By Christian Moore, MMATorch Contributor

UFC 234

UFC 234: Whittaker vs Gastelum Main Card Preview

Fight #1: Light Heavyweight – Jimmy Crute vs Sam Alvey

To start the show, we kick it off with a Light Heavyweight fight. In the red corner, we see undefeated prospect Jimmy Crute vs UFC veteran Sam Alvey. While Jimmy Crute is only 22, he has a perfect 9-0 record. Crute truly is a prospect to watch, and at only 22, is just starting. However, someone who isn’t just starting is his opponent with 45 fights under his belt, over 15 in the UFC, Sam Alvey. Alvey is coming off of a TKO loss to Lil’ Nog back in September of last year. This seems like a fight where youth prevails, but experience could also be the deciding factor.

Betting Odds:  Jimmy Crute (-140) vs Sam Alvey (+120)

Fight #2: Women’s Flyweight – (#14) Montana de la Rosa vs Nadia Kassem

In the second fight on the card, we see a battle between 2 young women’s Flyweight prospects. In the red corner, we have TUF alumni Montana de la Rosa who currently is on a 3 fight winning streak, having a 2-0 UFC record. Standing across from her is the undefeated prospect, Nadia Kassem. Kassem currently has only 1 fight in the UFC in her year and a half in the promotion but has already won gold in her professional career, and in a very thin Flyweight division, and impressive win most definitely boosts her into the top 10. We have two fighters who are both young, with the opportunity to leapfrog the pack with an impressive win, so both can really benefit from a very solid win.

Betting Odds: Montana de la Rosa (-250) vs Nadia Kassem (+200)

Fight #3: Bantamweight – (#15) Rani Yahya vs Ricky Simon

In the third fight on the card, we see longtime UFC veteran Rani Yahya vs up-and-comer Ricky Simon. The red corner sees a UFC vet having his 15th fight in the organization, that being Rani Yahya. Although he is only ranked #15, he has a very solid record in the UFC  going 11-3 (1 NC) in his 8-year UFC career, while currently riding a 3 fight winning streak. We see the veteran step in against a quickly rising fighter in Ricky Simon. Simon who is 8 years younger than his competitor, still has quite a bit of experience even though he only has 2 fights in the UFC. Currently on a 7 fight winning streak, Simon has the momentum, but does he have enough experience to take out the 8-year UFC vet?

Betting Odds: Rani Yahya (+110) vs Ricky Simon (-140)

Co-Main Event: Middleweight – (#6) Israel Adesanya vs (#15) Anderson Silva

Co-main event time as we are as close to a mirror spitting image between two fighters as we’ve ever seen. Ever since Adesanya’s debut, fight by fight, he gets even more comparisons to the GOAT, Anderson Silva. Now Adesanya finds himself across the cage from his icon, and the man that got him into fighting. Speaking of Adesanya, who is a very good option for a top prospect in the UFC, he sees himself coming in undefeated in MMA, with a 4-0 UFC record, with his last fight being against Derek Brunson, who he walked right through. Fighting 4 times in 2018, and going from unknown, to title contender, Adesanya could have this fight put him next in line for the belt.

Now, on the other side, is who else, but the greatest fighter ever, Anderson Silva. However, with that greatness, Anderson seems now to be lower than ever before. Silva, not fighting since 2017, in his last 6 fights has a record of 1-4 (1 NC), as well as being suspended for steroids once. Although experience seems obviously in Silva’s favor, rustiness could be massive, as his opponent Adesanya has fought 6 times, since Silva’s last fight, 4 of those just last year in the UFC as previously mentioned. So what will happen here? Will the obvious happen with Adesanya walking past Silva, or could Silva miraculously turn back the clock and prove he isn’t done quite yet. And will the winner prove his worth and challenge the winner of the main event? We will see on Saturday night.

Betting Odds: Israel Adesanya (-770) vs Anderson Silva (+470)

Main Event: Middleweight Championship – Robert Whittaker (c) vs (#4) Kelvin Gastelum

Last up, we’ve got the big one, that being the fight for the undisputed UFC middleweight championship. We have the champion, Robert Whittaker coming out of two brutal fights with Yoel Romero, going 10 rounds, or 50 minutes with one of, if not the deadliest middleweight out there. Whittaker who holds an 11-2 record in the promotion, currently rides a 9 fight winning streak, going through the best the division has to offer such as Yoel Romero twice, Jacare Souza, and Derek Brunson just to name a few.

Whittaker, although hurt many times the Yoel Romero fight seems almost unbeatable at the moment, and he is almost too, or currently in the peak of his career. So we have a dominant fighter who destroyed top talent in Jacare and Derek Brunson, as well as beat a man only one other has, but doing it twice. So, the question is, can any middleweight dethrone him?

In steps his opponent, Kelvin Gastelum, who holds a TUF title, and an 11-3 (1 NC) record in the organization, riding a two-fight win streak, beating top contender Jacare Souza, and knocking out the then recently dethroned middleweight champ, Michael Bisping. So can Gastelum get it done? He can be a serious threat. However, this is a fight that could be at risk. With Whittaker having a history of injuries before fights, and Gastelum failing drug tests in the past, we may not get to see the fight. If that were to happen, Adesanya would likely step up to challenge for the title.

Now, with that being said, the fight most likely goes on. It will be a very interesting one, with both possessing great striking, clinch, and ground game, they seem close in talent. However, the question arises of if Gastelum could be able to beat a man, that not even Yoel Romero could beat. Could he hurt a man who hasn’t been hurt badly enough by strikers with much more power than Gastelum himself?  Or we could look at the question facing Robert Whittaker. Is he the same guy he was in the past few years? Or did the Romero fight put a negative on his abilities, thus causing him the title? The questions will be answered this Saturday, in Melbourne, Australia.

Betting Odds: Robert Whittaker (-265) vs Kelvin Gastelum (+215)


Let us know your predictions, thoughts, or questions by commenting, or let me know by tweeting be @CoachCMmma

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