UFC 234: Whittaker vs Gastelum Preview

For a card that could not afford losing a big name, the unthinkable has happened, and Robert Whittaker has been scratched from the card due to a hernia. Whittaker’s fight against Kelvin Gastelum is off, and Adesanya vs Silva is the new Main Event. Dana White has stated that Whittaker is having surgery to repair the hernia immediately. With Dana confirming the surgery so quickly, I anticipate the UFC will reschedule this fight as soon as Whittaker is out of the recovery timeframe.

The UFC kicks off its 2019 Pay-Per-View slate tonight with a top-heavy card from Melbourne, Australia. There are few fights in recent memory that have garnered as much excitement as the main event for tonight’s UFC Pay-Per-View. The fight between Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya looks to carry the entire card, as there is a significant drop in both name value and fighting acumen after the main and co-main events. 

Main Event
Middleweight Championship (up to 185 lbs)

Robert Whittaker (C) 24-4-0 vs Kelvin Gastelum #4 15-3-0-1NC

This fight was scrapped due to a late injury to champion Robert Whittaker.

Co-Main Event
Middleweight Division (185 lbs)

Anderson Silva #15 34-8-0-1NC vs Israel Adesanya #6 15-0

Silva vs Adesanya is getting the hype treatment by the UFC marketing machine and deservedly so. To say Adesanya is a rising star is shortchanging this man’s meteoric rise. Adesanya is everything the UFC needs in a superstar: unique personality, trash talk, devastating finishes and relatability. In the leadup to the fight, the UFC has keyed in on a money quote by Adesanya describing what he plans to do to his opponent: “I’m going to ‘Anderson Silva’ Anderson Silva.” In other words, he plans to finish Silva via a highlight-reel knockout.

Anderson Silva is being written off by most pundits, and this fight has the feel of a “passing of the torch” style of fight; however, Silva is an all-time great and writing him off as an easy win seems premature. At 43 years old and having a 1-4-0-1NC record in his last 6 fights, there is no doubt Silva is on the back 9 of his career; but in his most recent fight, he used his striking skills and experience to win a decision against a very game Derek Brunson. He took some better shots than he has in recent memory, but the hesitation was more evident.

Israel Adesanya is coming off a blistering 2018 in which he fought four times for the UFC and won all four fights in convincing fashion, including two highlight reel knockouts and two comfortable decisions. He used 2018 to springboard to the top of the rankings and is now looking to challenge for the title if he gets past the legend. Adesanya is the cream of the striking crop and has the ability to land blows that have no reason landing at this level.

Adesanya’s skills, power and speed will be too much for “The Spider.” I have Adesanya by ‘Anderson Silva’ in the 2nd Round.

Undercard/Preliminary Fights

This undercard leaves plenty to be desired but there are a few diamonds in the rough. Rising prospect Devonte Smith takes on streaking Dong Hyun Ma and Lando Vannata looks to recapture some of his early career buzz and get on the winning side against Marcos Rosa Mariano.

Overall, the UFC’s first Pay-Per-View of 2019 looks like a boxing card with top names at the top and lesser known fighters to fill the undercard.

What: UFC 234 Whittaker vs Gastelum
Where to watch: Preliminary Card – ESPN; Main Card – Pay-Per-View
When: Saturday, February 9, 2019
Time: Preliminary Card – 7:00 p.m. CST; Main Card – 9:00 p.m. CST

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