Robert Whittaker, the current king of the middleweight division, was expected to get the opportunity to retain that position in the main event of UFC 234 on Saturday against Kelvin Gastelum in Melbourne, Australia.
However, ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto reported just hours before the event that Whittaker withdrew from his fight due to a hernia. Okamoto added that Whittaker will undergo surgery on Saturday to repair the injury.
Now, all eyes will be on the previous co-main event, which features a former king of the middleweight division in Anderson Silva. The Spider takes to the cage against up-and-coming 185er Israel Adesanya in what could be a fight to eventually challenge for the championship.
Despite Whittaker being unable to fight, it's still a big night for the middleweight division and Australian MMA as the card features several native fighters.
Here's a look at the complete card along with the latest odds from OddsShark and some predictions for the evening.
Main Card (10 p.m. ET, PPV)
- 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)
Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya
How does one go about potentially ending the career of someone who inspired them?
Adesanya might just show us the answer to that question. The Last Stylebender has brought about comparisons with Silva—a man he credits with inspiring him to take up MMA. Now, he'll get to fight him.
It's a fight that Adesanya believes will bring out the best in The Spider.
"I think I'm the guy to bring out the Anderson of old. He's excited by this challenge, I believe, but so am I," the New Zealander said, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. "I am constantly evolving in this game and leveling up, and I want to show my evolution in this fight that I have leveled up even since the [win over Derek Brunson in November]."
At 43 years old, it's doubtful the "Anderson of old" is still in there somewhere. Eventually, the triggers wear out, the flexibility and reaction time dissipates and the snap just isn't there anymore.
Still, the question remains, will Adesanya be able to pull the trigger when the time comes?
When Silva was in his prime, he beat many opponents before the fight even started. Their awe and respect slowed them. Will Adesanya see the same thing happen?
That's about the only way that he doesn't end this fight early.
It may take a while for him to settle in, but once he does, the end will come soon. Expect Adesanya to have fun for a bit before bringing the fight to a close.
Prediction: Adesanya via third-round TKO
Ricky Simon vs. Rani Yahya
This card is a kiddie pool when it comes to depth. After the last two bouts, there's a steep drop-off in name recognition and consequence.
In the fight leading up to the co-main, perennial not-quite-contender Rani Yahya will test Ricky Simon. Simon has fought just twice in the UFC and doesn't even have a Wikipedia page yet.
It's supposed to be a showcase fight for the 26-year-old Simon, who is 2-0 in his UFC appearances, but they definitely didn't pick an easy opponent to prove himself against. Yahya has never made huge progress up the rankings, but he is 7-1 since moving to bantamweight.
Simon is a pressure fighter through and through. He'll look to turn up the volume against the Brazilian and turn the fight into a brawl.
That reckless abandon might not be the best approach against a veteran like Yahya, though. He's proved to be a submission artist, and the recklessness from Simon may open up some problems.
Prediction: Yahya via third-round submission