Disclaimer: All predictions were made prior to Robert Whittaker’s Injury.
After seemingly an eternity, UFC returns in its glory with their signature numbered PPV that transcended MMA into a global phenomenon. To start the UFC calendar year off, fight fans are treated to the perfect blend of past, present and future stars of the MMA world.
The main event consists of two of the more underrated UFC fighters in recent memory with the UFC middleweight title up for grabs. Australian brawler Robert Whittaker puts his title on the line against Kelvin Gastelum, who has been on a tear since moving up a weight class to fight in the middleweight division.
The co-main event at UFC 234 features a battle between two of the most recognizable middleweights to casual fans. The UFC’s next pet project in Israel Adesanya faces the man who inspired the New Zealander to enter MMA squares off with the GOAT contender, Anderson Silva, in another middleweight match with the man who wins seemingly next in line to fight the winner of the main event.
Jim Crute vs. Sam Alvey
To open the card up it seems we have a fight that is the “changing of the guard”. Jim Crute has made waves in the fight scene since earning his contract on Dana White’s Contender Series television show and the UFC have high hopes for the 22-year-old to become a mainstay in the Light Heavyweight division.
Sam Alvey is no pushover, albeit he is coming off a loss by a second-round TKO in September. Alvey has been around the UFC for a decade and acts as the crafty veteran in the LHW division. While Crute is only 22, I don’t think it’s too early for him to make a name out of beating a perennially ranked fighter in Alvey, albeit with a suspect gas tank. Alvey could put him in some tough situations early in the fight, but Crute seems to have enough athletic prowess to clip the wily veteran in his home country at UFC 234.
prediction: Jim Crute, KO, Round 2.
Montana De La Rosa(#14) vs. Nadia Kaseem
Nadia Kassem brings a strong striking background into her UFC debut but unfortunately for her, she goes against one of the better wrestlers/submission artists in the Women’s flyweight divisor. Kaseem provides some uncanny knockout power in the women’s flyweight division, as the last four of her five wins coming by way of knockout. De La Rosa is not unfamiliar with fighting a striker and has the talent to finish this fight on the ground rather quickly.
A close fight seems to be on the horizon, De La Rosa’s recent tear of three straight submission wins along with her experience puts her in a great position to get the victory and move up in the flyweight rankings.
prediction: De La Rosa, Unanimous Decision.
Rani Yahya(#15) vs. Ricky Simon
There are two deciding factors that come down to choosing whoever is going to win, submission defense and cardio. Ricky Simon, much like Jim Crute is positioned by the UFC to make a name for themselves. With an impressive physique, vibrant personality and knockout power in both hands, the UFC must be hoping that they have a mainstay in the 135 division.
Rani Yahya is nothing short of a Jui-Jitsu wizard, rattling off three submission victories against incredibly game opponents. Simon’s can definitely catch Yahya with his berzerker-like mentality, but the jump in competition for the young bantamweight alongside his questionable submission defense has Yahya in position to get his fourth straight submission victory.
prediction: Ranhi Yahya, Submission, Round 2.
Israel Adesanya(#6) vs. Anderson Silva(#15)
With all due respect to Robert Whittaker and Kevin Gastelum, the co-main event should ultimately be the headliner. Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya seems to be on the fast track to UFC superstardom and adding a name as big as Anderson Silva seems to be just what the doctor ordered.
Although Adesanya seems to be the UFC brass’ new toy, the disrespect thrown onto the greatest middleweight fighter of all time has been surreal. Sure, Anderson Silva only has one (official) win to his name in the last five years, and there’s a real argument to be made that he didn’t really win that one. But we’re talking about Anderson Silva here who owns virtually middleweight record you could possibly think of. The Spider seems to be destined to shellshock the young Adesanya as he seems to be rejuvenated fighting someone so prominent, but father time catches everyone.
By no means will this fight be a cakewalk for Sylebender, but it’ll be foolish not to pick any upper-echelon middleweight over the UFC legend.
prediction: Israel Adesanya, TKO, Round 3.
Robert Whittaker(C) vs. Kelvin Gastelum(#4)
Death, taxes, exciting UFC 234 main event. Those are the three things I’m almost certain of will happen in my lifetime. Robert Whittaker, also affectionately called ‘Bobby Knuckles’ is by far one of the best examples of UFC’s horrible mismarketing. Whittaker should be a household name, but he’s relegated to only being well known and revered in MMA purist circles. Whittaker comes for war, let alone a fight and memories of Whittaker’s ten rounds of pure violence are still against Yoel Romero are still fresh in my mind.
Kelvin Gastelum has been on a roll since entering middleweight, with the smaller weight cut doing wonders for his career. Gastelum poses some issues with his grappling and punching power, but Whittaker defending and brutalizing Jacare Souza should help put any doubts about Whittaker’s defense to rest. Gastelum has the right to claim he is one of the best middleweights in the world, but I can’t’ imagine any aspect of MMA where he’s superior to Bobby Knuckles, especially with his cardio issues. Whittaker’s ability to keep a high pace on his feet while landing at an astounding rate is bound to drain Gastelum in the later rounds, who is susceptible to getting tagged with jabs. At the end of the night, I expect two words to be said by the iconic Bruce Buffer, “And Still” as we exit UFC 234.
prediction: Robert Whittaker, TKO, 5th round.