After UFC 233 disappeared into the ether like UFC 151 all those years ago, UFC 234 has come around this Saturday with the promotion going ‘down under’.
With Australian middleweight champion Robert Whittaker looking to defend his title in his home country against the heavy hitting Kelvin Gastelum in the headline act, the co-main event looks set to decide the next challenger for the 185 lbs championship as rising star Israel Adesanya takes on the legendary Anderson Silva.
Outside of the top two bouts, however, there isn’t too much to be excited about at UFC 234. While there are particular fighters like Lando Vannata and Kai Kara-France who always offer bang for your buck on the undercard, the middleweight contests are the clear standouts on this Melbourne card.
Robert Whittaker (20-4) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (16-3, 1 NC)
The challenger Kelvin Gastelum has some of the slickest boxing in the sport at the moment as his fast hands and power have seen him knock down every opponent he’s faced since moving to middleweight.
With Robert Whittaker sustaining some clear damage in his last outing against Yoel Romero as well, Gastelum will fancy his chances at testing Whittaker’s durability.
Outside of a clean hit on Whittaker’s chin however, I struggle to see where Gastelum can claim the middleweight crown.
Whittaker has arguably the best takedown defence we’ve seen since Jose Aldo, is a sharp striker in his own right – one with more to his arsenal than Gastelum – and has a tested gas tank.
The striking exchanges should be close but I think Robert Whittaker is just that bit better than most at 185 lbs and once/if the fight hits the third round, the champion should start to pull away.
Pick: Robert Whittaker
Israel Adesanya (15-0) vs. Anderson Silva (34-8, 1 NC)
The unpredictability of this fight certainly makes it an intriguing bout but if we’re looking at the facts and recent form of these fighters, Israel Adesanya should be a lock to win.
Adesanya is in the prime of his career, is arguably the best pure striker in MMA and will have the ability to make openings for himself through feints and combinations.
Silva meanwhile is 43-years old, hasn’t fought in two years and has won one fight in his last six dating back to 2013.
Adesanya should win this fight in a striking battle but I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Silva pull guard and draw this out or some shenanigans where both men stand and stare at each other for a sizeable chunk of the fight.
Pick: Israel Adesanya
Rani Yahya (26-9, 1 NC) vs. Ricky Simon (14-1)
Ricky Simon is a high-octane fighter and one who seemingly only has concerns for being on the front-foot.
Yahya will look to continue his recent good form at Simon’s expense and get this fight to the mat where his exemplary grappling can get him a quick win.
The longer this fight goes, the more chance Simon has to win but I think Yahya’s grappling will find an opening as Simon wades forward and from there the Brazilian can get his fourth straight submission win.
Pick: Rani Yahya
Montana De La Rosa (9-4) vs. Nadia Kassem (5-0)
Kassem is a bright prospect but De La Rosa’s grappling and experience should see her win here.
Kassem will look to her pace and athleticism on the feet for her paths to victory but De La Rosa should have enough about her to ground Kaseem and get a decision win.
Pick: Montana De La Rosa
Jim Crute (9-0) vs. Sam Alvey (33-11, 1 NC)
Jim Crute is capable of finding a stoppage victory either on the feet or the mat but his gas tank and performances haven’t been anything to write home about.
Alvey meanwhile is amongst the most unspectacular light heavyweights out there but he can coast to victories in awful fights.
With the Australian crowd behind him, Crute has a good chance to win but Alvey has tied down the mantle of not being very good and finding a way to victory.
Pick: Sam Alvey
(Last Predictions: 6/6, Total: 10/12, 83% Success Rate)
(2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58% Success Rate)