Previewing UFC on FOX 25
The UFC returns to FOX on Saturday night and is coming to us live for the first time from the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York. The torrid pace of the summer schedule for the UFC rumbles on and this time it comes in live on FOX. This is what the whole point of the UFC’s broadcast deal was, and that was to get the fights on the biggest networks possible. Having the card on FOX is a huge deal as usual, and this card is no different. The main event features former Middleweight Champion Chris “The All-American” Weidman (13-3 #5 Ranked Middleweight) going up against The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 Winner Kelvin Gastelum (14-2 #8 Ranked Middleweight). With 4 plus hours of fights set up for just fox plus 5 exclusive UFC Fight Pass prelims, Saturday will be filled with UFC action so let’s preview the event.
Leading off the UFC Fight Pass prelims are two Lightweights Frankie Perez (10-3) and Chris Wade (11-3). These two have actually met before in 2014 in Ring of Combat for the Lightweight title with Wade taking a split decision and retaining. Frankie Perez comes into this fight off a loss back in December to rising prospect Marc “Bonecrusher” Diakiese (12-1). Prior to that, he had secured his 1st UFC victory with a first round knockout of retired longtime UFC veteran Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout (20-12-1). Perez has racked up 5 submission victories in his 13 fight career and is very proficient on the ground. Perez will need to use that grappling ability to stay out of trouble and make Wade fight on his terms. Chris Wade is desperate for a win following a 2 fight losing streak both by unanimous decision. Both of those fights were much more grappling than anything else, but Wade did show great resilience and defense on the ground, along with some decent striking in those spots. Wade came into the UFC and won his first 4 fights including 2 first round submissions. This one should be a really good battle between opponents who have looked across the cage against each other once before, and that drama should be great to kick off the night. Prediction: Chris Wade via Decision.
“Hurricane” Shane Burgos (9-0) comes in looking to remain undefeated against The Ultimate Fighter Brazil runner up Godofredo Pepey (14-4). Burgos is coming in off a knockout victory in the Fight of the Night in his last appearance at UFC 210 in April and looked very good doing so. He is a talented young fighter who has finished 3 of his last 4 fights with knockouts. However, his ground game cannot be fooled, because he has finished just as many fights via submission as he has with his knockout power. Burgos has a tough task in Pepey ahead of him, but so far he has been able to stand up to every challenge. Godofredo Pepey rebounded in September of 2016 with a 1st round submission victory that improved his UFC record to 5-4. Pepey’s goal usually is to get his Jiu Jitsu in play as early as possible. He has great submission skills, and if he can get on Burgos on the mat it could be an early night. This is a stylistic matchup that could produce a really good fight. Prediction: Shane Burgos via TKO.
Top 15 Ranked UFC Heavyweight Timothy Johnson (11-3 #12 Ranked Heavyweight) will welcome Junior “Baby” Albini (13-2) to the UFC. Johnson has been on both the winning and losing end of split decisions in his last 2 appearances in the UFC and has a record of 3-2 in his UFC career. Johnson will be looking for a finish early and often be it on the mat or on the feet. He arrived in the UFC with a 1st round knockout in 2015 but since has continuously gone to the judges. The good thing there is he has shown some decent stamina and can survive all three rounds, which sometimes can be difficult in the Heavyweight division. Albini enters the UFC on a 9 fight winning streak with 7 of those being finishes. He is another well rounded MMA fighter who has 5 knockouts and 6 career submissions to his name. The Brazilian will be looking to make a splash in the UFC and debut with a win over a currently ranked Heavyweight opponent. Prediction: Junior Albini via Decision.
It is a quick turnaround for Brian “Boom” Kelleher (17-7) as he enters the Octagon to take on Marlon “Chito” Vera (9-3-1). Kelleher was just in the cage at the beginning of June, and here he is 7 weeks later on the undercard of this FOX card. That fight was Kelleher’s UFC debut and he left the cage in under 2 minutes with a submission victory over UFC veteran Iuri “Marajo” Alcantara (34-8 1NC). Kelleher has great submission skills, and that UFC debut was just the latest example and his 8th career submission victory. Kelleher however also has 6 knockouts, so his power cannot sleep on either. Marlon Vera is riding a 2 fight win streak including defeating now retired Brad “One Punch “Pickett (25-14) with a head kick and punches for a TKO. Vera is no necessarily a knockout artist, but he has those flashes for sure. He also has the ability to get the job done in the grappling world with 5 submissions to his name. These two guys are most certainly going to go for it right off the bat and it has the potential to be a Fight of the Night contender. Prediction: Brian Kelleher via Decision.
The featured UFC Fight Pass Prelim has undefeated prospect Jeremy “JBC” Kennedy (10-0) taking on Kyle “Crash” Bochniak (7-1). Kennedy has spent 30 minutes in the cage in his 2 UFC fights and took both fights by decision. At 24 years old Kennedy has his best years ahead of him, and with his ability to grind out the decision victories when he is in a great spot. He has also finished multiple opponents in his career and certainly has the finishing ability. Bochniak comes in following his first UFC victory after dropping his UFC debut, again both fights for him went to decision. However, Bochniak has been able to finish multiple fights in the past as well. Bochniak is set to return to the Octagon for the first time in almost a year, and you have to imagine he will be raring to get out there and look to finish this one. Prediction: Jeremy Kennedy via Decision.
