ROBERT WHITTAKER VS. KELVIN GASTELUM
Following a season coaching against each other on The Ultimate Fighter, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will finally clash with Kelvin Gastelum in the UFC 234 main event.
Whittaker has been phenomenal since moving to 185 pounds, where he’s undefeated with eight straight wins, including victories over Yoel Romero, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Derek Brunson. With blinding speed and power on the feet, Whittaker is a devastating striker with knockout power in every limb, but he’s also shown incredible takedown defense while going up against some elite wrestlers in his career. As for Gastelum, he comes into the title fight with a 5-1 record with one no contest, including a stunning knockout against former champion Michael Bisping. Much like Whittaker, Gastelum is a former welterweight who has looked even better at middleweight while showcasing a deadly boxing game that may be the best in the division. Gastelum also has a background in wrestling, so don’t think he won’t try to ground Whittaker if the opportunity presents itself. This fight could be a first-round knockout or a five-round war, and that’s what makes it such an intriguing matchup between champion and challenger.
ANDERSON SILVA VS. ISRAEL ADESANYA
Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva will face arguably his mirror image at UFC 234 when he takes on Australia’s own Israel Adesanya, who comes into the fight with a perfect 15-0 record, four of those wins coming in the UFC, including a brutal first-round finish of Derek Brunson last November. Adesanya is a former kickboxer as well, so he’s got a dynamic range of weapons on his feet. He’s technically proficient but also explosive and unpredictable. Those same kinds of traits are possessed by Silva, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest UFC champions of all-time. Silva comes from a Muay Thai background, which means he also possesses some of the nastiest knees and elbows in the game and he won’t be shy about using them. This co-main event could be viewed as the past versus the future, but Silva isn’t about to pass the torch to Adesanya with a potential title shot on the line for the winner.
RANI YAHYA VS. RICKY SIMON
Throughout his career in the UFC and WEC, Rani Yahya has built a reputation as one of the most dangerous submission specialists to ever compete in the sport. Over his past three fights, Yahya has certainly lived up to that moniker with a trio of submission finishes — all by different methods — while also winning seven of his past eight fights overall. Ricky Simon will try to stop that win streak while keeping his going after picking up back-to-back wins since joining the UFC roster. Simon is a very talented bantamweight with a 13-1 record, and he is the definition of a mixed martial artist, with well-rounded skills on the feet or on the ground. Chances are that in this fight, Simon will look to showcase his takedown defense and force Yahya to stay standing with him. If this fight hits the floor, however, don’t blink, as Yahya will undoubtedly attempt to put on a show with his world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills.
DEVONTE SMITH VS. DONG HYUN MA
Devonte Smith has all the makings of being a longtime fan favorite after landing his UFC contract with a blistering first-round knockout and then following that up with another in his Octagon debut. Overall, Smith has won his past five fights in a row, all by knockout or submission. He’ll have a tough test ahead of him at UFC 234 as he faces veteran Korean fighter Dong Hyun Ma. Since joining the UFC, Ma has gone 3-2, but following a rocky start with back-to-back losses, he’s now picked up three straight wins, including a victory over legendary Japanese fighter Takanori Gomi. If Ma wants to make it four in a row, he’s going to have to find a way to slow down Smith and stave off another finish from the Ohio native.
JIMMY CRUTE VS. SAM ALVEY
Australia has produced a lot of great fighters over the years and Jimmy Crute might be the next one. At 9-0, Crute is considered a top prospect in the light heavyweight division and he made quite an impression in his debut with a submission victory over Paul Craig. Now he’ll face off with Sam Alvey, who has always tried to put on entertaining fights at both middleweight and now light heavyweight. Alvey is coming off a defeat in his last fight, so there’s little doubt he’ll look to get back in the win column while simultaneously handing Crute his first career defeat.
SHANE YOUNG VS. AUSTIN ARNETT
Shane Young has never backed down from tough competition, and it’s been proven by his first two fights in the UFC, where he took on veterans Alexander Volkanovski and Rolando Dy back-to-back. Young split those fights with a 1-1 record, but now he’ll look to get his second straight win while fighting in front of a home audience at UFC 234. Austin Arnett will attempt to play spoiler while he looks to build on his first UFC win against Humberto Bandenay this past November.
MONTANA DE LA ROSA VS. NADIA KASSEM
Former Ultimate Fighter competitor Montana De La Rosa has looked like a threat against anybody in the flyweight division since making her debut. She’s picked up back-to-back wins with submissions in both, and she will give anybody headaches if they go to the ground with her. This weekend, De La Rosa faces undefeated prospect Nadia Kassem, who moves to 125 pounds after getting a win in her UFC debut while competing at strawweight. Kassem is one of the best young up and comers from Australia, so she’ll enjoy the home country advantage, but she’s drawn a tough test in her 125-pound debut against De La Rosa.
KAI KARA-FRANCE VS. RAULIAN PAIVA
Another Ultimate Fighter alum will get back in action in his native Australia as Kai Kara-France looks to build on his first win in the UFC this past December. Kara-France is best known for his dominant striking, but he’s proven in recent fights that he has an underrated ground game as well. His opponent, Raulian Paiva, will make his UFC debut while stepping into enemy territory. The 18-1 Brazilian comes from the Contender Series and he hasn’t tasted defeat in more than three years while racking up 12 straight wins.
TERUTO ISHIHARA VS. KYUNG HO KANG
Exciting and unorthodox bantamweight Teruto Ishihara will look to bounce back when he takes on Kyung Ho Kang on the prelims at UFC 234. Ishihara has struggled lately while going just 1-4 in his past five fights, but the always entertaining veteran will look to put on a show while looking to get back in the win column. As for Kang, he’s gone 3-1 in his past four fights with his only loss coming in a razor-close split decision.
LANDO VANNATA VS. MARCOS MARIANO
Lando Vannata has built a reputation as a non-stop action fighter since he first arrived after accepting a short-notice fight against Tony Ferguson and nearly pulling off the upset. Vannata will always make it a battle no matter who he faces, but with draws in two of his past three fights, he will definitely want to put a stamp on this performance to prevent any doubt about who was victorious. As for Mariano, he’ll be making his UFC debut with wins in four of his past five fights while looking to pull off the upset against an Octagon veteran in Vannata.
JALIN TURNER VS. CALLAN POTTER
Jalin Turner returns to action after a rough UFC debut where he jumped right in the deep end of the shark tank against Vicente Luque last October. Now the Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series alum will look to build on the three wins he had prior to that setback when he faces Callan Potter on Saturday night. Potter comes into the fight with a 9-1 record over his past 10 fights, with his only setback coming to UFC veteran Marcin Held last year.
WULIJI BUREN VS. JONATHAN MARTINEZ
The opening bout on the card will be a bantamweight showcase between Wuliji Buren and Jonanthan Martinez. This might be do or die for Buren after he came up short in his first two UFC fights, including a brutal body punch KO that finished his last contest this past August. To get a win this time around, Buren will face off with Martinez, who is also searching for his first UFC win after falling short in a decision in his debut last October.