Two weeks ago, Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena played host to the championship matches of the Australian Open, the first major event of the year in tennis.
Now, the Ultimate Fighting Championship sets up shop in the venue for Saturday’s UFC 234. It is the first pay-per-view card of 2019 for the promotion.
Highlighting UFC 234 (main card 10 p.m. EST/7 PST on PPV) is the UFC Middleweight championship contest. This matches incumbent champion Robert Whittaker (21-4) with No. 4 contender Kelvin Gastelum (15-3, one no contest). This is Whittaker’s first bid at defending the title.
Both fighters are coming off wins in their last fights.
Speaking of the pay-per-view main card, there’s a new way to watch. Effective with UFC 234, ESPN+ subscribers can now purchase UFC PPV main cards through the ESPN subscription-based platform.
The main card is still available for purchase and streaming through ufc.tv.
Let’s turn our attention back to the card itself.
Heading into Saturday night’s main event, Whittaker is the taller contender, standing at an even 6-foot, with Gastelum standing 5-foot-9.
Champion Whittaker has posted a 5-0 record in his last five UFC appearances, most recently by decision against Yoel Romero in the UFC 225 pay-per-view last June 9 in Chicago. That had initially been scheduled to be a Middleweight title fight.
Romero did not make weight for the contest, resulting in the fight being contested at catchweight and as a non-title contest.
In the other corner, challenger Gastelum has posted a 4-1 record in his last five UFC appearances. His most recent win came via decision vs. Jacare Souza during UFC 224 last May in the co-headliner.
The Tale of the Tape:
Whittaker owns a two-inch reach advantage (73.5 inches to 71.5 inches) and a 3.5-inch leg reach advantage (43 inches to 39.5 inches) over Gastelum heading into Saturday’s headliner.
UPDATE: The initially-scheduled Robert Whittaker/Kelvin Gastelum Middleweight title fight will no longer take place. Earlier Saturday, ESPN reported that Whittaker withdrew from the card due to injury. Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva will be the main event.
Prediction: Adesanya by first-round KO.
Other fights on the main card:
Lando Vannata (9-3-2) vs. Marcos Rosa Mariano (6-4) [Lightweight, co-main event]
No. 15 contender Rani Yahya (26-9, one no-contest) vs. Ricky Simon (10-1) [Bantamweight]
No. 14 contender Montana de la Rosa (9-4) vs. Nadia Kassem (5-0) [Women’s Flyweight]
Jimmy Crute (9-0) vs. Sam Alvey (33-10, one no-contest) [Light Heavyweight]
UFC 234 at a Glance:
UFC Fight Pass Prelims: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. EST/3:30 PST, UFC Fight Pass
ESPN Prelims: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST/5 PST, ESPN [after Duke vs. Virginia college basketball]
Main Card: Saturday, 10 p.m. EST/7 PST, PPV (main cards can now be purchased through ESPN+)
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