The FOX preliminary card starts next with two Heavyweights doing battle as Damian “The Polish Pitbull” Grabowski (20-4) taking on Chase “The Vanilla Gorilla” Sherman (10-3). Grabowski has yet to win a UFC appearance, and in fact, has been knocked out in the first round of both of his appearances. Grabowski’s lack of success in the UFC cannot over shadow his 20 wins prior to the biggest stage in Mixed Martial Arts, however. Especially the 11 career submissions for the Heavyweight, who most certainly will be looking to take this fight to the ground and avoid the fate he has had in his first 2 UFC appearances. Sherman is coming in off a UFC 211 Fight of the Night performance with his knockout victory in Dallas. That was his first career UFC victory and was just a wild brawl, where both guys went for the knockout from the second the match started. Sherman and his record both leave little to the imagination of what his game plan. He will come out and try to knock out his opponent like he has 10 other guys in his 10 career wins. There is little sugar coating for Sherman in this situation, and he will look to get out of Long Island with another knockout to his name. There is very little chance looking at this one on paper to expect it to get anywhere near the judges. Prediction: Chase Sherman via TKO.
Ryan LaFlare (13-1 #14 Ranked Welterweight) returns to the Octagon in front of his home town fans to take on Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (16-3-1 2NC). LaFlare had been out of action for just over a year before returning to the UFC in February of 2017 with an impressive decision victory. LaFlare’s grappling looked great and he was able to dominate the decision. He has now entered the rankings of the 170lb division which will mean a step up in competition especially if he gets past Oliveira. He has gone to a decision in all 7 of his UFC appearances and has faced serious competition including Welterweight number 1 contender Demian Maia (25-6) who delivered him his only loss. LaFlare will need to get start to finish some fights to really advance his position, but another win would go a long way. For Oliveira, he is coming off an impressive submission victory of Tim “The Dirty Bird” Means (27-9-1 1NC). Oliveira is 6-2 in the UFC and he has been able to win via knockout and submission throughout his time in the UFC. This is one of those fights that could be a fight of the night, or stylistically we could be in for a slow 3 round decision. Prediction: Ryan LaFlare via Decision.
UFC Veteran Rafael “Sapo” Natal (21-8-1) will be up next to take on Eryk “Ya Boi” Anders (7-0) who will be making his UFC debut. Natal is riding a 2 fight losing streak including a tough loss back at UFC 205 via first round knockout. This is the second time since Natal joined the UFC in 2010 that he suffered 2 straight losses in the UFC. The last time this happened he rattled off 4 straight victories and was high in the Middleweight rankings. He tow losses came against stiff competition in Robert ‘The Reaper” Whittaker (20-4 Interim Middleweight Champion) and Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch (21-11 #13 Ranked Middleweight). Natal will need to lean on his UFC experience and skills to get back on the winning side of this one and ensure his spot in the UFC. Anders is a Legacy Fighting Alliance Middleweight Champion and Bellator alum who is coming in on short notice and will look to keep his undefeated record intact. Anders has been able to finish 4 of his opponents via TKO, and if he connects it could be quick work in his debut. The question will be if he can overcome the UFC debut jitters, especially against a legit veteran like Natal. Prediction: Rafael Natal via Submission.
The Welterweights were up next with Lyman “Cyborg” Good (19-3 1NC) returning from a 6 month USADA suspension to take on Elizeu “Capoeira” Zaleski dos Santos (16-5) in the featured FOX prelim. Good is returning after being pulled from UFC 205 due to a failed USADA test. They eventually found that he tested positive due to a tainted supplement that he had purchased and his initial suspension was reduced to 6 months. Good is the first Bellator Welterweight champion who has not lost since 2012 and made a real impression in his UFC debut. He dispatched his opponent in 2 rounds via knockout and looked to be a very promising signing. Until the weird USADA situation Good was poised to try and move up the ranks, but after that little setback, this fight will be his opportunity to start a winning streak. Zaleski dos Santos has won 2 straight since dropping his UFC debut, and returns for the first time since October of last year. His 12 career knockouts tell his story, and you can rest assured that he will be swinging for the fences right away. If Zaleski dos Santos can connect it will be lights out and quick work for him on his way to a 3 fight win streak. Prediction: Lyman Good via TKO.
Kicking off the FOX main card we get a top 10 Bantamweight matchup between Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera (20-1 #4 Ranked Bantamweight) and Thomas “Thominhas” Almeida (21-1 #9 ranked Bantamweight). The last time Jimmie Rivera entered the Octagon he came away with an extremely impressive victory over now UFC Hall of Famer Urijah “The California Kid” Faber (34-10). That was his 4th win in a row since entering the UFC. He is able to grapple and keep the pace up-tempo throughout all 3 rounds, and this should be no different. He has taken his fate to the judges 14 times in his career, and that may be his goal against a very dangerous striker in Almeida. Thomas Almeida rebounded from his first career loss with a hard fought knockout victory back in November of 2016. The 25-year-old Brazilian striker has a ton of power in his hands, and with 17 knockouts to his career that should not be surprising. The striking really could be the difference in this one, but he will need to keep Rivera off of him so he can stay a distance away that will allow him to effectively use his striking. This one is a great way to kick off the FOX main card, and it is a no doubt about it Fight of the Night candidate. Prediction: Thomas Almeida via TKO.
