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411’s MMA Roundtable Preview – UFC 234: Whittaker vs. Gastelum

February 9, 2019 | Posted by Dan Plunkett
UFC 234 Jalin Turner

The UFC returns to Australia with two big middleweight bouts! In the main event, Robert Whittaker defends the UFC middleweight title against Kelvin Gastelum! Prior to that, Israel Adesanya fights Anderson Silva in a title eliminator! In bantamweight action, Rani Yahya takes on Ricky Simon. Plus, Montana De La Rosa battles Nadia Kassem, Jim Crute vs. Sam Alvey, and more!


  • He’s 411’s Jack of All Trades, Jeffrey Harris!

  • He’ll lock you in the guillotine, Robert Winfree!

  • And your host, Dan Plunkett!

    First three prelims on UFC Fight Pass, rest on ESPN.
    Bantamweight Bout: Wuliji Buren vs. Jonathan Martinez

    Jeffrey Harris: Jonathan Martinez, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Wuliji Buren, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Buren, Decision

    Lightweight Bout: Callan Potter vs. Jalin Turner

    Jeffrey Harris: Callan Potter, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Jalin Turner, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Potter, Decision

    Lightweight Bout: Lando Vannata vs. Marcos Rosa

    Jeffrey Harris: Lando Vannata, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Lando Vannata, TKO, Round 1
    Dan Plunkett: Vannata, TKO, Round 2

    Bantamweight Bout: Teruto Ishihara vs. Kyung Ho Kang

    Jeffrey Harris: Kyung Ho Kang, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Kyung Ho Kang, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Kang, Decision

    Flyweight Bout: Kai Kara-France vs. Raulian Paiva

    Jeffrey Harris: Raulian Paiva, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Kai Kara-France, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Kara-France, Decision

    Featherweight Bout: Shane Young vs. Austin Arnett

    Jeffrey Harris: Shane Young, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Shane Young, TKO, Round 3
    Dan Plunkett: Young, TKO, Round 2

    Lightweight Bout: Devonte Smith vs. Dong Hyun Ma

    Jeffrey Harris: Dong Hyun, Ma, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Dong Hyun Ma, TKO, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Ma, Decision

    Light Heavyweight Bout: Jim Crute vs. Sam Alvey

    Jeffrey Harris: Sam Alvey faces a young and undefeated local prospect here in Jim Crute, who got into the UFC through the Dana White Contenders series. He scored his first UFC win with a third-round submission victory over Paul Craig. I’m just going to go ahead and pick Crute here. I like Alvey. He’s a very likable guy, and he cuts good post-fight promos. However, he’s just not a very good fighter. He does have some knockout power, but his striking and technique are incredibly sloppy. He’s hit his ceiling as far as the UFC goes. He’s probably better suited at pro wrestling and should join Tom Lawlor in OVW or Matt Riddle in NXT. Crute is younger and less experienced, but if he’s prepared, he should have what it takes to beat Smiling Sam.

    Winner: Jim Crute, TKO, Round 1

    Robert Winfree: Ugh, Sam Alvey. I like Alvey as a personality, but man are his fights bi-polar. It’s either a rather spectacular KO or a lot of backing up, clinching, and a boring split decision after 13 minutes of fence wrestling and 2 minutes of awkward circling. Fortunately Jim Crute is the kind of fighter that Alvey has, historically at least, been able to walk onto a counter punch and send to sleep for a few seconds. It might be wishful thinking on my part, but that’s what I’m going with here.

    Winner: Sam Alvey, TKO, Round 1

    Dan Plunkett: Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: this is not a good card.

    Smilin’ Sam has proven a serviceable hand in his sixteen UFC bouts, but he’s stuck in the mid-level. Here he’s going against unbeaten Aussie Jim Crute, who has finished six of his nine fights, in two weeks’ notice. I’ll say Alvey’s experience gets him by here.

    Winner: Alvey, Decision

    Flyweight Bout: Montana De La Rosa vs. Nadia Kassem

    Jeffrey Harris: We have a fight for the UFC’s budding flyweight division here. Nadia Kassem is undefeated and 1-0 in the UFC. Montana De La Rosa is 9-4 and 2-0 inside the Octagon. Both women are getting a shot to fight on a big stage here to possibly make a name for themselves in a division that’s pretty wide open right now in terms of contenders. I’m predicting De La Rosa picks up another submission victory here over the less experienced Kassem, handing her the first defeat of her pro career.

    Winner: Montana De La Rosa, Submission, Round 2

    Robert Winfree: Despite Kassem being the hometown/country fighter in this equation she’s mostly being set up as a stepping stone for de la Rosa. Kassem hasn’t fought since November of 2017 when she beat Alex Chambers, while de la Rosa emerged from one of the prior seasons of TUF as a somewhat intriguing prospect for a division that’s still trying to find its footing. I think de la Rosa takes this one.

    Winner: Montana De La Rosa, Submission, Round 2

    Dan Plunkett: Nadia Kassem is another unbeaten Aussie competing on the main card. De La Rosa fell to eventual season winner Nicco Montano on The Ultimate Fighter 26, but she’s rattled off two consecutive stoppage victories since. I think she gets a third on Saturday.

