UFC on FOX 25: Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum Toe to Toe Preview – A complete breakdown

Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum headlines UFC on FOX 25 this July 22, 2017 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.…

By: David Castillo | 6 years ago
UFC on FOX 25: Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum Toe to Toe Preview – A complete breakdown
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum headlines UFC on FOX 25 this July 22, 2017 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

One sentence summary

David: Can Weidman break out of his decline cocoon against Gastelum’s weed cocoon?

Phil: Chris Weidman finally gets his chance to fight in Long Island, in a bout which feels sort of primed to be the sadness cherry on top of a grief sundae


Record: Chris Weidman 13-3 Kelvin Gastelum 13-2-1 NC

Odds: Chris Weidman +150 Kelvin Gastelum -160

History / Introduction to the fighters

David: Weidman really seemed destined to take over the Spider’s throne. He dropped Anderson after Anderson pretended to be wobbled, caught him clowning, and fans figured Silva would make things right with the world. A linguini leg later, and Weidman cemented his status with a win over Machida. Now he’s old news. A wrestle-boxer who can’t deal with these dynamic strikers of middleweight. It’s an unfair characterization, but certainly warranted in some cases. It’s hard to say what the future holds for Chris. He looks genuinely exhausted in there at times – like his body is having to relive third round Yoel Romero each minute. Maybe he pulls an Arlovski and turns things around. Or maybe he pulls an Arlovski and continues crumbling.

Phil: It doesn’t seem like it was long ago that he was on the top of the world, having knocked out the biggest star in MMA at the time in a hugely viral KO. His decline has managed the neat trick of being precipitous while still leaving people the opportunity to say “well, if he’d just done [THING X] differently, maybe he would have won.”

It is, ironically, exactly the kind of things that were said about Silva after his fights against Weidman. In both cases, there were indeed errors which could be fixed… but it’s also true that something was clearly, visibly wrong. Let’s remember: Weidman was that guy who took on the greatest middleweight ever, and decided that he’d renew his contract after the fight because he was so sure that he was going to win. He was the guy who tried to take on Jones on short notice. That guy is gone.

David: It’s hard to believe we’re still talking about asterisks by fighter records just because they swallowed some weed brownies. Sure, Gastelum should be more worried about biscuits and gravy (ever had this grand ‘ole American dish, Phil? Connor wants to know) than happy grass, but still, it bothers us. Gastelum has a lot of similarities to his co main event peer, Dennis Bermudez. Inconsistency has been his problem, but in a vacuum, he’s one of the division’s most dangerous fighters.

Phil: Gastelum has been his own worst enemy for a while. A hard worker in the gym, a fantastic natural talent and a likable, affable guy, he seemed destined for stardom… if he could stay away from the food. But, he couldn’t, and so his welterweight career was constantly marred by him missing weight or showing up out of sorts, until his fight against Donald Cerrone was scrapped due to him missing weight, forcing him up to 185.

Since then, he’s sort of settled into a role as a de facto executioner for the limping horses at middleweight, dusting a faded Belfort and Tim Kennedy, who retired shortly afterwards. Of course, because he’s Kelvin Gastelum, he had the Belfort fight turned into an NC due to toking up on the wacky baccy beforehand.

What’s at stake?

Phil: I think I predicted at some point that by the time the middeweight title picture actually got resolved, every previously well known middleweight would be taken out and only Gastelum, Whittaker and Krystov Jotko would be left behind. It sort of seems to be coming true…?

David: Seems like it. All of the “stars” have either been discarded, destroyed, or diminished. Good job Chleo.

Where do they want it?

Phil: Weidman is a defined pressure fighter who steadily works his way into the pocket behind a chopping left hook and a snatch single leg. He’s an underrated kicker, able to land hard round kicks to the body and legs, and a nice snap kick up the middle. On the floor, he has a tight head-pressure game, and can work ferocious ground and pound.

Defensively, he is not strong at all, relying largely on a double forearm guard to get him out of trouble. This has been an increasing problem as Weidman’s confidence and gas tank have seemed to decline over time- if he can’t keep pressing forward, then things go downhill very very fast.

