Darren Elkins made sure his fingerprints were on the UFC on Fox 25 co-main event.
A suffocating clinch, well-conceived takedowns and superior positional grappling carried the resurgent Team Alpha Male rep to a split decision over the favored Dennis Bermudez on Saturday at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Judges Douglas Crosby and Dave Tirelli scored it 29-28 for Elkins, while Bryan Miner saw it 29-28 for Bermudez.
Elkins -- who entered the match as a +170 underdog, per BetDSI.com -- executed two takedowns in the first round and another in the second, consolidating those efforts with guard passes and submission attempts. Bermudez (-215) outstruck the Portage, Indiana, native 55-33 by FightMetric count in the third round but trailed on two of the three scorecards and failed to author the finish he needed.
The 33-year-old Elkins has rattled off five consecutive victories since his December 2014 decision defeat to Hacran Dias. Afterward, he took aim at divisional staples Cub Swanson and Chan Sung Jung.
“I deserve a guy like that,” he said. “I want a guy who is going to give me an exciting fight, a guy in the top five and a guy who will put me right there in title contention. I don’t think I deserve a title shot yet, but I deserve a top-five, top-six guy, for sure, and that will put me to the top.”
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder Chris Weidman (+135) sprang a more decisive upset in the headliner, as he submitted Kelvin Gastelum with a third-round arm-triangle choke and snapped an alarming three-fight losing streak. Gastelum (-165) floored the “All-American” with a crushing overhand left near the end of the first round but could not apply enough follow-up damage to net the stoppage.
Weidman took down “The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner repeatedly in the second and third rounds before snatching the choke when the opportunity presented itself. Gastelum, who had never before been finished, tapped 3:45 into Round 3.
“Indescribable feeling,” said Weidman, who rebounded from consecutive losses to Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi. “I had to bite my lips. I didn’t want my words to do the talking through this time that I was going through this adversity. I just had to shut my mouth and wait for the moment to show my potential, and tonight was finally the night.”
Meanwhile, Alex Oliveira handled his business in spectacular fashion with a one-punch knockout on Ryan LaFlare in the second round of their undercard battle at 170 pounds. LaFlare (-175) was in charge through the first five minutes, as he took down the Brazilian and stifled him with top control. Oliveira (+138) responded to a tongue lashing from his corner between rounds and clipped the former Ring of Combat champion with a counter right uppercut in the middle stanza. A semi-conscious LaFlare crashed to the canvas 1:50 into Round 2.
Four other underdogs beat the odds. Patrick Cummins (+190) took a split decision from Gian Villante (-240) in a light heavyweight showcase; Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (+125) captured a split decision over onetime Bellator MMA titleholder Lyman Good (-155) in a preliminary welterweight affair; Marlon Vera (+180) submitted Brian Kelleher (-233) with a first-round armbar in their undercard pairing at 135 pounds; and Junior Albini (+225) wiped out Timothy Johnson (-285) with punches in the first round of their preliminary heavyweight clash.