Chris Weidman (right) vs. Uriah Hall: Keith Mills | Sherdog.com
Few could have known at the time, but fans watching last September’s 2009 ADCC Submission Wrestling Championship in Barcelona were witnessing the coming-out parties for two of MMA’s brightest young prospects.
In the 194-pound bracket, former Hofstra All-American wrestler Chris Weidman went to Spain an unknown, but stunned the grappling community with his spirited effort against BJJ champion Andre Galvao, nearly choking out the all-world grappler twice before falling to the Brazilian 4-0 on points.
Elsewhere in the division, Iceland's Gunnar Nelson lost a referee's decision to James Brasco in his opening bout. However, Nelson was given a spot in the ADCC absolute, simply for the sake of international variety. The 22-year-old prodigy seized the opportunity, shocking former ADCC heavyweight champion Jeff Monson on points in the first round, before choking out the well-accomplished David Avellan in the quarterfinals.
This past weekend, both of these unbeaten blue-chippers added to their MMA resumes with a pair of impressive first-round stoppages, amplifying their growing buzz.
On Friday, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Weidman claimed his first MMA title when he snatched the Ring of Combat middleweight belt from Uriah Hall in a clash of the northeast’s top 185-pound prospects. Surprisingly, Weidman chose to showcase his rapidly-improving stand-up game against the Tiger Schulmann-trained striker, a strategy which proved astute when Hall circled into a hard left hook two minutes into the bout. Weidman didn’t need much longer to pound out his turtling opponent, securing the third and most significant win of his embryonic MMA career.
So, has the 26-year-old New Yorker’s phone been ringing off the hook with offers since the win?
“I've got a cell phone, but it hasn’t been ringing just yet,” Weidman says. “I’m still driving my Ford Explorer, eating my bagels. Nothing’s changed yet.”
Weidman has no plans for his next bout at present, nor is he under contract with any promotion. If a major fight organization were to dial him up, Weidman says he’d consider the offer carefully.
“If I got a call, I’d talk to my coaches -- Ray Longo and Matt Serra -- [to] see what they think,” explains Weidman. “You know, those guys seem to think I’m ready. I think I’ve proved myself in wrestling and jiu-jitsu, but as far as MMA, I still have to prove that. I’d be stupid to let the hype get to my head without proving anything first.”
The day after Weidman dominated in New Jersey, at BAMMA 4 in Birmingham, England, Nelson ran over previously unbeaten Eugene Fadiora. It was Nelson's third MMA bout since he returned from an 18-month hiatus, time he dedicated to perfecting his grappling craft.
The Renzo Gracie black belt treated Fadiora exactly the same as his other opponents since his February return: takedown, back mount, rear-naked choke, inside of four minutes. The win moved the hot Icelandic prospect's record to 8-0-1.
After the drubbing of Fadiora at BAMMA 4, calls for Nelson to land a deal with a major promotion have intensified. Though MMA pundits and fans see Nelson as UFC-ready, he himself eschews the hype.
“I try not to let it have any effects on what I do,” says Nelson. “I try to be close with myself and my family when it comes to making decisions. I listen to my coaches and training partners when it comes to this; they know best where I’m good and where I need improvement.”
“I think I would do just fine in the big shows, although I want to take a little break now to work on things in the gym, and then enter later. I’m not in a rush to live my life.”
While it may be tough for some to understand how a fighter could stay put even ask the big leagues beckon, the patience and willingness to pay dues which Weidman and Nelson are displaying can only portend good things for their futures in the sport.