With his back against the wall, former UFC champion Chris Weidman delivered an outstanding performance in front of a hometown crowd Saturday night in Long Island, New York.
Weidman (14-3) submitted Kelvin Gastelum via arm-triangle at 3:45 of the third round in their middleweight main event at UFC Fight Night. It was Weidman's first victory since May 2015.
The event took place at Nassau Coliseum, down the street from Weidman's alma mater, Hofstra University, and his current gym, LAW MMA. Weidman, 33, was born and raised in Nassau County.
"If you're going through something, get to the other side," Weidman said immediately following the win. "Believe in yourself. Screw everybody else, what their opinions are."
It was an emotional celebration for Weidman, who rose to the top of the sport with back-to-back wins over Anderson Silva in 2013. He defended the 185-pound title twice before surrendering it to Luke Rockhold in late 2015.
The performance was vintage Weidman, who easily took Gastelum (13-3) to the floor in all three rounds. Weidman threatened with a kimura attempt early and landed several hard elbows from top position in the second round. His best work, however, was done in the third, when he surprised Gastelum with a stinging right hand before dragging him to the ground and securing the choke.
Weidman did suffer a knockdown in the final 10 seconds of the opening round, but he quickly sat up and grabbed on to Gastelum. He did not appear close to being knocked out.
Despite a 1-3 record in his past four bouts, Weidman wasted no time calling out current champion Michael Bisping, who has yet to fight this year because of a knee injury.
"That British bum, who's crying at his house right now, I'm back, baby," Weidman said. "Stop hiding from the real men. Let's go, baby. I'm the champion, and everybody knows it."
Gastelum, 25, looked calm throughout the bout, even though Weidman continually dragged him out of his comfort zone. In addition to the left hand with which he dropped Weidman early, he landed several good jabs but struggled to string together those bursts of offense.
The loss marks Gastelum's first since he dropped a split decision to Neil Magny in November 2015. Fighting out of Kings MMA in Southern California, Gastelum has bounced back and forth between middleweight and welterweight during his UFC career and has expressed interest in moving back down to 170 pounds.
Elkins upsets Bermudez, picks up fifth straight win
Upset specialist Darren Elkins (23-5) did it again in New York, outpointing Dennis Bermudez (16-7) via split decision. Two judges scored it 29-28 for Elkins, and the third judge had it 29-28 for Bermudez.
Fighting out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California, Elkins used his length to land punches and did well to avoid the big shot from Bermudez. His size advantage helped him in the grappling exchanges as well, and he took Bermudez's back in the opening round.
Bermudez, of Saguerties, New York, seemed to sense he was down late and turned up his intensity in the second and third rounds. He landed a handful of good right hands and opened a cut over Elkins' left eye but never truly seized momentum.
Elkins has won five in a row, including a huge come-from-behind victory over Mirsad Bektic earlier this year. Bermudez fell to 2-3 in his past five.
Cummins squeaks out split decision over Villante
A Pennsylvania native, Cummins went just 1-for-11 on takedown attempts and suffered a massive mouse under his right eye, but he scored regularly with the jab and took advantage of some questionable cardio from Villante.
Two judges scored it 29-28 for Cummins, and a third had it 29-28 for Villante. ESPN scored it 29-28 in favor of Cummins.
Cummins, 36, bled badly from a cut near the top of his head from the first round on. The cut was caused by an accidental head-butt. He showed grit in picking up his second win in a row and sixth in the UFC overall. Villante dropped to 5-6 in the UFC.
Rivera nets statement win over Almeida
Rivera, of New Jersey, dropped Almeida twice in the opening round, once with the left hook and again with a straight right. He beat Almeida to the punch regularly and took him down in the final round.
Almeida mounted something of a comeback in the second round and even dropped Rivera with a straight right. Rivera recovered quickly, though, and eventually regained momentum.