UFC 234 is still a couple months away, but with the UFC down in Adelaide, and the Ultimate Fighter Season 28 just wrapped up, the promotion got the perfect opportunity to promote their upcoming middleweight title fight. The ‘Reaper’ Robert Whittaker is set to make the first official defense of his belt on February 10th in Melbourne Australia. There he’ll face fellow former Ultimate Fighter winner and opposing TUF 28: Heavy Hitters coach Kelvin Gastelum.
The fight comes following an extended, and seemingly somewhat improbable run of success for the former welterweight – who lost two of his first four bouts in the Octagon before starting his current nine-fight unbeaten streak. Most recently the New Zealand-born 27-year-old defeated Yoel Romero, in a rematch meant to mark his first title defense – had Romero not missed weight for the bout. It also follows a string of injury woes surrounding the two bouts with the Cuban top contender, including a staph infection in Whittaker’s stomach, and most recently a nagging hand injury.
For Kelvin Gastelum, the first title shot of his UFC career also comes after making the jump from 170 lbs to 185. Gastelum was pushed into the move in late 2016, following numerous weight cutting issues, defeating Tim Kennedy in his first middleweight bout since winning TUF 17 back in 2013. While his 3-1 (1 NC) run hasn’t been unprecedented in its dominance, wins over former champions Vitor Belfort & Michael Bisping – as well as top contender Jacare Souza have left him as the lone contender.
Also slated for the card is a middleweight bout between former champion Anderson Silva, and world class kickboxer turned MMA phenom Isreal Adesanya. Following the announcement of that bout, Dana White confirmed that the winner would be in line for the next shot at Whittaker’s title. You can see their staredown below: