The UFC heads down under to Melbourne, Australia and the Rod Laver arena for UFC 234. The card is headlined by Robert Whittaker and showcases a potential passing of the torch as the young pretender faces the old master.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Adesanya v Silva:
Israel Adesanya is one of the hottest prospects in all of MMA right now; ranked #6 in the world, unbeaten at 15-0 and less than a year into his tenure with the UFC. While competing in the regional scene he amassed a record of 11-0, never seeing the third round. In the UFC he has found life a little more difficult, as expected, going the distance twice, one of which was a split decision.
There is nothing I can say about Anderson Silva that hasn’t already been said. He is the most dominant 185lb’er of all time, is second in the rankings for all time defences of a belt, and time held and is the starting point for all conversations relating to the GOAT. Silva has defined the modern era of MMA and, barring a failed drugs test, conducted himself with all the characteristics that we have come to expect from a martial artist. If there is a criticism of Silva, then he hasn’t always fully engaged in some of his fights which has led to a few snoozers in the resume, but when he does engage then the display is electric. At age 43 his best years are behind him, but he can literally turn back the clock this weekend when he enters the matrix and faces the younger version of himself.
This is a fight where I am a little wary of wading in too deep on the favourite (Adesanya) for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, they are so similar in terms of fighting style that I can’t help but feel experience could be the decider. Secondly, where they have similar attributes, I believe that Silva is the more accomplished in almost every area. BJJ? Silva by a country mile. Kickboxing? Adesanya, but the edge in Muay Thai goes to Silva and Muay Thai is far more applicable to MMA than basic kickboxing. The telling factor, and it could be the decisive one is that Silva has been inactive now for two years and at 43 the rust could be a lot to shake off. Adesanya has almost zero chance of submitting Anderson so his paths to victory come by decision or KO. Even in his advancing years Silva is notoriously difficult to hit and he certainly won’t be leading with his chin like Brunson did. I’m taking a small play on the fight going to a decision.
Recommendation: Fight Goes to Decision – 2 units at +160 (8/5) @ 5Dimes
Whittaker v Gastelum:
Barring the UK’s own Michael Bisping, Robert Whittaker may be the best fighter to graduate from The Ultimate Fighter. A contestant in the UK vs Australia series, The Smashes, Whittaker prevailed in the Welterweight final. It was a division where Whittaker would ultimately move up from as the weight cut was stripping him of his power.
Moving to 185lbs is the best thing that Whittaker has done for his career. He currently sits at 8-0 in the division and is the reigning champion, fresh from a defence against Yoel Romero and it gave birth to his new nickname. Gone is The Reaper, all hail Bobby Knuckles.
Kelvin Gastelum is another graduate from TUF, in his case winning the season prior to Whittaker, also originally at 170lbs. Unlike Whittaker, it wasn’t exactly Gastelum’s sole decision to move to 185lb, UFC president Dana White forced the change after Gastelum missed weight on three occasions. One of which came in a de facto title eliminator that he narrowly lost by split decision to eventual champion Tyron Woodley. Watch those burgers, Kelvin, 10lbs over is completely unacceptable at this level.
Gastelum redeemed himself and put the division on notice with stoppage wins over Tim Kennedy and Vitor Belfort, but it was against Michael Bisping that he announced his arrival. At the time, Bisping was 3 weeks removed from losing his Middleweight title to GSP and should never have been medically cleared to take the bout. But take it he didn’t, and he was sparked out by Gastelum in the first. It was the end of Bisping’s career and the real beginning for Kelvin at 185.
I’ve been trying to find a way that Gastelum wins this fight and submission would be the only way I see it happening. Whittaker is too physically strong, has better cardio and has a higher fight IQ than his opponent. Over 5 rounds I see Bobby Knuckles landing at will and getting the job done late in the third round.
Recommendation: Whittaker Inside the Distance – 2 units at +152 (6/4) @ 5Dimes