On the first episode of UFC 234 Embedded, Anderson Silva hosts a media day at his Spider Kick gym, Kelvin Gastelum works out at Orange Coast College, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker hangs out with his family, plus much more.
Whittaker has been phenomenal since moving to 185 pounds, where he’s undefeated with eight straight wins, including victories over Yoel Romero, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Derek Brunson. With blinding speed and power on the feet, Whittaker is a devastating striker with knockout power in every limb, but he’s also shown incredible takedown defense while going up against some elite wrestlers in his career. As for Gastelum, he comes into the title fight with a 5-1 record with one no contest, including a stunning knockout against former champion Michael Bisping. Much like Whittaker, Gastelum is a former welterweight who has looked even better at middleweight while showcasing a deadly boxing game that may be the best in the division. Gastelum also has a background in wrestling, so don’t think he won’t try to ground Whittaker if the opportunity presents itself. This fight could be a first-round knockout or a five-round war, and that’s what makes it such an intriguing matchup between champion and challenger.
Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva will face arguably his mirror image at UFC 234 when he takes on Australia’s own Israel Adesanya, who comes into the fight with a perfect 15-0 record, four of those wins coming in the UFC, including a brutal first-round finish of Derek Brunson last November. Adesanya is a former kickboxer as well, so he’s got a dynamic range of weapons on his feet. He’s technically proficient but also explosive and unpredictable. Those same kinds of traits are possessed by Silva, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest UFC champions of all-time. Silva comes from a Muay Thai background, which means he also possesses some of the nastiest knees and elbows in the game and he won’t be shy about using them. This co-main event could be viewed as the past versus the future, but Silva isn’t about to pass the torch to Adesanya with a potential title shot on the line for the winner.
Throughout his career in the UFC and WEC, Rani Yahya has built a reputation as one of the most dangerous submission specialists to ever compete in the sport. Over his past three fights, Yahya has certainly lived up to that moniker with a trio of submission finishes — all by different methods — while also winning seven of his past eight fights overall. Ricky Simon will try to stop that win streak while keeping his going after picking up back-to-back wins since joining the UFC roster. Simon is a very talented bantamweight with a 13-1 record, and he is the definition of a mixed martial artist, with well-rounded skills on the feet or on the ground. Chances are that in this fight, Simon will look to showcase his takedown defense and force Yahya to stay standing with him. If this fight hits the floor, however, don’t blink, as Yahya will undoubtedly attempt to put on a show with his world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills.
Devonte Smith has all the makings of being a longtime fan favorite after landing his UFC contract with a blistering first-round knockout and then following that up with another in his Octagon debut. Overall, Smith has won his past five fights in a row, all by knockout or submission. He’ll have a tough test ahead of him at UFC 234 as he faces veteran Korean fighter Dong Hyun Ma. Since joining the UFC, Ma has gone 3-2, but following a rocky start with back-to-back losses, he’s now picked up three straight wins, including a victory over legendary Japanese fighter Takanori Gomi. If Ma wants to make it four in a row, he’s going to have to find a way to slow down Smith and stave off another finish from the Ohio native.
Australia has produced a lot of great fighters over the years and Jimmy Crute might be the next one. At 9-0, Crute is considered a top prospect in the light heavyweight division and he made quite an impression in his debut with a submission victory over Paul Craig. Now he’ll face off with Sam Alvey, who has always tried to put on entertaining fights at both middleweight and now light heavyweight. Alvey is coming off a defeat in his last fight, so there’s little doubt he’ll look to get back in the win column while simultaneously handing Crute his first career defeat.