Chris “All-American” Weidman
Pro Record: 14 wins & 3 losses
Association: Serra-Longo Fight Team
Weight Class: Middleweight
In this week’s addition of Fighter of the Week we take a look at Chris Weidman, who stopped a three fight losing streak by submitting slight favorite Kelvin Gastelum at UFC on Fox 25. Weidman desperately needed a win after losing by finish in each of his last three contests. Late in the first round it looked as if Gastelum was going to make it four losses in a row for Weidman after he dropped him, however Weidman recovered quickly and rallied to end the fight in the third round. The one-time middleweight champion admitted in the post-fight press conference that the doubts and negative comments during his losing streak were tough on him and he was happy to be back in the game. I think fans are happy as well. The division is stacked with talent; as deep as any division in the UFC and a winning-Weidman only helps solidify it.
Weidman has taken a pretty common approach to MMA transitioning from a solid wrestling background. He grew up in New York where he was a very athletic child. At an early age he started wrestling and that would eventually lead to numerous awards, including a Nassau County and New York State wrestling championship while in High school. He was an All-American in both Cadet Freestyle and Greco Roman. The early success would translate into college as well where he was an All-American twice while attending Nassau Community College and would become the first junior-college wrestler to be a New York State Collegiate Champion. He would transfer to Hofstra for his junior and senior years and would become a Division I All-American both years and finish 3rd at the NCAA tournament his senior year. He would defeat both Phil Davis and Ryan Bader during his college wrestling career. Weidman would earn a bachelor’s degree and later become an Assistant Wrestling Coach at the University while being a full-time graduate student, eventually getting his master’s in Physical Education.
Weidman would be invited to come to Matt and Nick Serra’s BJJ academy by ex-MMA fighter Gabriel Toribio, whom Weidman met while attending Hofstra. He went to help train some of the fighters with their wrestling but he also started taking jiu-jitsu classes and within a few months started competing where he would win all 13 of his matches by submission and become Grapplers Quest champion. With his full-time coaching and graduate program at Hofstra he had to put the jiu-jitsu tournaments on hold. Instead, he would start training for the Olympics in wrestling. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut and instead opted for starting his career in MMA after meeting and training with coach, Ray Longo. Eventually Longo and Weidman would open their own gym together called LAW MMA, where they are instructors, owners, and operators.
Weidman would begin his professional MMA career in Ring of Combat and within three fights he was fighting current UFC fighter and TUF 17 alum Uriah Hall for the title. Ironically, Gastelum, whom Weidman defeated this past weekend to earn Takeover’s FOTW, also previously defeated Hall to win TUF 17. Weidman would end the fight by TKO (punches) in the first round to win the Ring of Combat Middleweight Championship. He’d have one title defense before being bombarded with contract offers. At the time he was considered one of the most highly-touted prospects of all-time. The UFC agreed, offering Weidman a contract just four fights into his professional career, which Weidman quickly accepted.
His UFC debut would come against UFC and MMA veteran, Alessio Sakara. Weidman replaced the injured Rafael Natal and took the fight on two weeks’ notice. He dominated the fight on his way to a unanimous decision. From there he would continue his success with four more wins in the promotion including two bonuses. His KO win over Mark Munoz propelled him to the biggest fight of his career and the fight that shocked the MMA world, against Anderson Silva at UFC 162, who was riding a 17-fight win streak. Weidman came in confident, as did his coaches, despite being a 2-1 underdog against the long-reigning champ. But people in the MMA world knew this could be the one to end Silva’s reign. Weidman’s strengths were Silva’s weaknesses. Weidman opened up the first round taking Silva down with ease and applying ground and pound. In the second round, Silva started showboating, something we had seen him do in many of his fights before. What we had never seen is what followed. Weidman dropped Silva with a left hook followed by punches, becoming the first and only person to ever knock Silva out in an MMA match. The win was so huge that Weidman’s home of Nassau County declared July 17th “Chris Weidman Day”. He was the first man to hold the UFC Middleweight title not named Anderson Silva since UFC 64, a span of nearly 7 years. An immediate rematch was set for UFC 168. Silva’s biggest success in the first fight were his low leg kicks, something Weidman trained for. In their second fight Weidman dropped Silva early and gained topped position landing some decent shots. In the second round Weidman checked one of Silva’s expected kicks with his left knee and Silva went crashing to the floor, finding out afterwards that the check snapped Silva’s fibula and tibia.
Weidman was now defending UFC champion defeating arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all-time twice. He was set to face Vitor Belfort for another defense at UFC 173 but Belfort had to back out with injury. Instead, Lyoto Machida stepped in to replace Belfort. The bout was delayed due to a Weidman injury but eventually happened at UFC 178 as Weidman would win a decision and give both fighters a Fight of the Night bonus in the process, Weidman’s fourth bonus in eight fights. He wasn’t done there as he finally got his matchup with Belfort. During this time he received his black-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from Matt Serra and Renzo Gracie. He would also be inducted in the New Jersey Martial Arts Hall of Fame. He would go on to win the fight at UFC 187 by TKO (punches) in the first round and win another bonus, this time for performance.
On a tremendous run he was scheduled to face the #2 UFC Middleweight and former Strikeforce Middleweight champ, Luke Rockhold at UFC 194. This was arguably the first time in Weidman’s career he faced an opponent as big and strong as him. Weidman’s always reliable takedowns were defended by Rockhold for most of the fight and Rockhold got the better of the exchanges. In the fourth round, Rockhold was able to take Weidman down and mount him and working ground and pound until Herb Dean was forced to stop the contest. It was the first loss of Weidman’s career. Weidman would follow the loss up with two more, to Yoel Romero and the newly departed Gegard Mousasi, both by finish. This setup a fight with Gastelum who spent the majority of his career at Welterweight but had success by winning TUF 17 at middleweight and going 4-0 at middleweight in the UFC. (He TKO’d Belfort but called a no contest due to testing positive for marijuana). Weidman came in as a slight underdog but his size and wrestling proved too much as he dominated much of the fight despite getting rocked in the first round and finally submitted Gastelum by arm-triangle choke in the third round.
So, what’s next for Weidman? I think it’s the Rockhold-Branch winner specifically if Rockhold wins. UFC 217 is to be held on November 4th at New York’s Madison Square Garden and short of an injury, I’d be shocked to not see Weidman on that card. Weidman, like most of the division, is practically begging for a shot at Bisping, but that’s just not going to happen, even with reports Whittaker will be out 6 months. Their twitter ‘beef’ over the last few days has been entertaining, however. Weidman says he hasn’t really thought much about his next opponent but wants to fight for the belt. He also said he is willing to climb back into the title picture. I think the latter more realistic as he’s still at least one more win away from that possibility. But if he keeps performing like the Weidman of old and this past weekend, he’ll be back in contention very soon.