by Denis P. Gorman, The Associated Press
Chris Weidman sat on top of the Octagon, his arms outstretched, his mouth agape. It had been a long time since he could experience that feeling.
Seven hundred and ninety one days, to be exact.
“It feels like a championship,” Weidman said, after he submitted Kelvin Gastelum with an arm triangle choke at 3:45 of the third round Saturday night in a UFC on Fox event at Nassau Coliseum. “I can’t wait to tell my kids I won.”
Weidman the former Hofstra wrestler fighting just across the Hempstead Turnpike from the university’s campus, snapped a three-fight losing streak to improve to 14-3. Gastelum dropped to 14-4-0 with one no-decision.
The win was Weidman’s first since knocking out Vitor Belfort at UFC 187 on May 23, 2015.
“This is a surreal feeling,” Weidman said. “This is an indescribable moment. I wanted to come out here and prove myself.”
After spending much of the first two minutes feinting and circling, Weidman successfully wrestled Gastelum to the canvas. But with seconds left in the round, Gastelum landed a hook to Weidman’s chin that dropped the former middleweight champion before the bell rang.
“Thirty more seconds and I could have finished the fight,” Gastelum said.
Weidman then relied on his wrestling skills against the former Ultimate Fighter winner, setting up opportunities to land hard, accurate punches in the third. Following a sequence in which the two grappled alongside the cage, Weidman took down Gastelum and transitioned to the submission. After a few moments, Gastelum tapped out.
Weidman hopped the cage and celebrated with 11,198 of his Long Island fans before returning to the octagon to hugged family and team members.
“I did it in the Nassau Coliseum. I grew up five minutes down the road,” said Weidman, who later pushed for a fight with current middleweight champion Michael Bisping. “Bisping has been running. I’m the champ. I’m the best guy in the world. I think people know that.”
The bout headlined the 13-fight card in the first UFC event to be held at the Coliseum. Six of the 26 fighters were from Long Island, and overall, nine were from New York state.
In other matches, Darren Elkins earned a split decision over Dennis Bermudez in the semi-main event. Elkins routinely used his wrestling to neutralize Bermudez in the first two rounds of the featherweight fight.
Patrick Cummins earned a split decision over Gian Villante in a light heavyweight fight. Cummins suffered a gash over his left eye due to an inadvertent head-butt in the first round.
No. 4 ranked bantamweight Jimmie Rivera kicked off the main card with a unanimous decision over No. 9 Thomas Almeida. The win was Rivera’s 20th straight, and might have put him in line for a title shot.
Wade beat Frankie Perez, and Burgos topped Godofredo Pepey.
Junior Albini knocked out Tim Johnson 2:51 into the first round, Marlon Vera submitted Brian Kelleher with a first-round arm bar, and Jeremy Kennedy improved to 11-0 with a unanimous decision over Kyle Bochniak.
Chase Sherman had a unanimous decision over Damian Grabowski, and Alex Oliveira knocked out Ryan LaFlare with an uppercut at 1:50 of the second round. Eryk Anders, a former Alabama linebacker, remained unbeaten with a first-round knockout of Rafael Natal, and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos took a split decision over Lyman Good.
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