UFC 234 - Melbourne Breakdown & Predictions
When is UFC 234? Sunday 10th January, 2019 – 01:00 (UK)
Where is UFC 234? Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia
What channel is UFC 234 on? BT Sport 2
Where can I stream UFC 234? BT Sport subscribers can stream the fight online via the BT website
Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum
Robert Whittaker is probably the most underrated champion in the UFC and he is back to defend his middleweight championship for only the second time after winning it 19 months ago. He has not been as active as he would like as his last two fights were brutal wars against ‘The Soldier of God’ Yoel Romero.
Their first fight in 2017 for the vacant title was an incredible fight with Whittaker earning a decision, but it came at a cost as Romero aggravated a knee injury to force him out for a year. On his return, he threw down with the Cuban again putting on one of the fights of the year but fought with a broken hand forcing him onto the side-lines again.
Even when you beat Romero you get hurt so Whittaker will be glad to see the back of him, but he has another very difficult challenge in the shape of Kelvin Gastelum. He is only on a two-fight winning streak but they were superb – a knockout over the former champion Michael Bisping and a decision over another top contender in Jacare Souza.
We expect this to be nothing more than a barn burner: both fighters are immensely skilled and the interesting factor is that they are both former welterweights fighting at a more comfortable weight, so we will see the very best out of them.
Wherever this fight takes place it will be exciting. Both are tremendous grapplers but the majority of this fight should take place on the feet. It will be a fierce contest between Whittaker’s fluid combinations of punches and kicks and Gastelum’s lightening fast Boxing.
Whittaker’s biggest threat will be Gastelum’s straight right and even though ‘The Reaper’ ate everything Romero served up, Gastelum is deceptively powerful and fast. His biggest threat will be the Aussie’s gas tank. If he can survive the first three rounds you have to favour Whittaker who is an elite athlete.
This will be extremely competitive but you feel Gastelum needs an early finish as Whittaker will get stronger as the fight goes on. As Gastelum’s stamina has always been suspect, a late finish is a good bet.
Winner: Whittaker via KO/TKO
Israel Adesanya vs Anderson Silva
What a mouth-watering co-main event we have for UFC 234 as we see the return of one of the best fighters of all time, Anderson Silva, the most dominant middleweight champion of all time and one of the most mesmerizing strikers we have ever seen in the octagon.
It is only fitting that he has been matched-up with a younger version of himself. Israel Adesanya is an electrifying prospect with an unbeaten record. ‘The Last Stylebender’ is a highly accomplished Kickboxer who has climbed the UFC ranks by putting on spectacular performances.
None more so than in his last fight against Derek Brunson. Adesanya put a lot of pressure on himself to deliver a knockout after a lot of bad blood but he thrived and made the knockout look easy. This performance was like seeing Silva in his prime, and although his last fight was also a win over Brunson he has struggled to find his vintage form for years.
Don’t expect this fight to be fireworks as both are counter-strikers and we could see a prolonged feeling out process. That said, it will still be an intriguing and intense contest. Nobody would bet against a prime Silva, but those days are long gone and Adesanya is only just starting to peak. He has the youth, speed and technique to land on the Brazilian but he must not underestimate him. Silva may not be as quick, but he will still be hard to hit with a constant counter threat.
The key factor is that Adesanya is a student of the game. He has followed Silva through his whole career and carefully scrutinized every aspect of his technique, whereas Silva may be more ignorant of his younger adversary’s skills.
Winner: Adesanya via Decision
Rani Yahya vs Ricky Simón
Rani Yahya and Ricky Simón travel to Melbourne with eyes set on the top 10 rankings. This will be a classic striker vs grappler match-up between the veteran Yahya who made his professional debut all the way back in 2002 and the young gun Simón who is making his third UFC appearance.
Simón arrived to the UFC as the LFA bantamweight champion and carried his form over with a superb submission of Merab Dvalishvili on his debut and then earning a decision over Montel Jackson, stretching his winning streak to seven.
Yahya is 11-3 (1) in the UFC and has submitted his last three opponents, which is all part of his trade as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion. Fighters know what to expect from Yahya but that does not make their game plan any easier as he as an elite grappler with a sensational 20 submissions.
We know Yahya is going to try and take the fight to the ground as soon as possible. Simón is incredibly dangerous on the feet and as Yahya has never won via knockout, Simón will put all his focus into defending the takedown.
Yahya only has a takedown accuracy of 22.7% but he will be relentless in his attempts, and as it is only a three-round fight he only needs a few successes to close the fight out. That said, Simón has the ability to avoid the submission threat and is likely to cause damage on the feet, but Yahya has the durability to take it to a decision.
Winner: Simón via Decision
Devonte Smith vs Dong Hyun Ma
Devonte Smith and Dong Hyun Ma kick off the main card for UFC 234 which will be a thrilling lightweight contest.
Smith is an exciting prospect who has finished all of his nine wins (8 KO’s and 1 submission). With a record of 7-1 he got his chance on Dana White’s Contender Series and seized his opportunity by finishing Joe Lowry with vicious elbows. He then followed this up by starching Julian Erosa on his UFC debut.
The experienced South Korean flies over to Australia confident of derailing the prospect and is on a three-fight winning streak himself. After suffering two knockout losses in a row he has bounced back with a decision over Brendan O’Reilly, a TKO over Takanori Gomi and another decision over Damien Brown in his last fight.
Ma is very well-rounded with powerful striking complemented by an exceptional level of Judo and he needs to showcase these skills. Ma needs to get his hands on Smith as he is extremely dangerous on the feet.
Even though Ma is two inches taller, Smith has a six-inch reach advantage which is likely to make all the difference in the exchanges, and considering his knockout power we could easily see knockout number nine for the American.
Winner: Smith via KO/TKO
Striking and grappling stats sourced via FightMetric