The UFC is going down under for UFC 234, where Australian middleweight Robert Whittaker will attempt to defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum in the co-main event.
The defense will technically be Whittaker's first since taking over as the division's champion in July 2017. His rematch with Yoel Romero was a non-title bout due to his opponent missing championship weight by 0.2 pounds.
The co-main event isn't for a belt, but it's an intriguing matchup nonetheless. Legend Anderson Silva will either pass a torch or derail the hype train of Israel Adesanya in another middleweight matchup at the February 10 event. Adesanya's electric striking has led to a perfect 15-0 record but will face a high-profile challenge when matched up with The Spider's counterstriking ability.
Here's a look at the complete card for the evening with the odds for each fight and a closer look at some of the hype for the biggest fights on the card.
All odds via OddsShark.
Main Card (10 p.m. ET, PPV)
- Robert Whittaker (-240; bet $240 to win $100) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (+190; bet $100 to win $190)
- Israel Adesanya (-650) vs. Anderson Silva (+425)
- Rani Yahya (-105) vs. Ricky Simon (-125)
- Montana De La Rosa (-260) vs. Nadia Kassem (+200)
- Jim Crute (-135) vs. Sam Alvey (+115)
Preliminary Card (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
- Devonte Smith (-260) vs. Dong Hyun Ma (+200)
- Shane Young (-305) vs. Austin Arnett (+235)
- Kai Kara-France (-305) vs. Raulian Paiva (+235)
- Teruto Ishihara (+300) vs. Kyung Ho Kang (-400)
Preliminary Card (6:30 p.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass)
- Lando Vannata (-365) vs. Marcos Rosa (+275)
- Jalin Turner (-260) vs. Callan Potter (+200)
- Wuliji Buren (+140) vs. Jonathan Martinez (-170)
Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum
It's been a slow start to Whittaker's reign as the middleweight champion. But when he's been in the cage, he's been unstoppable at 185 pounds. His last loss came five years ago when he was a welterweight since then he's won nine straight fights with wins over the likes of Derek Brunson, Jacare Souza and Yoel Romero.
The most formidable of those opponents is Romero, Whittaker's opponent in his last two fights. While the Australian is respectful of Gastelum leading up to the fight, he's just glad he won't be seeing the Cuban grappler for a third consecutive time.
"I respect his abilities. He's a dangerous fighter. He's going to come in there hungry, with nothing to lose. That's one of the most dangerous combinations," the champion said, per John Morgan of MMAjunkie "I'm giving him the respect he deserves. It is refreshing to have a different opponent other than Yoel, but, you know, here we are."
For Gastelum, this is his chance to prove that he's among the elite in the division. He's earned the title shot after back-to-back wins over Michael Bisping and Jacare Souza, but he only has one win over the current top 10 in the division.
His track record isn't affecting his confidence, though. He doesn't believe that Whittaker has any special skills that make him stand out compared to other opponents.
"He's a competitor, and he wins fights. He doesn't necessarily bring a lot of special skills to the table. I've had 14, 15 fights in the UFC," he said, per Morgan. "I've been through a lot of obstacles, seen a lot of styles, seen a lot of different fighters—trained with a lot of different fighters, fought a lot of different fighters—and so I just don't think he brings anything special to the table. But I can't underestimate him or his abilities."
Gastelum is right in a sense. Whittaker isn't overly flashy or dependent on any aspects of his game. We've seen him have success as a grappler in the cage, and we've seen him knock people's lights out with his striking.
Saturday night he's going to showcase those well-rounded skills again, proving to be too big, fast and strong for Gastelum.
Prediction: Whittaker via second-round TKO
Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva
Is the Anderson Silva era over, or does the 43-year-old have one or two more performances left in him?
Judging by his recent run with one win in five fights and a no-contest, the question has already been answered, but he's going to play gatekeeper at least one more time against rising star Israel Adesanya in the co-main event.
Silva—who used to be the most feared striker in MMA—will meet one of the most dynamic and fun strikers to come to the sport in a long time. And his opponent views this as the moment where he takes the king's spot.
"This is the movie of my life. This fight is the ending of part one. It's where I kill the master," Adesanya said, speaking with Bleacher Report's Scott Harris. "The beginning of part two is when I challenge Whittaker for the belt."
It's a bout that will likely launch Adesanya into title contention and remind people of the old Silva. Adesanya's flashy striking and lightning quickness will remind fans of the former middleweight titleholder. The Spider sees the similarities and is grateful for the opportunity to take on much younger challengers like the 29-year-old Adesanya.
"Everybody's talking about that," Silva said about the similarities between the two fighters, per Fernanda Prates and Dave Mandel of MMAjunkie. "But, in my point, I stay in this sport, I continue in this sport—thank you, God—and the new talent come. It's natural I fight the young (versions), the new fighters and the new talent. I need to say thank you God for staying in shape (to fight) these young guys. Because it's not easy. I stay in shape. I try to do my best every day. And let's go see what happens in Australia."
What's likely to happen in Australia is the introduction of Adesanya as the next middleweight title challenger and the continuation of the downward trend that is Silva's stock in the UFC.
Prediction: Adesanya via third-round TKO