CHRIS WEIDMAN VS KELVIN GASTELUM
Yes, Chris Weidman needs a win after three consecutive losses, and it’s going to be a tough task against rising star Kelvin Gastelum, but I refuse to believe the former middleweight champion is on the down side of his career. Go back and watch those three fights against Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi and then tell me if this is a fighter in decline, or one who made a couple of critical mistakes and also fell into some bad luck. Gastelum wants to keep that streak going though, and with all that on the line, it makes for some main event.
DENNIS BERMUDEZ VS DARREN ELKINS
Dennis Bermudez and Darren Elkins are two wrestlers known for getting into grimy battles in the Octagon, those ones where the blood and spit are flying and where both combatants know they’ve been in a fight. Expect more of the same Saturday, and while Bermudez will have the advantage at home, who can pick against Elkins after his epic comeback win over Mirsad Bektic in his most recent bout?
PATRICK CUMMINS VS GIAN VILLANTE
Like Bermudez and Elkins, Pat Cummins and Gian Villante are pretty old school when it comes to their approach to MMA. Yes, it’s a sporting event with rules and a referee and all that stuff, but it’s also a fight, and neither light heavyweight is afraid of getting their hands dirty. So while on paper it’s a matchup of wrestler (Cummins) vs striker (Villante), there will be a point where game plans go out the window and these two throw down.
JIMMIE RIVERA VS THOMAS ALMEIDA
One of the most compelling matchups on the card, this bout between Jimmie Rivera and Thomas Almeida will have a significant impact on the bantamweight rankings, especially for New Jersey’s Rivera, who could put himself in the title picture if he secures his 20th consecutive win on Saturday. But he has never faced an opponent in the Octagon with the firepower of Almeida, who can get right back in the 135-pound mix with a victory over Rivera.
LYMAN GOOD VS ELIZEU ZALESKI DOS SANTOS
It’s been two years since Lyman Good’s last appearance in the Octagon, and aggressive Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos will likely remind him of that fact as soon as their bout begins. What happens from there will be up to Good. Will he wilt under the pressure, make the Brazilian pay for a mistake and go home early, or grit his teeth and team up with his foe for a Fight of the Night? Whatever avenue he goes down, it should be exciting for the fans watching.
RAFAEL NATAL VS ERYK ANDERS
Rafael Natal hasn’t had an easy road getting to Saturday night, as Eryk Anders is the third opponent scheduled to face “Sapo” at Nassau Coliseum. That can wreak havoc on a game plan, but Natal is a veteran who should be able to adapt well. But…is Anders the worst style matchup of the three opponents as an aggressive finisher with power and pressure backing him up? We’ll find out shortly.
RYAN LAFLARE VS ALEX OLIVEIRA
Ryan LaFlare and Alex Oliveira have long been two fighters “on the verge” of big things in the welterweight division. Well, gentlemen, Saturday night is your night to make that statement and I believe both fighters will be getting after it for three rounds in Long Island because there’s no better time than now to make that move at 170 pounds.
DAMIAN GRABOWSKI VS CHASE SHERMAN
It’s been feast of famine for heavyweight Chase Sherman in the Octagon thus far, but after his win over Rashad Coulter, things are looking up for “The Vanilla Gorilla.” On the other side, Poland’s Damian Grabowski has had nothing but bad luck in his two UFC fights, making this a must win if he wants to keep his dreams of Octagon glory alive.
KYLE BOCHNIAK VS JEREMY KENNEDY
Jeremy Kennedy is one of Canada’s top prospects, and he has an opportunity to keep building that reputation against Kyle Bochniak. But Bochniak isn’t about to go away quietly, and the gritty New Englander may surprise Kennedy if “JBC” isn’t ready for a 15-minute war.
BRIAN KELLEHER VS MARLON VERA
Brian Kelleher made quite an impression in his UFC debut, as he traveled to Brazil and finished top 15 bantamweight contender Iuri Alcantara in less than a round. Now he gets a home game in Long Island, but if anyone knows how to spoil a homecoming, it’s Marlon Vera, who did just that in London against Brad Pickett earlier this year. This is another bout with Fight of the Night potential.
TIM JOHNSON VS JUNIOR ALBINI
Junior Albini arrives in the Octagon with 11 finishes in 13 wins and a nine-fight winning streak, but you have to assume that all goes out the window when facing someone like Tim Johnson, a seasoned and rugged veteran who can take all of his opponent’s strengths and nullify them with his own style. Albini may be the real deal, but this is a tough assignment for a UFC debut.
SHANE BURGOS VS GODOFREDO PEPEY
Shane Burgos has impressed in his first two UFC bouts, and the stage is set for another compelling showing this weekend because if anyone is going to meet his aggression and action-packed style perfectly, it’s Brazilian vet Godofredo Pepey, who will do anything in his power to nab another post-fight bonus in Burgos’ backyard.
FRANKIE PEREZ VS CHRIS WADE
The opener between Frankie Perez and Chris Wade is a rematch of a 2014 Ring of Combat bout won by Wade via split decision, and apparently both fighters have no issue punching each other in the face again this weekend. This is the perfect way to kick off the first UFC card in Long Island, because there will be heat in this one.