Freelance: UFC on Fox 25—Can Chris Weidman Beat Kelvin Gastelum?
Former UFC middleweight (185-pound) champion. “The All-American” Chris Weidman has another stiff test in front of him in the form of a fighter that has found new life in the division after multiple failed attempts to make the 170-pound welterweight limit, Kelvin Gastelum.
Gastelum announced his return to the middleweight division in dramatic fashion by scoring a technical knockout victory over army special forces veteran Tim Kennedy at UFC 206 late last year before knocking out a legend and other former champion, Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort in a Performance of the Night award-winning on March 11. The world leader in MMA was then forced to announce that the victory had been overturned to a no-contest after the Mexican knockout artist tested positive for marijuana, although it is not performance enhancing drug (PED.)
Gastelum was the pulled from his UFC 212 bout opposite Anderson “The Spider” Silva. He was simultaneously suspended by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and overseeing Brazilian commission at the time of his test failure. USADA then announced that Gastelum’s suspension had been reduced, saying:
“Gastelum accepted a six-month period of ineligibility, which began on March 11, 2017, the date of sample collection. Based on Gastelum’s successful completion of a USADA approved drug awareness and management program, his period of ineligibility was reduced by three months and is now scheduled to expire on June 10, 2017.
Because the UFC Fight Night event in Fortaleza was sanctioned by the Comissao Atletica Brasileira de MMA (CABMMA), Gastelum’s positive test also falls under the jurisdiction of the Brazilian MMA Sports Court, which has the authority to independently adjudicate the case in accordance with CABMMA’s rules and regulations. Following the reduction to a three-month period of ineligibility, Gastelum’s sanction under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy is now identical in length to the period of ineligibility imposed by the Brazilian MMA Sports Court on May 7, 2017.”
Weidman meanwhile has dropped three consecutive fights at UFC 194, UFC 205, and UFC 210 respectively, all by KO/TKO. Yet, Weidman has opened as a favorite against Gastelum for their contest scheduled for July 22. The event will be the first UFC card held in Long Island, New York.
The Early Odds: At the time of this writing (May 17) USA Today’s MMAJunkie.com last reported that Weidman was the -150 favorite over the +120 Gastelum. The big question is: Why?
For starters, Weidman’s recent losing streak is a little deceptive as the fight was controversially stopped prematurely due to what was believed to have been an illegal knee from then-opponent, Gagard Mousasi. After reviewing replay footage, the New York State Athletic Commission deemed the shot legal but doctors did not allow the fight to go on.
The issue seems to revolve mostly around Weidman being allowed time to recover for what was thought to be an illegal maneuver but then judged otherwise after review while the referee sorted things out with the NYSAC. Primarily though, the issue is that referee Dan Mergliotta did not have the best view to determine the legality of the knee, turning to “Big John” McCarthy, an official in MMA since UFC 2.
Fellow veteran official Herb Dean explained to BJPenn.com:
“Well it is called polling. So it has always been in place with boxing even before MMA was around. If the official or referee was not in a good position to see if it (the strike) was a foul, he can use polling to determine if it was a fair or a foul blow. So yes, he can pull the other officials. If he didn’t see it. So the way you do it is you don’t ask everyone and everyone weighs in on it. What you do is you ask the other officials ‘Did you see what happened?’ and then say the first guys says ‘No I didn’t’. Then you ask the second and he says ‘Yes I did, it happened right in front of me’. He then explains what happened (what he witnessed) and that is what you go with.”
Weidman, a native New Yorker, lost the fight by doctor stoppage as mentioned (because he allegedly couldn’t answer questions such as what the current date was when he was inside the cage) and has since filed an appeal regarding the stoppage that is still pending at this time.
Why Gastelum will come out on top in Long Island: Mentality
So, that’s all that’s happened outside of the UFC’s octagon to pretty much get us where we are outside of the two men’s position in the middleweight rankings to make the fight a sensible one (Weidman is ranked at #6 while Gastelum is currently unranked due to his suspension.) Now, back to the question a hand that the very title of this article suggests: Can Weidman top this new adversary?
You learn very quickly to never say never in MMA (heck, former street fighter Kimbo Slice, WWE superstar CM Punk, and boxer James Toney all have UFC bouts under their belts. What does that say?) However, the statistics don’t lie.
The 32-year-old Weidman has a seven-inch reach advantage (78 to 71) compared to the 25-year-old Gastelum. Although the younger party dishes out more damage (4.07 landed strikes per minute to Weidman’s 2.99) and absorbs less himself (2.74 to 3.11) while beating Weidman handedly in defense 63 to 53 percent. The grappling aspects and striking accuracy of both men are practically identical.
The numbers are on Gastelum’s side, but more importantly—he very well could have a mental edge. He had to give an apology for using cannabis while getting his suspension reduced to three months (a fighter typically only gets two to three bouts in a given year) so it didn’t drastically affect his future or his training.
Gastelum is a young fighter in his prime that has worked with well-respected nutritionist George Lockhardt to get his diet right (his biggest problem.) His wrestling could always be better (particularly his takedown defense) but that’s what coaches are for. He is 2-0 (if you consider the no-contest a technicality) at his new home of 185 pounds, so the proof is there. Weidman may have something or someone else to blame for his UFC 210 defeat, but he can’t say the same for his others.
In MMA, it’s not so much about age itself as it is cumulative damage and Weidman is more open to being finished as his body slows, he suffers injuries, etc…
Weidman can still put give a valiant effort, a violent show for the fans (which is why he is in the Long Island main event and Bovada has countering odds showing both fighters as even at -130) but consecutive setbacks can make you question your skill level (look at where Holly Holm and Carlos Condit are mentally at this moment.)
Gastelum on the other hand, appears to have hammered out all of his issues (with the marijuana incident being a speed bump on his career path) and there should be no reason to believe that he won’t be in the middleweight title picture if he can string some wins together and keep his nose clean.
In short, the sport is just passing Weidman by and it looks like he’s going to be the last one to know it.
Pick: Kelvin Gastelum by KO/TKO