs.: Junior Albini vs. Timothy Johnson – Never heard of Albini, but looking more in-depth at his record, he’s faced nothing spectacular competition-wise. Johnson isn’t the best striker, as his bead-and-butter is the grind. He puts his opponents against the cage and works his dirty boxing. I see more of the same here…. Johnson via decision.
145 lbs.: Shane Burgos vs. Godofredo Pepey – Man, Pepey is a wild man and he’s going to look to pull off some crazy submission or flying knee, but I like Burgos here. The dude is a solid striker and he’s definitely got some pop, as he showed in his last fight against Charles Rosa. With an already 2-0 record in New York UFC events, Burgos pushes that to 3-0 when Pepey runs into a punch. Burgos via KO!
155 lbs.: Frankie Perez vs. Chris Wade – Close fight, but I fade Wade. He’s definitely not going to win the striking exchanges, as he’s simply just not good on the feet. However, he’s a solid grappler and he’s going to get the better of Perez in that aspect en route to a decision victory.