Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight contenders Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastelum will clash TONIGHT (July 22, 2017) at UFC on FOX 25 inside Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
Is this Weidman’s last stand? Very possibly. He’s not likely to be released with a loss, but a potential four straight losses removed from being an undefeated champion is quite the slide.
That’s the fate Weidman will be fighting to avoid.
Meanwhile, Gastelum may be messing up with his weight and failing a drug test for marijuana. In the cage, however, he’s been devastatingly effective at both of his weight classes.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Anderson Silva (UFC 168, UFC 162), Lyoto Machida (UFC 175), Vitor Belfort (UFC 187)
Key Losses: Luke Rockhold (UFC 194), Yoel Romero (UFC 205), Gegard Mousasi (UFC 210)
Keys to Victory: At his best, Weidman is elite in every area: an All-American wrestler, submission ace, and smart puncher. Even in his recent losses, he’s displayed real skill and had strong moments, but some mix of a weaker gas tank and poor decision-making his cost him dearly.
This is his first 25 minute bout in some time, which means it’ll be a real test of those issues.
It’s also a fight in which Weidman has a clearer path to victory. Compared to his recent foes, Gastelum is smaller and easier to take down. In fights where he’s able to land consistent takedowns, he generally comes out on top.
Gastelum won’t make it easy for him, but if Weidman is in shape, he should be able to control the former Welterweight. There’s no need for him to worry about Gastelum’s sharp 1-2 if he’s on his back, trapped underneath the grappling specialist.
Record: 13-2 (1)
Key Wins: Johny Hendricks (UFC 200), Tim Kennedy (UFC 206), Rick Story (UFC 171), Uriah Hall (TUF 17 Finale)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 183), Neil Magny (UFC Fight Night 78)
Keys to Victory: Gastelum is a really interesting fighter. He relies on the jab and cross almost exclusively on the feet, yet he picks apart skilled fighters. He hasn’t actually relied on his offensive wrestling in some time, but it’s always there when he needs it.
In this bout, Gastelum will want to replicate his performance against Tim Kennedy. The big wrestler — one of the best in the world at top control — came out and tried to grind on the former Welterweight. It worked for a few minutes, but Gastelum’s immediate scrambling and constant offense when given room exhausted Kennedy.
Again, Weidman’s problem has been falling apart in the second round and onward. Gastelum and his endless gas tank seem to have what it takes to make that happen over the course of a five round fight.
The key is to make Weidman work constantly. Gastelum will be taken down, but that doesn’t matter if he stands back up and wastes his opponent’s energy. Similarly, each exchange on the feet is a chance to do damage — body shots would be wise — and whittle his opponent away.
Bottom Line: The winner is surprisingly close to the Middleweight title.
Currently, the next match up for the 185-pound title is clearly between Michael Bisping and Robert Whittaker. However, the rest of the Top 5 is wide open. Yoel Romero and “Jacare” Souza are coming off recent losses, while Luke Rockhold is in a state of perpetual injury since his title loss. Gegard Mousasi has jumped ship, leaving Weidman and his aforementioned trio of losses as the last member of the top five.
With a win, Weidman is suddenly the only member of the top five coming off a victory. Meanwhile, a Gastelum victory shoots him into the top five on a multi-fight win streak. Either way, the winner could receive the next shot, or be a single win away.
On the other hand, a loss definitely hurts. Defeat effectively ejects Weidman from the title mix and top five, and it puts him in a desperate position ahead of his next fight. Alternatively, it may bring reality crashing down around Gastelum. If he cannot defeat the top five at 185 lbs., he needs to find a way to fix his diet and return to Welterweight.
Tonight at UFC on FOX 25, Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastelum will face off in a pivotal Middleweight bout. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?