UFC 234 tips: Best bets for Whittaker v Gastelum
Jack Green gives his UFC tips for the middleweight title fight in Melbourne, as well as two other bouts from the main card.
Robert Whittaker v Kelvin Gastelum
Saturday night’s middleweight title fight should be an intriguing striking match between two of the UFC’s most underrated stars.
Whittaker’s rise since he moved up from welterweight has been remarkable. The Australian is on a nine-fight winning streak, and holds the belt after beating Yoel Romero in back-to-back fights in July 2017 and June 2018.
Gastelum, meanwhile, earned a title shot by beating Jacare Souza on points in May 2018, six months after knocking out former champion Michael Bisping in the first round.
Having struggled to make weight at welterweight on several occasions, Gastelum moved up a division in 2016 and has been much improved, making up for his size disadvantage with elite speed and punching power.
Beating Whittaker might be a step too far for the American, however.
The champion is just as crisp a boxer as Gastelum, and also mixes in an arsenal of kicks that is unmatched in the middleweight division.
Whittaker proved with those two decision victories over Romero that he can comfortably go five rounds, and he has the highest striking rate of any current UFC middleweight.
Providing he avoids an early bomb, the Australian should take Gastelum into the later rounds and outlast the challenger for a third successive win on points.
Whittaker to win on points:
Israel Adesanya v Anderson Silva
Adesanya made his UFC debut almost exactly a year ago, and is already on the verge of a middleweight title shot after knocking out Derek Brunson in November.
‘The Last Stylebender’ is perhaps the most exciting fighter in the UFC, combining fast, creative striking with the longest reach in the division.
Saturday could be the night he emerges as a superstar by beating arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
Silva was once the best striker in the world, but age has caught up with the 43-year-old and his only win in his last six fights was a dubious decision against Brunson in February 2017.
Adesanya modelled his style on Silva’s, and should make light work of his idol this weekend. This fight probably won’t last the first round.
Adesanya to win in Round 1:
Rani Yahya v Ricky Simon
UFC newcomer Simon has won both of his fights since joining the company, although he was fortunate to be awarded a last-second submission win over Merab Dvalishvili on debut last April.
The American is on a seven-fight winning streak since losing to Anderson dos Santos in March 2016 but, while he’s a decent all-round fighter, he doesn’t excel in any specific area.
Yahya, conversely, is a submission specialist with 15 fights in the UFC to date. The vastly experienced 34-year-old has won seven of his last eight fights, including the last three by submission.
He could struggle on the feet against Simon, but has a knack of forcing strikers to the ground and should secure the tap once again on Saturday night.
Yahya to win by submission: