Melbourne, Australia will play host to an understated fight card tomorrow night when the UFC unveils its 234th pay-per-view offering. While light on name value, the event still has some compelling matchups, especially in the main event and co-main event slots.
I’ve selected four fights that I believe could end in an upset and will provide a mini breakdown of those here. Let’s get started:
Devonte Smith ($8,600) vs. Dong Hyun Ma ($7,600)Devonte Smith is a talented, athletic specimen that came from Dana White’s Contender Series, but unlike those alums that have come before him and lost their octagon debuts, Smith won his in very convincing fashion over Julian Erosa.
Dong Hyun Ma, once a go-for-broke brawler, seems to have found a balance between reckless abandon and discipline, using his grappling along with the additions of head and foot movement to complement his wild yet effective style. He’s riding a three-fight win streak, so it’s very likely his confidence is surging, which may prompt so ultra-violent exchanges.
This is going to be a close call, but Ma may have exactly what’s required to walk away with a victory in Melbourne.
Prediction — Dong Hyun Ma via (T)KO
Jim Crute ($8,300) vs. Sam Alvey ($7,900)Jim Crute is a serviceable light heavyweight who remains unbeaten at the moment. He’s mostly beaten local talent, but he did show some grappling chops when he submitted Paul Craig. On the flip side, Paul Craig isn’t exactly the litmus test for greatness, so the jury is still out on Crute’s ceiling.
Sam Alvey can often be a hard watch, especially when he’s in ‘content to counter’ mode. That said, his left is a heat-seeking missile when he’s in top form, and he’s incredibly difficult to take down. These two factors are the most important ones when he faces Crute and could provide immediate nullification to the Aussie’s best weapons. This is Alvey’s very first time fighting on a pay-per-view card, so we may see a fire to prove himself worthy of future spots on those big numbered cards.
Prediction — Sam Alvey via (T)KO
Ricky Simon ($8,200) vs. Rani Yahya ($8,000)Ricky Simon is an outstanding prospect who’s been on a roll lately, defeating his last seven opponents impressively. He is unbeaten in the octagon, showing both KO power and submission chops throughout his 15-fight career. He’s a bit of a brawler and tends to leave himself wide open when he goes into gangbuster mode. His defensive chops are pretty porous, and against a submission god like Rani, that’s likely going to end with him being sung a gentle lullaby in the Brazilian’s embrace.
Rani Yahya may only be 34 years old, but he has been wowing fans for nearly two decades, and in his last eight fights, he’s only lost once. Yahya’s currently riding a three-fight win streak, each one by gnarly submission. His career surge has been outstanding, and his grappling is on that Demian Maia level of supremely effective. While Simon is a great prospect to keep your eye on, I just don’t think he’s ready for someone of Yahya’s caliber.
Prediction — Rani Yahya via Submission
Robert Whittaker ($8,900) vs. Kelvin Gastelum ($7,300)
Bobby Knuckles is a great middleweight with legitimate KO power, decent takedown defense, great cardio and a fairly durable chin. He’s had some real battles, mainly with two-time opponent Yoel Romero, and has proven that he has what it takes to pull out a victory. Sort of. Kind of.
If we revisit the last fight with Romero, we should remember that Romero dropped Whittaker twice, as well as owning every aspect of the fight stats. He was taken down multiple times was and controlled for the last three rounds. Romero laid out a blueprint for his defeat, and if Gastelum is up to the task, he can absolutely get it done.
Kelvin Gastelum is an outstanding athlete with excellent wrestling, and ‘put you to sleep without dinner’ power. He has had issues with his weight in the past while fighting at 170 pounds, but has found his place at 185 pounds, finding success with big wins over Michael Bisping and Jacare Souza. He has great cardio, and against Whittaker, that’s going to come in handy, as the pressure will be on from the get-go, from both sides.
It’s a gamble, but I’m thinking Gastelum has plenty in his toolbox to walk out of the octagon victorious.
Prediction — Kelvin Gastelum via (T)KO
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