The Octagon heads down under for the first pay-per-view of 2019, UFC 234, and Cageside Press has their picks set.

Staff Writers
Crute vs. Alvey
De La Rosa vs. Kassem
Yahya vs. Simon
Adesanya vs. Silva
Jay Anderson (16-1)
John Franklin (15-2)
Drake Riggs (15-2)
Jason Payne (15-2)
Alex Scaffidi (14-3)
Paarth Pande (14-3)
Tony Fagnano (9-2)
Mike Straus (13-4)
Bryson Hester (13-4)
Josh Evanoff (13-4)
Joe McDonagh (13-4)
Gabriel Gonzalez (12-5)
Jesse Gillette (12-5)
Steve King (12-5)
Heath Harshman (12-5)
Shawn Bitter (11-6)
Eddie Law (11-6)
Al Zullino (10-7)
Dan Doherty (10-7)
Rodney James Edgar (0-0)
Ben Smith (0-0)

The main event of UFC 234 features the wildly talented Robert Whittaker defending his middleweight title against Kelvin Gastelum. Whittaker is on a nine-fight win streak with the last eight taking place at 185-pounds. “Bobby Knuckles” won the interim title in 2017 against Yoel Romero and was later promoted to undisputed champion. His first and only title defense came against the same man in a fight of the year candidate. Gastelum is 4-1 since committing to middleweight (one of those wins was overturned due to marijuana usage) and rides a two-fight win streak into his first title shot. His last win came in a back-and-forth split decision against Jacare Souza. All but two of the 18 writers picked Whittaker to defend his belt.

The co-main event has the potential to be a changing of the guard bout between Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya. After defending the middleweight title 10 times and winning a record 16 straight fights in the UFC, Silva has been recognized as one of the greatest fighters of all time. However, he is 1-4 with one no-contest since 2012, defeating Derek Brunson in his last fight back in 2017 via controversial unanimous decision. Adesanya is a former professional kickboxer who has flourished in the UFC with a 4-0 record and three Performance of the Night bonuses. 13 of 20 writers believe Adesanya will be victorious in the matchup of great strikers.

Rani Yahya looks to continue his success against the promising Ricky Simon. Yahya has been quietly excellent in the UFC with an 11-3 record to his name, scoring submissions in six of those victories. The world champion jiu-jitsu practitioner has submitted his last three opponents. Simon joined the UFC as the LFA champion and miraculously defeated Merab Dvalishvili at the final buzzer in his promotional debut, following that up with a win over Montel Jackson. Simon was picked at a 12 to 8 margin.

In a battle of 23-year-olds, Nadia Kassem battles Montana De La Rosa. Kassem joined the UFC at 4-0 with all of her wins coming by first round knockout. In her promotional debut, she defeated veteran Alex Chambers by decision. De La Rosa has impressed since her stint on TUF, going 2-0 in the Octagon with a pair of submission victories. De La Rosa was picked by 12 of the 20 writers.

Opening up the UFC 234 main card will be Jim Crute vs. Sam Alvey. Crute is a 9-0 Australian prospect who secured a spot on the roster with a first-round knockout on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. He proved worthy of the spot when he submitted Paul Craig in the third round of his promotional debut. Alvey is 10-6 in his Octagon career, going 2-1 since moving up to light heavyweight. He fell to the legendary Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in his last appearance. All but three writers picked Crute.

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