The 25th installment of UFC on FOX will be taking place this Saturday, and the promotion has put together a pretty well-rounded card. UFC on FOX 25 is being headlined by an important bout in the middleweight division between former champ Chris Weidman and top prospect Kelvin Gastelum. This card also features an exciting match-up between top bantamweight contenders Jimmie Rivera and Thomas Almeida, and a relevant featherweight contest in Dennis Bermudez vs. Darren Elkins.
What: UFC on Fox 25
Where: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, N.Y.
When: Saturday, July 22. The five-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 4 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX preliminary card begins at 6 p.m. ET, and the four-fight main card begins at 8 p.m. ET also on FOX.
This is a fascinating fight not only stylistically, but also for what it means for the UFC’s middleweight division. A win here has very different meanings for both fighters. For Kelvin Gastelum, a win could possibly earn him a title shot or a title eliminator bout. While for Chris Weidman, a victory could save his career and maybe, but not likely, his UFC job.
Weidman (13-3) is a very complete grappler. The former champ has a strong wrestling base, but he’s not limited by it. Weidman is great at winning scrambles, achieving favorable positions, and locking up submissions. Apart from being a very complete and dominant grappler, Weidman has some solid boxing and can kick well too. The 33-year-old is also one of the bigger middleweights and that only enhances his grappling.
Gastelum (13-2 and one no-contest) is likely the smallest guy at 185, having fought most of his career in the UFC at welterweight. Yet, that’s not really an issue, as Gastelum is surprisingly strong and can outpower many 185-pounders. Gastelum is a crafty striker that can piece together very smooth combinations throughout the entire fight. The Kings MMA product is also a skilled wrestler and hasn’t had problems taking down heavier opposition. At middleweight, Gastelum is quicker than most fighters and his cardio is also better than most.
Being eight years younger than Weidman and having less mileage, Gastelum is the more durable fighter here, and that’s both in the ability to handle wear and the ability to maintain a pace for a longer period of time. And since this is a five-round fight, Gastelum should have a big advantage. I think technique for technique these two are fairly close with Gastelum being slightly the better on the feet and Weidman being a tad better on the ground. This should be a competitive bout early on, and I can see Weidman seizing an early lead, but eventually I think Gastelum’s cardio and durability will allow him to get the victory.
This a great co-main event, pitting two of the most durable, and gritty fighters at featherweight.
Dennis Bermudez (16-6) is probably the best athlete in the featherweight division. “The Menace” is quick, strong, explosive, has cardio for days and fights with a pace he knows his opponents can’t keep up. Bermudez is a decent striker with clean wrestling, great grappling control, and strong ground-and-pound. Bermudez’s weaknesses have been his submission defense, and at times, his chin.
His opponent, Darren Elkins (22-5), is not much different than Bermudez. ‘The Damage’ is incredibly tough and has great conditioning. Elkins might not have the same strength, speed or explosiveness as Bermudez, but he carries a better chin. Elkins is also a great wrestler but that is not entirely based on his technique. Elkins outwrestles opponents because he’s extremely active and persistent in obtaining or keeping top positions.
This should be a very gritty and close-quarter war, but I think the stronger and more technical grappler will come out on top here. Bermudez is a far more technical and stronger wrestler. Bermudez only loses to guys that have a great ability to finish fights, whether it’s with submissions or strikes. Unfortunately for Elkins, he’s not best finisher, having gone to a the distance seven times in his last eight bouts. I see Bermudez using his superior wrestling and athleticism to outpoint Elkins
This matchup makes plenty of sense for both fighters, and just seems to be the right fight to make. Both Cummins and Villante have proved to be solid competitors, but it seems, at least until now, that their ceilings stop at the top 10 of the division.
Cummins (9-4) is a two-time NCAA Division I All-American, and he’s proven that inside the Octagon. The 36-year-old fighter is one of the more athletic guys in the 205-pound division. Cummins’ striking is not great, but it’s solid enough to set up his takedowns. On the other hand, Villante (15-8) hasn’t defeated the same caliber guys Cummins has, but he’s not too far off. Villante is a tough fighter with decent boxing and good power behind his strikes. Villante isn’t afraid to get into a fire fight and that can sometimes play against him, as he’s had tough times keeping a high pace.
I think Cummins will likely walk out with a win here. There is a chance Villante can catch Cummins with a hard shot, as Cummins has been stopped with strikes in all of his four losses. It can go either way, but I see Cummins’ cardio and grinding style wearing down Villante.
What a fantastic bantamweight match up to start off the main card. Jimmie Rivera vs. Thomas Almeida is a fight between two heavy hitters that show tons of promise and make part of the new blood of the division.
Jimmie Rivera (20-1) has beaten his last 19 opponents and has shown improvement in his diverse arsenal every time he’s stepped in the Octagon. Rivera made big noise in the 135-pound division with his last outing in September where he outpointed former WEC featherweight champion and long time UFC contender Urijah Faber. Rivera is a solid striker that likes to put together combinations that rely on quick hooks, much like Brad Pickett, who had a good amount of success striking against Almeida. Rivera is also an incredible athlete with excellent wrestling. Rivera’s wrestling enhances his striking well, as he’s always threatening with the takedown even if his intention is to strike.
Meanwhile, Almeida (22-1) is another very dangerous striker but in a very different style than Rivera. The Brazilian fights taller than Rivera and likes to mix things up with more kicks. Almeida is likely to have more power behind his strikes than Rivera, but his chin is more questionable, as he’s been wobbled several times in his fights.
This should be an action-packed fight and it’s a promising candidate for Fight of the Night. Almeida has been taken down before in his fights against decent wrestlers, and I find Rivera to be the most skilled wrestler Almeida has faced in the UFC. I think Rivera will exploit his grappling advantage and take the fight to the ground. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rivera got the better from the striking, as Rivera fights with pressure and likes to throw many hooks, which has given Almeida issues in the past.
Timothy Johnson def. Júnior Albini