UFC 234 Kelvin Gastelum v Robert Whittaker is the latest Mixed Martial Arts show promoted by the ever-popular Ultimate Fighting Championship. It’s scheduled to take place at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia on Sunday 10 February. UK fans are able to follow the pick of the night’s action live on BT Sport, the main event advertised as a 6.00am start time.
Fight fans have been scolded in the past when staying up late for bouts that have failed to live up to expectations; however, this card shouldn’t be in any danger of that with some interesting clashes on the schedule, including the main event that has experts excited.
The Main Event
The main event gives us Robert Whittaker v Kelvin Gastelum at middleweight with the chief support also coming from that division, Israel Adesanya v fans’ favourite Anderson Silva. The rest of the bill promises Rani Yahya v Ricky Simon at bantamweight; Devonte Smith v Dong Hyun Ma lightweight and Jim Crute against Sam Alvey in the light heavyweight category. Get the best of those fights on BT Sport with expert commentary and analysis.
The Preliminary Card, which is available to watch on ESPN, has a featherweight decider between Shane Young and Austin Arnett. There is also Montana De La Rosa v Nadia Kassem women’s flyweight; Kai Kara-France v Raulian Paiva flyweight and Teruto Ishihara v Kyung Ho Kang at bantamweight.
Avid followers of the scene will get a catch-up on the likes of Lando Vannata, Jalin Turner and Marcos Rosa when keeping an eye on the ESPN coverage of the Early Preliminary Card.
Let’s take a closer look at the main event as fans get an early 2019 treat when Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum go toe-to-toe as the former put his UFC Middleweight title on the line against his challenger.
Champion Boasts Knockout Power
Robert Whittaker was born in South Auckland, New Zealand; however, he is a recognised Australian national and fights out of his Sydney base. The 28-year-old boasts a background competing in Hapkido where he reached the rank of black belt, Goju-Ryu Karate – another black belt achieved – and Brazilian Jiujitsu. His reals skills came to the attention of the world when moving into professional MMA, however, and the champion carries a record of 20 wins against four defeats.
Of his victories, Whittaker has claimed nine by knockout, six on decision and five by way of submission. He’s a genuine all-rounder who carries concussive power; however, he can easily handle the technical side of the game. Of his four losses, two have been on points with the remaining couple split evenly between a KO reverse and submission. He’s a fiery fighter who fans love to watch and is a gladiator who is rarely in a boring bout. He’s also a man who arrives on the back of a confidence-boosting winning run too.
Reaper’s Form is Deadly
Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker goes in on a hot streak of form, having won each of his last nine outings. That run started with a unanimous decision over Mike Rhodes on UFC Fight Night Auckland 2014 and was added to last time out with the split decision over Yoel Romero on UFC 225 in Chicago. The latter was made a non-title bout after Romero failed to make the agreed weight limit; however, it was a tussle worthy of the big prize and was later awarded fight of the night status.
Taking a closer look at the champion’s form we will see he has won five of nine on the scorecards and that’s worth keeping in mind when planning your attack on the bookies. Whittaker to win on points is worth a second look and backers happy to take a punt will land themselves a shot at 2/1 when playing with Unibet. Reaper’s other four wins in that period came by way of knockout and the KO/TKO is favourite Unibet trading 5/4.
There’s little chance of submission, according to those who hold the purse strings, with a stunning 20/1 offered. That’s big, but not quite big enough to have us part with our stake money. Prefer to keep it simple? Back Whittaker in the fight winner market at 2/5 with Bet365. One for your accumulators, it seems, and that’s our bet.
Gastelum a Tricky Customer
Challenger, Kelvin Gastelum, is a southpaw who brings a unique style that has tripped up more than a few more fancied fighters in the past; so, he’ll rate his chances of pulling off another upset when given a crack at winning the world title in front of a bumper audience. He may have the bookies against him, as well as the weight of the home support, but there’s no reason to take Kelvin lightly as he is here on merit and more than good enough to spoil the party, taking the strap back to California.
The outsider has a pro MMA record of 15 wins against three losses and one no contest, the spare coming back in March 2017 on UFC Fight Night Brazil when Gastelum was awarded a TKO victory and fight of the night prize; however, he saw that result overturned in shame when the victor later tested positive for banned substances marijuana and metabolite. A sad state of affairs which ruined a night that should’ve catapulted him towards the big time.
Finally Back in the Mix
It took Kelvin Gastelum quite some time to get over that and get his career back on track; however, he promises fans he’s a clean athlete now and there’s certainly no getting away from his results. He has won each of his last two, knocking out Michael Bisping in dramatic fashion, downing his opponent inside a round in China during a performance of the night show before travelling to Brazil where he dealt out a split decision defeat to Ronaldo Souza in the fight of the night.
There’s no doubt when Kelvin is at his best, he’s a match for anyone at this level. So, taking him lightly would be a real mistake by the champion. The challenger has heart, determination, skill and earth-shattering power and, if given the opportunity, he’s not shy in using it. A man who feels he has something to prove in the fight game is always dangerous. Backers can support the outsider at a cracking 2/1 with 888sport.
That price is sure to catch the attention of value hunters who understand the raw power coming out of the away dressing room is enough to level up the scores in any bout in any form of combat sports. We’ve seen it plenty of times in the past and we’ll see it plenty of times again in the future. Looking for more to shout about? A bet on the method of victory market will help hold your interest and fight against those tired eyes as this one gets going.
Gastelum’s best chance looks to be ending this one early so we expect him to put on a strong start. Unibet don’t see it happening, however, and offer a weighty 9/2 on him winning by way of knockout. That’s where our money would go if fancying the upset. A decision verdict is less likely, given his opponent’s skill and background, so there’s not a lot to get excited about at 8/1, submission bigger still at 20/1 – top price with Unibet.