UFC is back on Fox on Saturday with four+ hours of fights featuring the promotion’s debut at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum, headlined by middleweight title contender Kelvin Gastelum taking on former champ and hometown boy Chris Weidman in a bout that could determine a future challenger for the 185-pound title.
Featherweights take the co-main event spot as Darren Elkins will try to keep an impressive streak going as he does battle with former TUF finalist and local fighter Dennis Bermudez.
Yet another local fighter, Gian Villante, meets former barista Patrick Cummins in a light heavyweight fight while Jimmie Rivera meets Thomas Almeida in a must-see bantamweight tilt.
For the fifth fight of our panel picks, we’re starting early with the show-opening fight featuring a pair of local lightweights with Chris Wade vs. Frankie Perez.
Panel picks are listed below with the panelist’s 2017 records is in parentheses. Listed alongside the fighter’s names are their worldwide FightMatrix rankings, as well as BestFightOdds.com betting odds. We also have panel consensus picks as well as a line where we show how the betting favorites did:
John Pollock (35-16; .686) — new dad, Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
Favorites (35-16; .686)
Dave Meltzer (33-18; .647) — Wrestling Observer publisher
Consensus Picks (32-18; .640)
David Bixenspan (32-19; .627) – Deadspin pro wrestling columnist; Between the Sheets podcast host
Mike Sempervive (31-20; .608) — Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
Mike Sawyer (30-21; .588) — Tough Talk MMA publisher
Steve Juon (30-21; .588) — MMA Mania writer, Angry Marks publisher
Josh Nason (30-21; .588) — Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out, WrestlingObserver.com assistant editor
Tom Lawlor (8-6; .571) – Co-host Filthy Four Daily; pro wrestling undercard fighter; UFC enhancement talent currently suspended due to wellness violation
Ryan Frederick (28-23; .549) — WrestlingObserver.com UFC writer
Paul Fontaine (26-25; .510) — MMADraws.com publisher, WrestlingObserver.com writer
Front Row Brian (25-26; .490) — MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host
> Chris Weidman (13-3) vs Kelvin Gastelum
Weidman has lost three straight after starting his career with an impressive 13-fight win streak that took him all the way to the UFC title and three successful defences. Now, he’s on the verge of being knocked out of contention thought and badly needs a win here. After having highly publicized weight issues after previous competing at welterweight, former TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum — who won that tournament at 185 — will add his name to a growing list of potential title challengers if he gets a win here.
It’s an intriguing fight with a lot on the line and somewhat surprisingly, the oddsmakers have Weidman as a slight underdog.
Weidman #7; +148 betting underdog: Frederick, Lawlor, Pollock, Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer
Gastelum #10; -155 betting favorite: FRB, Juon, Sawyer, Sempervive, Bixenspan
> Darren Elkins (22-5) vs Dennis Bermudez (16-6)
Elkins has been on the most impressive run of his career, completely dominating each of his last four fights including a late 3rd round stoppage win over heavily favoured Mirsak Bektic in his last fight. Despite that fact, he finds himself in the underdog position against Bermudez here. Bermudez is coming off a stunning first round KO loss at the hands of The Korean Zombie, which was his third stoppage loss in the last five fights. He needs a win here to remain relevant in the division and to do so, he’ll have to find a way to stop the mauling that Elkins will attempt to put on him.
Elkins #7; +188 betting underdog: Juon, Fontaine, Bixenspan
Bermudez #25; -199 betting favorite: Frederick, FRB, Lawlor, Sawyer, Pollock, Sempervive, Nason, Meltzer
> Gian Villante (16-6) vs Patrick Cummins (9-4)
After picking up an impressive KO win in his first fight in his home state in his pro career, Villante suffered a setback in being KO’d by former champion Shogun Rua in Brazil earlier this year. Villante had his moments in that fight, however, and will need all the power at his disposal to smother the wrestling game of Cummins. The guy famous for fighting Daniel Cormier on short notice has lost 3 of his last 5 and shown vulnerability to the KO, being finished in all of his losses. Another loss here could send him packing.
Villante #27; -152 betting favorite: Frederick, FRB, Lawlor, Sawyer, Sempervive, Fontaine, Bixenspan
Cummins #28; +145 betting underdog: Juon, Pollock, Nason, Meltzer
> Jimmie Rivera (20-1) vs Thomas Almeida (22-1)
Rivera dominated former WEC champ Urijah Faber in his last fight to pick up his fourth straight UFC win and 19th in a row overall. The former WEC and Bellator veteran made the most of his second chance in the UFC after dropping an exhibition fight to Dennis Bermudez on the TUF 14 show and now finds himself on the fringe of title contention.
Almeida started his career with 21 straight wins before running into current divisional champ Cody Garbrandt in the main event of an FS1 show last May. He rebounded to KO Albert Morales in his last fight and hopes to keep that run going and eventually get a rematch with the champion.
Rivera #4; -187 betting favorite: Frederick, FRB, Lawlor, Sawyer, Pollock, Sempervive, Fontaine, Bixenspan, Meltzer
Almeida #28; +175 betting underdog: Juon, Nason
> Chris Wade (11-3) vs Frankie Perez (10-3)
Perez briefly retired after picking up his first UFC win against Sam Stout two years ago in Saskatoon. He returned last December and dropped a decision to Marc Diakese but hopes to rebound here close to his home of New Jersey.
New York State’s own Wade will attempt to kick off the show with a win for the locals in a show stacked with New York fighters. He’s lost two in a row after opening his UFC career with four straight wins and this could be his last chance to keep collecting checks from UFC.
Wade #107; -278 betting favorite: Frederick, FRB, Juon, Sawyer, Pollock, Sempervive, Fontaine, Bixenspan, Nason, Meltzer
Perez #295; +290 betting underdog: Lawlor
The rest of the card:
> Lyman Good (19-3) vs Elizeu Zaleski (16-5)
Good NR; -155 betting favorite
Zaleski; #49; +160 betting underdog
> Rafael Natal (21-8-1) vs Eryk Anders (8-0)
Natal #32; +105 betting underdog
Anders #159; -115 betting favorite
> Ryan LaFlare (13-1) vs Alex Oliveira (17-4-1)
LaFlare #23; -175 betting favorite
Oliveira #13; +165 betting underdog
> Damian Grabowski (20-4) vs Chase Sherman (10-3)
Grabowski #83; +220 betting underdog
Sherman #161; -235 betting favorite
> Kyle Bochniak (7-1) vs Jeremy Kennedy (10-0)
Bochniak #202; +225 betting underdog
Kennedy #52; -240 betting favorite
> Brian Kelleher (17-7) vs Marlon Vera (11-3-1)
Kelleher #11; -205 betting favorite
Vera #50; +195 betting underdog
> Timothy Johnson (11-3) vs Junior Albini (13-2)
Johnson #24; -225 betting favorite
Albini #146; +215 betting underdog
Shane Burgos (9-0) vs Godofredo Pepey (13-4)
Burgos #58; -333 betting favorite
Pepey #44; +355 betting underdog
Action begins with the Fight Pass prelims at 4:00 PM EST and moves over to Fox at 6 PM EST. The main card also airs on Fox at 8 PM EST, and will be covered by our own Ryan Frederick.
Josh Nason spoke with Mark La Monica of Newsday of the Fight Network in detail about this card, among other things, on the latest edition of Josh Nason’s Punch-Out
UFC on Fox 25 discussion on the Board, including Ryan Frederick’s extensive preview of the card, along with fighter notes