After two events, we’re batting .500 on our Under the Radar selections.
Daniel Roberts and Claude Patrick turned into a one-sided affair at UFC 129, thanks to Roberts’ limited gas tank.
However, last weekend in Las Vegas, Demetrious Johnson and Miguel Torres battled for 15 minutes in a back-and-forth grappling match that should have earned the bantamweights Fight of the Night honors; the award instead went to Brian Stann and Jorge Santiago.
Having notched our first tick in the “Correct” column for this segment, we’re riding high and hopefully we’ll add another one with our selection for UFC 131.
Chris Weidman vs. Jesse Bongfeldt
Chris Weidman (5-0, 1-0 UFC)
UFC Live Win Alessio Sakara (Unanimous Decision)
ROC 33 Win Valdir Araujo (Unanimous Decision)
ROC 31 Win Uriah Hall (TKO – Punches – Round 1)
Jesse Bongfeldt (15-4-1, 0-0-1 UFC)
UFC 124 Draw Rafael Natal
RITC 36 Win Nolan Clark (Submission – Rear Naked Choke – Round 1)
CFC 2 Win Chris Fontaine (TKO – Knees – Round 2)
Why We Love This Fight
First of all, Weidman is the top prospect in the UFC middleweight division, and one of the best overall prospects in the sport today.
A former All-American at Hofstra (hence the nickname “The All-American”), Weidman has a tremendous wrestling base that he is augmenting with Brazilian jiu jitsu learned under Matt Serra, and hands he developing with Ray Longo. That kind of makeup is a solid base and makes for a fighter I want to watch develop in the coming years.
He made his UFC debut three months ago, defeating veteran slugger Alessio Sakara after taking the fight on short notice. Though some will argue that the matchup was tailor-made for Weidman’s style, he still had to go in there and get the job done against a dangerous puncher who has put some quality middleweights on their backside throughout his career, and he did just that.
Bongfeldt enters with little to no fanfare whatsoever, and that ups the “under the radar” quotient even more.
His UFC debut in December ended in a draw with “Sapo” Natal, but Bongfeldt got more and more comfortable as the fight wore on. While he wasn’t overly inspiring in his initial performance in the Octagon, the Canadian has a solid resume, with wins over Sean Pierson and TJ Grant in the past. He’s 12-1-1 over his last 14 fights, the lone loss coming to former UFC competitor Jonathan Goulet back in 2007.
With the serious lack of prospects and depth in the middleweight division right now, this fight is actually more important than most preliminary card fights as well, further increasing our interest.
Since Anderson Silva has laid waste to the 185 pound ranks for the last five years, Weidman has been able to sneak into the top 25 on most middleweight polls with just a single UFC win. It wouldn’t be unfeasible to think that the winner of this fight would climb up the rankings and land in the range of Yoshihiro Akiyama, Chris Leben or Rousimar Palhares after this.
That may not sound like a major accomplishment – and being a top 20 middleweight if definitely less challenging than earning the same ranking in 155 or 170 pound divisions – but for a pair of young fighters fresh to the UFC, breaking into the top 20 after just two fights is a step in the right direction.
They each may be getting thrown to the fire a little quickly, especially whoever emerges from this fight with their hand raised, but that’s what the division dictates at this point.
As such, we really think you should be paying attention to this fight on Saturday night.