When newly minted light heavyweight Chris Weidman walked up to the octagon to fight Dominick Reyes on Friday night, draped in the American flag while Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” played as his welcoming chorus, he must have known his debut at this new weight class marked a pivotal moment in his career.
Win against the undefeated Reyes, and suddenly years of injuries, crushing defeats and dwindling celebrity in the sport would be wiped away. With a pedigree like his, the man who took down Anderson Silva twice might reasonably expect to challenge title holder Jon Jones for the divisional belt before the end of 2020. Lose, and suddenly the 35-year-old former champion’s decline would seem a lot less like an aberration and a lot more like one of the cruel twists of fate the sport of human combat dishes out on a regular basis. For Reyes, Weidman represented his greatest challenge yet, either a prestigious victory or the first blemish on an otherwise flawless fighting career so far. Either way, the main event of UFC on ESPN 6 would mark a major crossroads for somebody.
That somebody, it turned out, was Weidman, who got knocked out less than two minutes into the opening round of the bout.
The local wrestling legend, who looked to be in fine shape despite the weight gain necessitated by injuries, tried to take the fight to the ground early, diving at The Devastator’s lanky lower section to deal with his height disadvantage as quickly as possible. With Reyes propped against the cage, Weidman tied up his opponent’s legs and tried for three separate takedowns, but was unable to land any of them against the 6’4” Stony Brook University alum.
Once Reyes got back up, the fight moved back to the center of the octagon. Weidman moved forward and fired a right cross, but Reyes countered with a southpaw left perfectly placed into Weidman’s jaw. The hit sent him to the mat, and Reyes followed that devastating punch from the feet by beating Weidman with a flurry of hammerfists before he went unconscious and referee Herb Dean called the matchup.
“I was out there having fun, feeling loose,” Reyes said in the post-fight interview after being declared the winner by knockout. “He came in and I put him down. I’m so honored to fight Chris; he’s a fantastic competitor. His loss is my gain, and that’s how this business is, but it’s all love, baby.”
The loss brings Weidman’s overall record to 14-5 (10-5 in the UFC), with all five of those losses coming in his last six fights since December 2015.
“Everyone that came here to support me, I apologize that I didn’t get the W,” Weidman said. “It’s the game we play. I’ll be back better.”
Reyes advances his overall record to 12-0 (6-0 UFC) with the win, and made it known that he wants a chance to fight for the title against Jones for his next bout.
“Hey, Jon, I don’t want any party favors,” Reyes said. “I want that bout. Let’s go.”