UFC 234 will mark the 14th-ever UFC event in the country of Australia. Long known for their fighting spirit along with an uncanny ability to not take themselves too seriously, Aussies love fighting.
Muay Thai has been huge in the country for decades now as the countries of Southeast Asia are southern hemispheric neighbors to the land down under.
Going as far back as the early 1900s, there is a history of MMA fighting in Australia. ‘All in” fights were held along with Jiu-Jitsu demonstrations. They were not all that different from what the Gracie family did for years in Brazil known as the Gracie Challenge.
This fizzled, as you may have guessed, but picked up steam once again about a decade ago as MMA gyms have popped up all across Australia and the globe.
MMA is the fasted growing sport in the world, and I expect it to keep growing for a long time.
Many MMA pundits were quick to write off Aussie fighters as mostly strikers with a weak grappling base like their English counterparts. While we have yet to see a Demian Maia-type submission expert come from down under to dominate the UFC, the country does have their first ever UFC World Champion fighting for them on Saturday in Robert Whittaker.
The co-main event features the greatest to ever do it, the nearly 44-year-old Anderson “The Spider” Silva, taking on the 29-year-old version of himself “The Last Style Bender” Israel Adesanya.
If the favorites win in these two fights, it’s very likely we could see them fight each other next. Adesanya, originally from Nigeria, calls New Zealand home today. He matches up very well with Whittaker. I would love to see this fight go down. Let’s not get too far ahead, though.
MyBookie has betting odds on winners as well as some over/under lines and even some props for the main and co-main event.
Let’s dive in!
Jim Crute vs. Sam Alvey
I won with Jimmy Crute before, but “Smile’n” Sam Alvey is a tough out for anybody. The man is having so much fun in there; it can mess with his opponent’s head. Alvey also has KO power which can also mess with a fighter’s head (as in concuss them).
This is definitely a striker vs. grappler matchup as well as young vs. old. Sam is a 32-year-old knockout artist while his opponent, the undefeated Crute, is 22 years-old soaking wet with an average fight time of over 14 minutes.
Even though I won with Crute before, he is pretty slow, and I can’t say for sure Sam won’t knock him out, Alvey has also faced much tougher competition in his career. He’s fought stronger men and better wrestlers before and been successful.
Jim Crute is going to be doing everything he can to make this a grappling war that he will most likely win on the scorecards. Alvey is going to be looking for the KO with a giant smile on his face like always.
Even with Alvey’s edge in experience, I think Crute can win the conditioning war over Alvey who is taking the fight on just a couple weeks’ notice, not to mention traveling down to Melbourne from the USA while Jimmy sits.
Sam Alvey has also fought at 185, so he’s not going to be the bigger fighter in the Octagon.
I think Sam is a better fighter, but he is on short notice, on the road vs. a hometown guy, and will need to outstrike the brute Crute to win.
Callan Potter vs. Jalin Turner
This is an undercard fight, but it really jumps out at me. It’s another striker vs. grappler matchup with the better grappler being a member of the home team again.
Jalin is a long, lanky striker who can likely pick the Aussie apart over three rounds. Callan Potter is a very high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who also trains alongside the aforementioned Jimmy Crute.
Potter is not the most athletic grappler the world has ever seen, but he is pleased and confident his opponent is long and rangy. Those attributes may work against him against Potter who’s a ninja on the mat.
Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva
Disclaimer: Anderson Silva is my favorite fighter of all time. I believe he’s the best that ever did it and will probably believe so forever.
I’ve patterned most of my striking style after him ever since I saw him first compete inside the Octagon over a decade ago.
With that being said, I cried a little inside when I heard this matchup was made. If I loved Silva, then I naturally became a huge fan of Adesanya right away.
Anderson’s chin is pretty much gone at this point in his career. He has been fighting for 20 years, and for most of them, he could take a shot to the jaw as well as anybody.
That is simply no longer the case, and Adesanya is no stranger to precision, accuracy, timing, speed, and power.
The Nigerian fighting out of New Zealand was a highly-successful Muay Thai fighter before he began MMA and has since made a splash in the UFC.
