This Saturday night’s UFC 234 card live from Melbourne, Australia, is not the best pay-per-view offering the world’s leading MMA promotion has put together. When you have fights like Montana de la Rosa vs. Nadia Kassem and Rani Yahya vs. Ricky Simon on the PPV portion of the card — solid fights, but prelims on any other card — you know it’s a bit of a weak event. Fortunately, the top two fights on the billing are excellent contests, and the reasons why fans will spend their hard-earned money this weekend to watch the card.
The main event is the best fight on the card, and it features UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker putting his gold on the line against Kelvin Gastelum in what should be an amazing contest between two men who like to stand in the pocket and trade. These two fighters have a lot in common, too. Both men won The Ultimate Fighter, both are younger than 30, and both were former welterweights who have found way more success since moving up to middleweight, culminating in this title fight against one another.
Whittaker has gone 8-0 since moving up to middleweight, with two wins over Yoel Romero plus victories over the likes of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Derek Brunson and Brad Tavares. Gastelum, meanwhile, is 3-1, 1 NC , with wins over Michael Bisping, Souza, Tim Kennedy and a KO win over Vitor Belfort that was overturned to a No Contest due to marijuana, with his lone defeat at 185lbs coming against former champ Chris Weidman. Both men are at the top of their respective games, and both men are far better fighters at 185lbs where they don’t cut much weight. We are getting two fighters in their prime going at each other for the belt, and it has the potential to be one of the best fights of the year.
The co-main event doesn’t appear to be as competitive as the main event should be, but it’s an intriguing matchup nonetheless between Anderson Silva, the former long-time UFC middleweight champion, and Israel Adesanya, who many believe is a future champion. Silva hasn’t fought since a decision win over Derek Brunson in February 2017. He’s just 1-4, 1 NC in his last six outings and appears to be a shell of his former champion self, but he’s still Silva, one of the greatest knockout artists ever, and you can’t take him lightly.
Having said that, this is a tough matchup for Silva, who is 43-years-old, as Adesanya is only 29 and in the prime of his career. “The Last Stylebender” has only been in the UFC for a year, but he’s already 4-0 with wins over the aforementioned Tavares and Brunson, to name a few. He has an exceptional striking attack and in many ways resembles a young Silva with his pinpoint accuracy and raw knockout power. The UFC booked this fight as a passing of the guard type of matchup, and if you look at the odds, there’s a good chance Adesanya is going to finish Silva and start to build his legacy off of the win.
As stated in the opening, UFC 234 isn’t a great card by any means, but it does feature two intriguing middleweight matchups with three of the top five fighters in the weight class competing. Whittaker vs. Gastelum is one of the best middleweight title fights the UFC has put together in a while, and Adesanya vs. Silva is the perfect rising contender vs. aging gatekeeper fight. Even if you don’t watch the rest of the card, you have to watch these two fights, and the UFC middleweight division is going to be on fine display at UFC 234.