    Winner: De La Rosa, Submission, Round 2

    Bantamweight Bout: Rani Yahya vs. Ricky Simon

    Jeffrey Harris: Believe it or not, Rani Yahya’s UFC history goes all the way back to WEC in 2007, under the ZUFFA-owned era of the WEC. He managed to transition into the UFC. He’s been a solid above-average bantamweight, but he’s never been able to break through to that upper-echelon of fighters. However, he currently finds himself in the midst of a three-fight winning streak with three straight submission victories. Believe it or not, he’s actually 11-3 inside the Octagon, and he’s 7-1 in his last eight fights. His opponent is a fairly unknown and untested prospect in Ricky Simon. Simon is 14-1 and riding a seven fight winning streak. That includes going 2-0 for his first two fights in the UFC. Simon might actually be a promising young prospect here. That being said, I have to go with the experienced veteran in Yahya, who has faced and defeated these types of challenges before. Not to mention, Yahya’s grappling and submission skills are highly underrated.

    Winner: Rani Yahya, Submission, Round 2

    Robert Winfree: Rani Yahya is a nearly criminally underappreciated fighter. He’s 11-3 with 1 No Contest in the UFC, is 7-1 in his last eight fights, and has finished his last three opponents. Ricky Simon feels a bit out of his depth here, though age does have to catch up to Yahya at some point.

    Winner: Rani Yahya, Submission, Round 1

    Dan Plunkett: Yahya has won three in a row by submission, while Simon is riding a seven-fight win streak. Yahya is a significant step up for Simon, and I think he’ll continue his roll.

    Winner: Yahya, Submission, Round 3

    Middleweight Bout: Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva

    Jeffrey Harris: I recently got to check out Anderson Silva’s open workout session for this fight. As a 43-year-old man, he’s clearly in fantastic shape and can go hard in training. However, I still don’t feel great about picking Israel Adesanya here. Both fighters are coming off wins here over Derek Brunson in their last bouts. However, Silva’s win over Brunson was two years ago, and it was a questionable decision at that. I just don’t see Silva being able to beat the younger, hungrier Adesanya here. It’s clearly Adesanya’s fight to lose as he’s the hot up-and-comer. He is fighting Anderson Silva, but he’s still fighting a 43-year-old Anderson Silva, who is not the killer he was when he was having his run at the top. As long as Adesanya doesn’t get too cocky and make too many mistakes, he will have a win over a legend when this is over and done with.

    Winner: Israel Adesanya, TKO, Round 2

    Robert Winfree: The young eat the old in combat sports, and here we have another example. A lot of the Silva magic has diminished over the last few years, his chin has become a bit suspect and his reflexes have slowed. That said he still has an eye for openings and no hesitation when trying to exploit them, he hurt Daniel Cormier rather badly with a body kick and despite losing overall against Michael Bisping found openings to that badly rattled and at least once nearly finished him. The biggest issue Silva is going to have here is the feinting game of Adesanya, because Silva relies so heavily on his reads and counters the ability of Adesanya to draw those out and the counter them is a huge point of interest for this fight. The other area of interest is the clinch as both men do solid work there and if one man finds himself on the losing end of striking at distance forcing prolonged clinch exchanges could be an avenue of attack for him. On the whole I favor Adesanya and expect him to draw out Silva’s offense and counter him as Silva over extends himself.

    Winner: Israel Adesanya, TKO, Round 2

    Dan Plunkett: Anderson Silva is nearly 44-years-old and we haven’t seen him fight in two years. Even that version two years ago would have been a significant underdog to Adesanya. It would be a huge upset if the legend pulls it off.

    Winner: Adesanya, KO, Round 1

    UFC Middleweight Championship Bout: Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum

    Jeffrey Harris: This is a solid middleweight contest as Kelvin Gastelum gets his first shot at UFC gold. Gastelum definitely has some things going in his favor, despite a height and reach disadvantage. He has a good wrestling base, and he has fairly developed boxing skills. He also has some decent knockout power. However, I don’t think he’s going to surpass Robert Whittaker here. Whittaker is too well-rounded and technical here. He’s possibly even a better overall wrestler and MMA wrestler than Gastelum. He had no problems dealing with an Olympic caliber wrestler with a lot of knockout power in Yoel Romero. It will be a tough fight, but Whittaker once again comes out on top. My other issue with Gastelum is that he’s been far too inconsistent in his career and shown a lot of laziness and sloppiness in the past in bigger fights, such as against Neil Magny and Tyron Woodley.

    Winner: Robert Whittaker, Decision

    Robert Winfree: This is a really good fight on paper. Robert Whittaker is one of the best fighters in the sport right now, he’s got a great jab, good foot work, a solid kicking game, power in his hands and kicks, cardio for the full five rounds, and a great grappling game. He’s one of the more complete fighters going right now, and he’s up against about as fundamentally sound fighter as you’ll find. Kelvin Gastelum isn’t fancy, but his combination of thudding power, accurate and technically correct one two combinations, forward pressure, and wrestling background have carried him quite far. Gastelum will look to pressure Whittaker and find openings for his punches, but Gastelum isn’t all that great on the back foot so I’m curious to see if Whittaker will employ forward pressure of his own to mitigate the game plan of Gastelum. The fact that we’ve got opposite stance fighters opens up some interesting offense for both men, Gastelum’s power left will have an easier time finding a striking lane where Whittaker can use side kicks to the knee/thigh to constantly halt Gastelum as he marches forward. At this point I just don’t pick against Whittaker but there’s a lot of good components here to make an exciting fight.

    Winner: Robert Whittaker, TKO, Round 4

    Dan Plunkett: Gastelum landed this title shot after a knockout win over Michael Bisping and a close decision victory over Jacare Souza. Although his frame is better suited for welterweight, the weight cut down killed him and he’s performed much better at middleweight. Unfortunately for Gastelum, Robert Whittaker sits at the top of the middleweight division, and I don’t see a clear path to victory for the challenger. This is an uphill battle for Gastelum.

    Winner: Whittaker, TKO, Round 4

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