UFC 234 is set to air on Sunday, 10th February 2019 at 3:00 AM UTC from the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. It promises to be a dynamic event with a real mix of fighters from all over the world and full of opportunities for bitcoin betting on MMA.
The main card features a strong selection of knockout artists sure to make for an exciting night, along with a range of submission experts set to challenge the punch bonanza. This is a night for MMA legends to prove a point, rising stars to offer a fresh challenge, and new emerging female fighters to make their mark.
Kelvin Gastelum v Robert Whittaker
Middleweight Main Event
A battle between the home-grown Aussie/New-Zealander Robert Whittaker (currently at 1.35) and the American Gastelum (currently at 2.94). The two fighters are fairly well matched, of similar height, age, and experience - though Whittaker has a stronger record with 5 more wins overall.
Gastelum has a UFC Middleweight ranking of number five whilst Whittaker is the reigning champion at number one. In terms of UFC standing, Gastelum has more to gain and Whittaker more to lose. Despite the rankings, this is probably the one match up of the night that is more difficult to predict, considering the similar styles of the fighters.
Gastelum is a well-rounded warrior with variable wins numbering six by knockout, four by submission and five by decision, suggesting his skill at combining striking, grappling and ground game effectively. UFC Fight Night 27 was a great example of this. In his fight against Brian Melancon, he used accurate knock down punches to the head, capitalising on Malencon’s fall to take his back and finished the fight with a rear-naked choke.
It’s clear that Gastelum favours clean, fluid boxing technique in his strikes. When he knocks his opponents down with his punches, he uses that window of opportunity to take the back, dominating his disorientated opponent to finish a submission, his favourite being the rear-naked choke.
His strikes are of course strong enough to deliver knockouts and not just knock down. One of his most noteworthy victories was his clean right-left knockout of Bisping (UFC Fight Night 122). He also makes use of head kicks in his combinations and his reactions are confident and well timed. Gastelum is also a southpaw. His unconventional left-hand stance which he switches whilst moving can also throw off his opponents.
Whittaker is more likely to be the crowd favourite as the Aussie native holding the number one spot. He is similar to Gastelum in the spread of his wins, though he’s won more fights by knockout with a record of nine knockouts, five submissions and six decisions. Whittaker has a more unconventional striking style, unlike the classical boxing of Gastelum. He makes use of over hand strikes, hybrid punches combined with weaving head movements, with excellent reactions and counters.
In a similar fashion to Gastelum, Whittaker favours forcing his opponent to the ground then unleashing a barrage of strikes. With Whittaker also being a well-rounded fighter and considering the two men’s similar styles, he also favours the rear-naked choke as a submission to finish.
One additional weapon Whittaker has in his arsenal is his excellent timing and use of head kicks, a risky strike to land at all, with plenty of knockout power. This can clearly be seen in his defeat of Derek Brunson (UFC Fight Night 101):
This fight is a tough call. Both fighters have similar styles and victories. There are however a couple factors that would sway the fight in favour of Whittaker. Whittaker is on a nine fight winning streak, he’s on a high and plans to continue, whilst Gastelum is coming back from some recent losses including a no contest. He’s making his way back up and naturally these recent records account for Whittaker taking the number one ranked spot.
We must also consider Whittaker’s unconventional striking style and use of kicks which may well be able to confuse Gastelum and catch him off-guard whilst also scoring more landed hits - all the while having the support of his home crowd. A main event worth watching. Our guess is Whittaker will win, even if it comes down to a decision.
Robert Whittaker to win at 1.35
Anderson Silva v Israel Adesanya
Middleweight Co-main Event
This is a face-off between the older and the new generation. Between the legend Anderson Silva (currently at 5.54) and the rising star Israel Adesanya (currently at 1.50). Silva is trying to hold onto his legendary record. His most recent win against Derek Brunson (UFC 208) has been his only victory since 2012. This battle is an interesting one because the dynamic styles of the two fighters are strikingly similar. It is almost like Silva is battling a younger version of himself.