We jump up to the Light Heavyweight Division where two Top 15 Light Heavyweights are set to do battle as Patrick “Durkin” Cummins (9-4 #12 Ranked Light Heavyweight) takes on Gian Villante (15-7 #13 Ranked Light Heavyweight). Pat Cummins was very impressive using his NCAA Division 1 wrestling background and sheer survival instincts to get back in the win column in April at UFC 210. Just because he used his wrestling to secure that victory, it does not mean he is unwilling to stand and bang. He made his UFC debut on very short notice against Daniel “DC” Cormier (19-1 Light Heavyweight Champion) back at UFC 170. Since then he has run up a 5-3 record in the UFC and has a chance to spoil a homecoming for Villante. Gian Villante is a Long Island native, and he will be fighting in front of his hometown fans. He suffered a tough 3rd round knockout loss in his last appearance to future Hall of Famer and former Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (24-10 #6 Ranked Light Heavyweight). Villante has essentially flip flopped wins and losses since joining the UFC in 2012, and he has become a stand up fighter despite having an extensive grappling background. The hands on Villante are very good and powerful, so if he finds a home for them he could send his hometown fans into a frenzy. Prediction: Gian Villante via TKO.
The Co-Main event of the evening is up next with Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez (17-6 #10 Ranked Featherweight) taking on Darren “The Damage” Elkins (23-5 #12 Ranked Featherweight). Dennis Bermudez is coming off a 1st round knockout loss to “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (14-4 #5 Ranked Featherweight) back in February. Bermudez contested the stoppage at the time, but all in all, it appeared to be a good stoppage. Bermudez has been around the UFC since 2011 and has been in the cage with the who’s who of the lower weight classes. He has some good all-around skills and will be looking grind out another solid competitor. Darren Elkins is coming off one of the greatest comeback victories in UFC history. For 2 plus rounds, he was essentially rag dolled by Mirsad Bektic (11-1 #13 Ranked Featherweight), only to come back in the third round and end the fight with a glorious head kick then punch combination finish. It was Elkins 4th straight victory and finally vaulted him into the UFC’s top 15. Having been around since 2010 in the UFC Elkins knows how hard it is to put together this type of win streak having won 5 straight in from 2011-2015. Elkins has the heart of a lion and has gone the distance more than enough times to expect anything less would be foolish. This is a great style matchup between two real grinders in the UFC and as the Co-Main event can set the table nicely. Prediction: Dennis Bermudez via Decision.
Chris “The All-American” Weidman (13-3 #5 Ranked Middleweight) is at a real crossroads in his career, and standing in his way is rising star Kelvin Gastelum (14-2). Weidman has suffered 3 straight losses including the title loss to Luke Rockhold (15-3 #3 Ranked Middleweight), former title challenger Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero (12-2 #2 Ranked Middleweight), and the controversy filled loss to recent Bellator signee Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2). It was only 4 years ago that he did the unthinkable when he ended the long reign and destroyed the mystique of Anderson “The Spider” Silva (34-8 1NC #6 Ranked Middleweight). That is the crazy part about MMA and the UFC is how fast your outlook can change. Weidman is an unbelievably talented wrestler who defended his belt 3 times before relinquishing it. The loss to Mousasi is a tough one to judge him on as well due to the controversy with the legal or not arguing about the knees that eventually stopped the fight. If Weidman can get past Gastelum, who has looked like a world beater lately, he will vault himself back into the title picture no questions asked. For Kelvin Gastelum, he has also been on a roller coaster, from missed weight targets and USADA Marijuana violations to Ultimate Fighter Champion and current Middleweight contender. Gastelum has won 2 in a row and the 3rd was a first round knockout of legend Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (26-13 1NC #11 Middleweight), but that was overturned due to the Marijuana positive test. Since moving to Middleweight, even though he says it’s no permanent, Gastelum has looked the best he has ever been in the UFC. His pinpoint striking in his defeat of Tim Kennedy (18-6) at UFC 206 was very impressive, and without the crazy weight cut, he looks more comfortable inside the Octagon. This is a big test for him in Weidman and this is the main event that will have Long Island going crazy. The crowd will most certainly be in the hometown boy’s favor, the question will be can Weidman end his current skid or will Gastelum send him into a treacherous position with his 4th straight loss. Either way, this matchup is going to produce some serious fireworks. Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum via TKO.
The UFC will make its debut on Long Island on Saturday night and it is bringing a lot of fighters from the area that will certainly have the crowd excited to cheer for their guys. There are a ton of good matchups and the main card is very exciting. The UFC could use a great week on their biggest free stage in FOX to set the table for UFC 214 on July 29th which is by far their biggest event of the year. Here’s to hoping this Saturday on FOX delivers like they want it to because if it does it will be a real treat for the fans.