The UFC returns to Australia this weekend with native son Robert Whittaker defending his middleweight championship against contender Kelvin Gastelum. Like most UFC fights, it will air live Saturday night (on pay-per-view) Eastern time and thus take place Sunday Down Under at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. That’s also the main venue for tennis’ first Grand Slam tournament each year, the Australian Open.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The 28-year-old Whittaker (20-4), who goes by “The Reaper/Bobby Knuckles,” was born in New Zealand but now lives and trains in Sydney. He is on a nine-fight winning streak since a first-round TKO loss to Stephen Thompson at UFC 170 in 2014. Whittaker won the middleweight belt by unanimous decision over Yoel Romero at UFC 213.
Whittaker was then set to defend at UFC 221 against Luke Rockhold, but an injury forced Whittaker off the card. So, he fought Romero again in June and beat him by split decision. Thirty percent of Whittaker’s career wins are by decision. He’s a -240 favorite for this bout compared to closing around -340 for the most recent Romero fight.
Gastelum (15-3), a 27-year-old American, is only ranked fourth in the division behind Romero, Rockhold and Ronaldo Souza. Since a third-round submission loss to Chris Weidman at UFC on Fox 25 in July 2017, Gastelum has wins over Michael Bisping (first-round knockout) and Souza (split decision). Forty percent of Gastelum’s victories are by KO/TKO. He’s priced at +190.
Gastelum also was an underdog against Souza but just barely. He has predicted a first-round knockout here. Whittaker and Gastelum served as opposing coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter 28.”
Also at middleweight, Israel Adesanya (15-0) is a huge -650 favorite over Anderson Silva (34-8), who is on the short list of greatest mixed martial arts fighters in history and a former long-time middleweight champion. Alas, at age 43 “the Spider” is on his last legs. He had been winless in five straight fights before beating Derek Brunson by unanimous decision in February 2017. Silva is +425 and UFC president Dana White allegedly has promised the former champ a title shot with a victory.
Adesanya is one of the division’s rising stars and ranked No. 6. The Kiwi also comes off a victory over Brunson, via first-round TKO in November. “The Last Stylebender” has seen just two of his 15 fights go to the judges.