Silva is a household name in the MMA and UFC world. He was once considered to be the best in the world and by many still is. He’s had a staggering 22 (out of 34) wins via knockout over the course of his career. He was on an unprecedented 17 fight winning streak before everything seemed to come crumbling down with his knockout and then snapping of his shin against Weidman in UFC 162 and then 168, which began his first losing streak. That leg injury would haunt him as one of the most dramatic in UFC history. Despite recent events, no one can deny that Silva is the knockout king. His fluidity, unconventionally creative striking, head movements and reactions leading him to land perfectly timed knockouts are what made him the legend he is.
He can use a variety of strikes to achieve this, including head roundhouse kicks, knees (as seen twice against Rich Franklin in UFC 64 and 77), the front kick against Vitor Belfort (UFC 126) as well as accurate punches as seen against Forrest Griffin (UFC 101) exhibiting Silva’s incredible skill and speed.
The way he would move and trip his opponents, seemingly outthinking and foreseeing their movements made him seem almost super human, thus his nickname: The Spider. We also can’t forget that Silva is well rounded in his technical abilities, holding a 6th degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Ricardo De La Riva. It may be wise of him to implement more of those latter skills if he wants to secure a victory.
His opponent Adesanya is young, hungry and undefeated. Adesanya is an up and coming fighter with less than half the experience of Silva and 14 years his junior. Like Silva, Adesanya also has great reactions and timing. He clearly uses his height and reach effectively, here holding an advantage of roughly 2 inches more than Silva in each.
Adesanya is on the rise much as Silva once was with his non-stop 16 fight winning streak numbering 13 knockouts. He is looking at becoming a knockout king just like his opponent. Adesanya is unconventional and highly confident. He times his combinations well, reacting to the movements of his opponents with a sure, forward force. He comes from a strong kickboxing background which is evident in the technicality of his strikes which expertly maintain distance and use angles, particularly in his kicks.
However Adesanya is not only a pro kickboxer. You can see the brilliant combination of his wrestling control combined with close range knees and punches in his most recent fight and knockout of Derek Brunson (UFC 230). His wrestling technique is something he uses to control his opponents and confuse them as he surgically places his strikes.
His confidence and strike versatility, showcasing how he got the name “Style Bender” is greatly demonstrated in his decision win against Brad Tavares (The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale). You can also see his similarities to Silva in being an entertaining fighter to watch for the crowd.
But Silva is 43 years old. No one can deny the heart and spirit of Silva as a fighter entering the cage at this stage of his career, or the extent of his experience with more than double the victories of Adesanya and only eight losses in total. Silva has undoubtedly achieved a great deal in this sport.
But the fact of the matter remains, few UFC veterans fight this long for a reason. The years have taken their toll on Silva, as have his recent sustained injuries. He now faces a fresh, talented and undefeated opponent. All of these factors combined places the favour highly on the side of Adesanya to come out victorious.
Israel Adesanya to win at 1.14
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Rani Yahya v Ricky Simon
Here we have another main card battle across two generations. As with the co-main event, there is a considerable age gap, 34 years old for Rani Yahya (currently at 2.01) and 26 years for Ricky Simon (currently at 1.72), which can definitely be seen in the record.
Yahya is a certified veteran of the sport whilst Simon has suffered only one loss so far in his career with less than half the number of fights battled by Yahya. This is one match up on the card where the skillsets of the two opponents are vastly different which may be a more potent deciding factor than age or experience.
Yahya’s stand out feature? His unquestionable expertise in BJJ with an astounding majority of 20 submission wins. This comes as no surprise, this is where it all began for Yahya in his native Brazil where he started competing in 2002. He is now a second degree black belt under Athaide Junior, with victories at ADCC and as World Jiu-Jitsu Champion (purple belt).
He took this weapon to the cage and capitalised on it, much like Ronda Rousey famously did with her Judo. Yahya is known for applying constant pressure in his nogi and grappling style which is well primed for MMA and Vale Tudo (“everything goes”), a Brazilian version of MMA in which he also excelled.
