UNIONDALE, NEW YORK -- The roar proceeded Chris Weidman as he entered the back area of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before anyone knew he arrived. The 33-year-old was back again, back to his old neighborhood, back where he used to street fight the locals and where they had a sense this tough kid would amount to something bigger. The college he wrestled for, Hofstra University, was literally across the street; his high school was just over seven miles away; and the man he was two years ago made a return, too, in the UFC on Fox 25 main event.
Doubt surrounded Weidman the last two years as he lugged a three-fight losing streak. The former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion, the man who defeated the legendary Anderson Silva, made a triumphant return when he snapped his skid with a resounding submission victory over Kelvin Gastelum (13-3) on Saturday, securing an arm-triangle choke at 3:45 of the third round.
For Weidman (14-3), it was the end of a nightmare, and it could not have come in a better place.
“People forget -- they see these three losses -- I was 9-0 and beat Anderson Silva,” Weidman said. “I was fighting the best guys the sport has ever seen, one after the other, with no experience. I hit adversity when I was on top of the world. Most people hit adversity when they’re just getting started. Everyone had comments and everyone was doubting me. It was a tough situation to be in. The only ones who believed in me were my friends, my family and my coaches. That gave me the confidence to know I was the best in the world. Every single one of those fights were fights I felt I lost on my own.”
Related » UFC on Fox 25 Round-by-Round Scoring
In the featherweight co-main event, Darren Elkins (23-5) defeated local Dennis Bermudez (16-7) by split decision: 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28.
“I would say it’s the biggest win of my career,” Elkins said. “This is my first co-main event. This is five in a row for me, and he gave me the test I expected. He was going to come in and he was going to wrestle. This was an endurance type of fight and the kind of fight where I do my best. I was a little worried there in the end when you hear it’s a split decision. I thought for sure I won the first two rounds, but when they read the scorecards, I was nervous.”
Excuse Jimmie Rivera for being a perfectionist. The 28-year-old from Ramsey, New Jersey, has not lost a fight since November 2008. He carried a 19-fight winning streak into his bantamweight brawl against Thomas Almeida (21-2) and had become accustomed to winning. As a matter of fact, he expects it.
However, it was a little hard to tell whether Rivera actually won or lost after going three hard rounds with Almeida. Rivera (21-1) won a close unanimous decision in chalking up his 20th-straight victory, earning scores of 29-28, 30-26 and 30-27.
“I think about winning 20 in a row only when you ask me,” said Rivera, who was fighting for the first time since September. “I was a little skeptical in the end about the decision, because I like to put him away. Almeida is not in the UFC top 10 for a reason. He punches hard but not as hard as me. I wasn’t sure either way about the score. I had no idea. I am a perfectionist. At the end of the day, I want to finish fights. I have to go back, study the tape and learn how to finish people. That’s what I want. I have a lot of decisions under my belt, but my whole goal is finishing people. Almeida is a tough opponent. He’s not at the same skill level as I am. I stuck to what I am best at, and that’s standup.”
Rivera said he did not feel rusty from his 10-month layoff, as much as it was a few lapses in his technique.
“I wasn’t pleased that I didn’t finish, which will make me go back and look at the tape, work on myself and get better,” Rivera said. “I let him back too much. I’m my worst critic. I’m happy, but I’m not super happy. I rocked him in the first round. I just didn’t follow up, and I should have. I was a little too open, a little too big.”
In a real brawl at 205 pounds, light heavyweight Patrick Cummins (10-4) outlasted Gian Villante (15-9) by split decision: 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28. Cummins was unable to attend the post-fight press conference because of a severely swollen left eye, which required him to be taken to the hospital.
Cummins won the fight in the last half of the third round. While Villante’s energy level seemed to be leaking, Cummins, fighting with one eye, landed a few rights and couple other punches in the last minute for good measure.
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.