July 20, 2017

UFC on FOX 25: Chris Weidman Faces A Must-Win Situation In Long Island Saturday Night

By Adam Martin

If you'd have told me a few years ago that Chris Weidman would be on a three-fight losing streak and in a must-win situation to keep his job in the UFC, I wouldn't have believed you. But that's exactly the situation the former UFC Middleweight Champion finds himself in when he takes on Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC on FOX 25, which takes place Saturday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Weidman, who is now 33, was at the height of the sport in 2013 when he shocked the MMA world with a stunning second-round KO over Anderson Silva. That upped Weidman's undefeated record to 10-0, and he went on to defend his title against Silva in a rematch, as well as against Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort. He was utterly dominant and easily one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the sport at the time. For a while, it looked like he may not lose to anyone in the UFC middleweight division.

But that's when Luke Rockhold came along, and he took Weidman's title with a one-sided victory at UFC 194, ending Weidman's two-year-plus reign as the middleweight champion. Weidman took a ton of damage in the Rockhold fight, and so it wasn't necessarily a shock when he pulled out of the pair's scheduled rematch at UFC 199 just a few months later with an injury, a move that led Michael Bisping to getting the title shot and pulling off an incredible upset with a KO of Rockhold.

Bisping's victory over Rockhold set off a chain reaction in the middleweight division. Instead of Weidman or Rockhold getting the chance to regain the title, the UFC instead chose to match up Bisping with Dan Henderson at UFC 203. This meant Weidman needed to take another fight to keep his ranking in the division, and the UFC matched him up with Yoel Romero at UFC 205, the promotion's debut show in New York City. Weidman was once again knocked out, this time in the third round via Romero's highlight-reel flying knee.

With two straight losses on his record, the UFC decided to match Weidman up with Gegard Mousasi at UFC 210, and Weidman suffered his third-consecutive TKO loss, although it wasn't without controversy. The referee had initially stopped the fight due to illegal knees, but on replay the knees were deemed legal and the doctor stopped the fight, handing Weidman a TKO loss. Even though there was some controversy, there's no doubt Weidman was badly hurt, and regardless of what happened in the Mousasi fight, losing three straight fights via TKO is not a good look. It's definitely fair to say the former champion is on a decline now, and damage is likely a big factor in his decline, with all of his injuries and knockout losses starting to add up.

The UFC isn't doing Weidman any favors by matching him up against Gastelum, who has looked unbelievable since moving up to middleweight. Although Weidman will have the size advantage, and presumably the wrestling advantage as well, Gastelum has a huge speed edge, the better striking attack, and a better chin. He's also a lot younger. Weidman is going to have the hometown fans in his favor, but it might not be enough. The chips are stacked against him, and if he wants to pull off the upset he's going to have to return to the form he had when he was knocking out guys like Silva and Belfort. Because if he looks like he has in his recent fights against Gastelum, this may not end well for him.

Weidman is still one of the top 10 middleweights in the UFC, but he's quickly falling down the ladder. While he's just a few years from being the best 185-pounder on the planet and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, he's now on a three-fight losing streak and fighting for his job against Gastelum at UFC on FOX 25. It's a tough matchup on paper for the former champion, but with so much to fight for, you'd have to expect him to leave everything he has inside the Octagon, and that should make for a great main event fight.

UFC on FOX 25: Weidman vs. Gastelum takes place July 22, 2017 at NYCB LIVE in Uniondale, New York.

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