By: Steven Marrocco
Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman won’t back down.
Weidman (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) survived a knockdown from Kelvin Gastleum (13-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) in the opening frame to take over on the mat, securing an arm triangle at the 3:45 mark of the third round.
The middleweight bout was the main event of today’s UFC on FOX 25 event at NYCB LIVE at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. It aired on FOX following prelims on FOX and UFC Fight Pass.
Weidman, the No. 8 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, snapped a three-fight losing streak that had many MMA observers doubting whether he’d be able to keep his UFC job, let alone return to championship form.
To his critics, Weidman issued a defiant denial.
“Yo, keep doubting me, people,” he said afterward. “I know Long Island ain’t doubting me. But these other dudes around the world, keep doubting me. I dare you.”
To the current UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, a sometimes sparring partner in the media, Weidman issued a challenge.
“That British bum who’s crying in his frickin’ house right now – I’m back, baby. I’m back. What’s up. Stop hiding from the real men. I’m the champion – everyone knows it.”
For a moment, Weidman’s triumph almost turned to tragedy. Despite an obvious height and weight advantage over Gastelum, he took a left hand to the chin that put him on the canvas with just seconds to go in the round. He grabbed onto Gastelum’s leg for dear life and was saved by the bell.
“Credit to Kelvin, you can’t sit in front of him,” Weidman said of the opening-round sequence. “You’ve got to cut angles. He got me to stand in front of him for a second and made it work. That’s my first time, I think, ever being dropped. That was interesting. I didn’t go out, but a flash knockout, I think that’s what it feels like.”
Gastelum, the No. 13 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, came out swinging in the second round with the hope of finishing his early work. Instead, he caught a flurry of punches in return and fought off takedown attempts.
In the clinch and in grappling exchanges, Gastelum’s size disadvantage was plain to see. A former welterweight forced to 185 pounds after repeatedly missing weight, he could test Weidman’s speed. But when the two locked up, he frequently lost scrambles and wound up on his back.
Gastelum had hoped to climb into title contention with an upset over Weidman. In his previous bout, a first-round stoppage of ex-champ Vitor Belfort was washed away by a positive marijuana test. Weidman was a much more resilient challenge, as it turned out.
This article was first published on mmajunkie.com.