The hardcore fans know Adesanya, but this weekend will be his proper introduction to the rest of the world as he will, in all likelihood, defeat Silva on Saturday night in a torch-passing moment that hopefully isn’t too violent.
While I think Silva would beat Israel in his prime, he simply isn’t anymore. There is nearly a decade-and-a-half age gap between these two, and it isn’t like Adesanya is a 22-year-old still wet behind the ears. He is entering his physical prime with experience. Watch out!
Dropping 57 bucks just to make 10 isn’t a whole lot of fun, so let’s see if we can find a way to get the Style Bender close to even money.
Picking Israel to win by finish brings those massive odds all the way down to a much more affordable (-150). That surprises me a little bit because I see Adesanya catching Silva with a glancing shot in either the first or second round that drops the GOAT. Israel then immediately pounces on him for the TKO finish.
You can bet the round you think the fight will end, but that is a bit straw-grabby. I feel most confident with the Adesanya by finish wager.
Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Okay, at this point I’m making my way back into the fight party, albeit with a red face and glassy eyes. I was sad when Silva lost to Weidman the first time, but when I saw his leg snap in half in their second meeting, I drove to every hospital in Las Vegas that night in hopes of showing him my support.
Alas, patient privacy rights kept that out of my grasp, but I still love the guy.
So, my tears are dried up now, and even though it hurt like heck to see him knocked out, I at least won my bet, and it’s time for an incredible main event.
I remember picking against Whittaker before I knew who he was. He was fighting Brad Tavares who I had just sparred with a couple weeks prior. So, I went with the power-punching Hawaiian.
Well, the fight didn’t last one minute. The Aussie TKO’d him rather quickly and has since been on a historic tear through the UFC’s Middleweight Division.
Robert is 7-0 since including two wins against one of the scariest men ever created in explosive Cuban wrestler Yoel Romero.
While it’s nearly impossible to compare another fighter to Yoel Romero, Kelvin Gastelum is pretty close considering his speed, power, and athletic wrestling ability.
If those two fought, though, I would have to give the edge to Yoel.
They aren’t fighting, though, and MMA math makes about as much sense sometimes as common-core.
Robert Whittaker is one of those fighters where there isn’t one particular aspect of his MMA game that stands out. He seems to find a way to land head kicks and has good but not great power in each hand.
His striking and wrestling defense are both on par. I would say he is good at everything, which makes him great, especially in a sport like MMA.
I met Gastelum once and was shocked at how short he was. I knew he was undersized for the 185-pound weight class, but I towered over him at just 6’1. Kelvin’s lack of size really came into play when he lost to Chris Weidman by 3rd round submission in July of 2017.
Robert won’t have that particular advantage on Saturday as he comes in at just 6’ flat.
Whittaker has had quite a bit of practice against the shorter, stockier, more powerful wrestler in his two bouts with Romero, but something tells me that Kelvin could be the champ’s kryptonite.
Gastelum likes to duck and roll away from punches while using those defensive moves to create offense for himself.
If he makes it out of those moves without catching a head kick from Whittaker, Gastelum has a great chance at landing that knockout left hook or overhand right.
I don’t see Kelvin and his massive jaw being finished in this fight without some shin-to-chin contact, so a decision will likely go to the champ and a TKO finish from the challenger is more likely.
2-1 odds on Kelvin to win isn’t bad, but (+325) to finish is even better.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!!!
Is Saturday night going to be nearly a clean sweep by the boys from down under not unlike the Brazilians dominated down in Fortaleza this past Saturday night?
I picked six out of seven fights correctly in a much-needed winning night after some bad beats picking winners to end 2018.
I’m leaning toward the home team with most of my bets, including the adopted Kiwi Israel Adesanya to win by finish over the legendary Anderson Silva.
The main event is a tough call, though, even considering how dominant the champion Robert Whittaker has been.
Kelvin Gastelum brings enough speed and power into the fight to compete with anyone in his weight class. The champ may very well be the most well-rounded fighter in the world, but Gastelum is the fastest puncher in the Middleweight Division with a stocky power-base to boot.
Bet hard and have fun, team!