David: Weidman, at his best, is one of the game’s premiere pressure fighters. It’s a description that doesn’t fully hit you until you rewatch that Machida fight (a close bout that you’d otherwise assume was Machida’s to lose given his striking acumen). His talents aren’t obvious until you identify how much space he covers. In the nerdy-ass game, Warhammer, it’s what is called a blast template – the radius his offense hovers over and defines. His mechanics almost look unremarkable, but he expends so little energy, and employs high quality shot selection. Once he grabs a hold of you, his ground control is elite; vision, creativity, strength, and opportunism are the hallmarks of his ground game. As you mentioned, the big difference in recent years has been his durability. Where before he was iron jawed and resilient, lately he’s become a human lawn chair by contrast. He’s had a ridiculous quality of competition, but it’s weird to see him bend so easily, only to break when the laws of physics demand.

Phil: Gastelum was a small, stocky welterweight, and he’s a pretty tiny middleweight. However, he’s managed to make it work for himself with quick footwork and blindingly fast hands. He used to bounce around meaninglessly in his fights, allowing him to be timed by fighters who would catch him out of position, but he’s quickly been developing into someone who takes small steps, rolls and dips out of strikes, and is positioned to land sharp counters. He has one of the very best one-twos in the sport- these are uncommon enough from orthodox fighters, but are extraordinarily uncommon (and deeply discombobulating) for the average MMA fighter to go up against from southpaws. Once Gastelum starts slicing opponents up with them, they often look simply upset, like he’s using a cheat code.

He keeps a great pace (even when he’s missed weight), and is exceptionally difficult to keep on the ground, but retains that quick backtake and choke game which got him through his season of TUF.

David: Gastelum is at his very best doing his vintage GSP impressions – prodding with a jab, threatening with top control, and using the two to control the space and pace of the bout. Unlike GSP, his jab is not a necessity like it was for St. Pierre. GSP truly needed that jab. He didn’t have a strong left hook, and was never dynamic or especially threatening on the feet. Gastelum has a jab that pierces, and cracks. He’s not trying to land jabs on opponents. He’s trying to land jabs through his opponents. When he’s set, he’s able to throw rudimentary combinations in dynamic intervals. GSP’s name lives on, however, because he was committed to both strategy and tactics. Gastelum only ever seems interested in tactics, and even then his attention wanes in that area.

Insight from Past Fights

David: Weidman’s issues are obvious – a decline as much physiological as it looks psychological appear on course. Gastelum’s are less well understood, but still identifiable. He’s as inconsistent early in the fight as he is late in the fight. All of Weidman’s last defeats came from fighters who had power, and dynamic threats. Gastelum doesn’t fit that profile, and I wouldn’t expect him to survive on the ground for two rounds against Weidman, who is technically superior.

Phil: Weidman just has not looked great in his last few fights. The most surprising thing is his gas tank and approach, both of which are concerning for a determined pressure fighter and a reported tape junkie. Against both Romero and Mousasi, he had success in the first round, and then was completely unable to stop himself from going for the same setup until he exhausted himself.


Phil: Gastelum self-sabotage? He’s done it through food and the devil’s lettuce. Then again, his ability to hurt his chances outside of the cage are exactly matched by Weidman’s obvious mental struggles inside it.

David: Sorry. I want to write something insightful about the fight but I’m busy trying to figure out your personality through the weed euphemisms you keep using. You haven’t used the word ‘grass’ so at least I can rule the 70 year old Grateful Dead fan out.


David: Homefield advantage has been brutal to main card fighters. I gotta disagree and go against the grain on this one. And not just because I was paid thousands of dollars to talk up Weidman’s sports lab journey and help. Weidman is too young for his recent durability issues to become a staple of his near future. And I’m not confident that Gastelum can be tactical enough for all five rounds. Gastelum doesn’t pressure in a real traditional way either. He lets opportunities show him the way, and I just don’t see him having the space to take advantage of those opportunities. Nor do I see Weidman giving him much quarter. Chris Weidman by Decision.

Phil: I think this looks a lot like Kennedy/Gastelum, or Weidman/Mousasi. In this case, Gastelum works faster than Mousasi or Romero, and has more rounds for his style to wear Weidman down. So, I suspect Weidman comes out with a good gameplan, has some success, but starts to get tired, and then Gastelum simply pours on offense until Weidman is finished, and we get a very sad post-fight interview in Long Island. Kelvin Gastelum by TKO, round 3.

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David Castillo
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