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Picks for UFC 234 (Whittaker vs Gastelum) – Don’t Chase Underdogs

Dylan Bowker

by Dylan Bowker in Mixed Martial Arts

Feb 4, 2019 · 1:37 PM PST

Anderson Silva at UFC press conference
Anderson Silva prepares to take on Israel Adesanya at UFC 234 on Saturday, February 9th. Photo from @shaunalshatti (Twitter).
  • UFC 234 takes place Saturday, February 9th, in Melbourne, Australia
  • Can Anderson Silva upset Israel Adesanya?
  • See our three best bets for the event

UFC 234 emanates from Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia on Saturday, February 9th at 7pm EST. The main and co-main event tilts are of high consequence for the future of the Middleweight division.

The entire card offers up something for everyone, though. Of all of these compelling prize fights, here are the ones that I think represent the best bets. (If you’re looking for a further breakdown of the main and co-main events, see our UFC 234: Whittaker vs Gastelum Odds and Predictions.)

Rani Yahya Falls to Ricky Simon

Fighter Odds
Ricky Simon -135
Rani Yahya +105

*All odds taken 2/4

Yahya has a litany of choke-based victories and has taken home several limbs with him over a 6+ year career. Ricky is a streaking prospect and has held LFA gold (one of the bigger titles on the North American regional scene).

This is Simon’s most important bout to date against his toughest opponent. A lot of Ricky’s wins have been against similarly tenured, prospect-level talents, but this would be a chance for him to acquire a veteran scalp.

Yahya vs Simon Tale of the Tape


26-9-0 MMA Record 14-1-0
0 Knockouts 5
20 Submissions 2
3 Current Streak 7
Team/Camp Affiliation Gracie Barra
Mark Hominick
Eddie Wineland
Johnny Bedford
Mike Thomas Brown
Statement Win(s) Chico Camus
66 kg ADCC Submission Wrestling
World Championship 2007
2nd Degree BJJ Black Belt
Titles/ Distinctions LFA Bantamweight Champion

Simon definitely has to contend with the near 80% finishing rate of Yahya but I think Ricky can grind out the win. With Yahya at #15 per UFC’s ranking system, a great performance in Melbourne could jettison either man into a consequential 135 lb fight. 

It won’t be an easy out for either, but based on the respective ages and career arcs, I have to give the edge to Simon.

Pick: Ricky Simon (-135)

Israel Adesanya Over Anderson Silva

Fighter Odds
Israel Adesanya -650
Anderson Silva +425

Considering who one half of this co-main event is, it may seem blasphemous to see this fight as one of the best bets.

Anderson “The Spider” Silva has amassed several UFC records, is the GOAT Middleweight, and many regard him as the pound-for-pound best MMA fighter of all-time.


15-0 MMA Record 34-8 (1 No Contest)
13 Knockouts 20
0 Submissions 6
15 Current Streak 1
City Kickboxing Team/Camp Affiliation Team Nogueira
Derek Brunson
Brad Tavares
Marvin Vettori
Statement Win(s) Dan Henderson
Chael Sonnen
Vitor Belfort
Forrest Griffin
Rich Franklin
AFC Middleweight Champion
HFS Middleweight Champion
Titles/ Distinctions Longest reigning UFC Champion of all time
Most title defenses in Middleweight history

Observing the two combatants recent five bouts, though, it’s hard to edge it to anyone but Stylebender.

Israel Adesanya has so far remained unbeaten in his career and the kickboxing marvel improves by leaps and bounds between MMA bouts. Whereas Anderson has only one single W in the last several fights/years.

Adesanya wins and likely gets the finish.

Pick: Israel Adesanya (-650)

Kelvin Gastelum Beats Robert Whittaker

Fighter Odds
Robert Whittaker -265
Kelvin Gastelum +205

I’m edging it to Gastelum but not to undermine Whittaker in any way. Bobby Knuckles’ resume and performances speak volumes. It’s just that Gastelum is such a high level game day player that I can’t help but pick him.


16-3 MMA Record 20-4
6 Knockouts 9
4 Submissions 5
2 Current Streak 9
Kings MMA/ Yuma United MMA Team/Camp Affiliation PMA Super Martial Arts
Ronaldo Souza
Michael Bisping
Tim Kennedy
Statement Win(s) Ronaldo Souza
Yoel Romero
Derek Brunson
Ultimate Fighter 17 winner Titles/ Distinctions UFC Middleweight Champion
Ultimate Fighter: Smashes winner

Both are excellent 185-pounders but the odds are set correctly in this fight.

Pick: Kelvin Gastelum (+205)

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