Yahya goes into the cage knowing what he wants and knowing how to set it up, as was seen in the impressive set up for arm-triangle choke with Matthew Lopez (UFC Fight Night 91). If one could say that Yahya has an Achilles heel it would be that he has never achieved a knockout victory - unlike his opponent.
The young Simon definitely has more proven knockout power (five victories by knockout), but a majority of decision wins (seven), and only two wins via submission. He’s more of a well-rounded fighter, a generalist, whilst Yahya is clearly a specialist.
Simon has a mixed skill set which can be adaptable to the styles and specialisms of a variety of opponents. This is often what defines a good Mixed Martial Artist and could act in his favour. Simon combines offensive strikes with wrestling technique in his fights. You can see his smooth use of classical wrestling combined with effective strikes and domination of his opponent on the ground in his fight against Chico Camus (LFA 29).
We’ve seen it time and time again where BJJ experts continue to be victorious, regardless of their age. Yahya has a tough and versatile opponent in Simon but he also has a lot of experience dealing with these kind of encounters. Yahya will need to avoid his opponent’s strikes and use Simon’s preference for classical wrestling to come close enough to take the fight to the ground. Once there, Yahya should do what he does best and secure the win via submission.
Ricky Simon to win at 1.72
Nadia Kassem v Montana De La Rosa
It’s always interesting to have a women’s fight on the UFC, particularly when it is on the main card and the only women’s fight on the entire main and prelim show. Women’s UFC is still a relatively young sport and a rare sight compared to the men’s division.
There is a hunger amongst these women to prove themselves and defeat the odds. The ladies fighting on this card are both the same age, with De La Rosa holding the slight height and reach advantage by two inches in each. Montana De La Rosa (currently at 1.39) is certainly the more experienced fighter in this match-up. Nadia Kassem (currently at 2.99) comes into this fight as the home-grown Australian heroine and underdog. Certainly an exciting fight in this line-up.
Kassem goes into this fight confidently undefeated. She has relatively limited experience as compared to the other fighters battling alongside her on the card, but her performance stands out. Of her five wins, four were by knockout.
Fighters at this weight and particularly women are often considered less powerful and less likely to land a knockout. Here Kassem goes against the trend. Though she does not have a deep-rooted background in martial arts, she has battled hard to reach the level of her opposition using her former Taekwondo experience as a base. This can be seen in her kicks and she definitely shows versatility, control and strength in her strikes overall.
She is not afraid to use unconventional and risky flying kicks, head kicks as well as accurately shot knees. The full range of these strikes can clearly be seen in her fast defeat of Leigha Aurisch (Urban Fight Night 9).
The American De La Rosa is far more experienced though both fighters are relatively early on in their careers. Unlike what we’ve seen from Kassem, with De La Rosa, wrestling and BJJ reign supreme. The majority of her victories have been - you guessed it - by submission, counting for seven of her wins. Her two stand out killers, that she has clearly refined, are the armbar and rear-naked choke.
She was the winner in the finales for both UFC Ultimate Fighter 26 (against Christina Marks) and 27 (Rachael Ostovich) and is moving forward on a high. In both of these victories she showed calm determination in securing and finishing her submissions. Against Marks, she set up her armbar in such a way that there was nothing Marks could do to escape it without furthering the submission once De La Rosa was positioned. Against Ostovich she used her reach advantage in leading jabs before finally taking the fight to the ground and finishing her opponent with a rear-naked choke.
Overall we don’t believe that Kassem has gone against an opponent like De La Rosa before. Whilst Kassem no doubt has the power and potential to secure a knockout, we would put our eggs on De La Rosa taking advantage of Kassem’s inexperience and avoiding her strikes. Once the fight goes to the ground, I suspect Kassem will not be able to defend against De La Rosa’s tactical movements and will be finished by submission.
Montana De La Rosa to win at 1.39