Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

UFC 234 - Best Bets

Robert ‘Bobby Knuckles’ Whittaker (20-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) will defend his middleweight championship against Kelvin Gastelum in Saturday’s main event of UFC 234 on his home soil at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia.

As of Friday night, most books had the champ installed as a -240 favorite with Gastelum at around +200 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $200 on Gastelum, risk $240 to win $100 on Whittaker). The total was 3.5 rounds (-120 either way at William Hill).

For bettors looking to shave some of that ‘chalky’ price off Whittaker but take a chance on the bout going the distance, Whittaker can be wagered on to win inside the distance for a payout in the +150 range. The proposition bets for Whittaker to win in Round 1 offers a +475 return and only gets more generous in every subsequent stanza.

The 28-year-old Whittaker won the interim belt by beating Yoel Romero by a narrow (albeit unanimous) decision in the UFC 213 headliner in Las Vegas. Whittaker was later promoted to undisputed champ when Georges St. Pierre vacated the belt.

In his first title defense, Whittaker took on Romero again in a rematch. In my book, it was the runner-up for 2018 Fight of the Year just behind Dustin Poirier’s win over Justin Gaethje. Romero missed weight and wasn’t eligible to win the belt, but Whittaker took the fight anyway and it was a thriller! Whittaker won by split decision.

Whittaker has won nine consecutive fights and hasn’t tasted defeat since losing to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson at UFC 170 back in February of 2014. He is 8-0 since moving up to the 185-pound loop.

Gastelum (15-3-1 MMA, 10-3-1 UFC) won back-to-back fights over former champion Michael Bisping (R1 KO) and Jacare Souza (split decision) to garner this title shot after both fighters served as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. Speaking of TUF, that’s where Gastelum’s rise to stardom began by winning Season 17 with a split-decision triumph over Uriah Hall.

The 27-year-old Gastelum won his first five UFC fights in the welterweight loop, but he missed weight for one of those victories. Then when he missed weight by 10 pounds and was hospitalized, he lost a split decision to future – and current – champ Tyron Woodley at UFC 183. Gastelum then moved up to middleweight and beat Nate Marquardt, only to lose to Neil Magny by split decision his next time out.

The loss to Magny prompted him to drop down to 170 again and he beat former champ Johny Hendricks by UD at UFC 200. Next, Gastelum went back up to middleweight and KO’d Tim Kennedy before beating Vitor Belfor by first-round KO. The win over Belfort was later changed to a no-contests when Gastelum tested positive for marijuana. In his next bout, Gastelum nearly KO’d Chris Weidman late in Round 1 but the bell saved the former champ. Weidman eventually won by third-round submission.

Prediction: This is a daunting challenge for Whittaker here. Gastelum is solid everywhere and has a powerful left-hand counter that can close the show at any point in a fight against anybody. I stress that to encourage avoiding laying the expensive straight price. Yes, you risk Whittaker needing to get the finish but you avoid a costly defeat if he loses by going with the champ to win inside the distance. That’s what we’ll do here with two units on Whittaker inside the distance for a +150 return. Let’s also go with 1.5 units on ‘under’ 3.5 rounds (-120).

The co-main event pits a matchup between the middleweight division’s rising star, Israel ‘The Last Style Bender’ Adesanya, and the legendary former champion, 43-year-old Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, who returns from a PED violation to step into the Octagon for the first time in nearly two years (shy by two days).

Adesanya was a -550 ‘chalk’ as of Friday night with Silva around +400-ish on the comeback. The total was 1.5 rounds (‘over’ -165, ‘under’ +145). Dana White has dubbed this bout a title eliminator with the survivor getting to take on the Gastelum-Whittaker winner.

Adesanya (15-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) has earned three Performance of the Night bonuses in his first four UFC scraps. He needed a split decision to get past Marvin Vettori, however. Adesanya had his A-Game the last time out when he busted Derek Brunson by first-round KO.

Silva has fought just four time since sustaining his grotesque leg break in his rematch with Chris Weidman at UFC 167 on Dec. 28 of 2013. He defeated Nick Diaz by UD in what was later ruled a no-contest when Silva popped positive for multiple PEDs. The former middleweight kingpin then lost a UD to Bisping in controversial fashion.

Then at UFC 200, Silva took a fight on less than 48 hours of notice, losing a decision to then light heavyweight champ, Daniel Cormier. He last fought at UFC 208 when he won a controversial decision over Brunson on Feb. 11 of 2017.

Prediction: I’ll pass here. I think Adesanya wins but he’s too expensive and I’m not sure he gets a finish to consider any of the props.

*Other Picks**

-- Give me one unit on Sam Alvey vs. Jim Crute going ‘under’ 2.5 rounds for a +120 payout.

-- Let’s go with one-half unit on Marcos Rosa to upset Lando Vannata as a +345 underdog. Vannata is 0-2-2 in his past four fights and he was heavily favored in all four matchups, losing as a -375 ‘chalk’ to David Teymur and as a -200 favorite vs. Drakkar Klose.

-- That’s all I got, folks. Enjoy the show!

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

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