The UFC is heading to Australia for the UFC 234 PPV card this weekend. The card is set to be headlined by a middleweight title fight between hometown favorite Robert Whittaker and challenger Kelvin Gastelum. The card as a whole is very weak for a PPV, with only the co-main fight between Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya really having the star power of a UFC pay-per-view main card fight.
Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum
Whittaker has proven himself to be the top fighter in the middleweight division. He’s beaten Yoel Romero twice in a row, which is a ridiculously tall task, and before that he beat Jacare Souza and Derek Brunson in dominant fashion. Whittaker is the new style of middleweight with quality footwork and great striking technique.
Gastelum, is another young guy who is also the new style of UFC fighter. He’s fast and agile, which has helped him get finishes over some of the old guard of UFC middleweights such as Kennedy, Belfort and Bisping, who weren’t able to keep up with his speed. That said, I still think Gastelum is too small for middleweight. This was painfully obvious in his loss to Chris Weidman (Weidman’s only win in 5 fights) and although Gastelum did pick up a tight split decision win over Jacare Souza, I really think that’s his only true top level win in the division.
Whittaker should be able to use his length to keep Gastelum at bay, and his speed should match Gastelum’s, which will take away Kelvin’s usual advantage.
Play: Whittaker -250
Anderson Silva vs Israel Adesanya
This is a strange fight. To me it screams dog or pass. Anderson Silva is definitely past his prime, but at these odds I don’t see how you can play Adesanya.
Silva hasn’t looked good, but he hasn’t looked awful in his last few fights. Adesanya has looked good, but I would argue he didn’t look amazing against Brunson, but instead Brunson was telegraphing every takedown and every punch.
Don’t get me wrong, I expect Adesanya to win this fight as the younger, quicker fighter with better timing at this stage in his career, but for these odds I think it’s dog or pass.
Lean: Silva +475
Rani Yahya vs Ricky Simon
Yahya is one of the best submission grapplers in the UFC. He’s also very good at chain wrestling to get the fight to the mat. Yahya averages 3.13 takedowns in his UFC fights, he’s won his last 3 fights via submission and he’s won 7 of his last 8 UFC fights.
Ricky Simon is 2-0 in the UFC and there have been a ton of takedowns in his fights, both by and against him. Simon has 9 takedowns in his two wins, while being taken down 8 times.
I have to think Yahya will be able to get this fight to the mat, and once there he has a great chance of sinking in a submission.
Play: Yahya -103
Montana De La Rosa vs Nadia Kassem
Kassem had some hype coming into her UFC debut, but she looked very green and did not impress me in her win over Alex Chambers, who is one of the worst fighters the UFC has had on the roster.
De La Rosa is 2-0 in the UFC, with both wins coming by submission. She is only 23 years old and is a legitimate prospect with real submission skills. She began her career losing her first 2 fights, but has gone 10-3 since (including TUF) and those 3 losses have been to Mackenzie Dern, Cynthia Calvillo and Nicco Montano, three top level UFC fighters.
Kassem looked far too green in her UFC opener. She was taken down 4 times by Alex Chambers, and I think if De La Rosa gets this fight to the mat it’s going to be over quickly.
I expect a first round submission win for De La Rosa.
Play: De La Rosa -265
Sam Alvey vs Jim Crute
This is a tough fight to call. Jim Crute has looked good to this point in his career, but Sam Alvey is a tough out for anyone.
Alvey has power in his hands, has solid takedown defense and is very methodical in the octagon. That said, he’s also not a very athletic guy.
I think this fight could potentially go either way, but I’m going to side with Jim Crute. I think he’s the better fighter overall, and as long as he doesn’t get lulled into Alvey’s game plan, or hit with a big haymaker, I do think he will be the more active fighter and get the nod in front of his home fans. Alvey’s fights are often so tight that the difference could be a hometown decision.
Lean: Crute -135