On Saturday night, the UFC held its first pay-per-view of the year in UFC 234, which went down in Melbourne, Australia.
The card was originally expected to be headlined by a middleweight title fight between champion Robert Whittaker and challenger Kelvin Gastelum. Unfortunately, Whittaker was forced out of this matchup on the day of the fight.
With this unfortunate twist, the UFC promoted the original co-main event, a middleweight bout between Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya, to the headlining slot.
Ultimately, Adesanya defeated Silva by unanimous decision in a closer fight than many onlookers expected.
Thanks to Whittaker’s injury, however, the UFC middleweight title picture is quite unclear. Here is what we think should be next for the four middleweights who were supposed to fight at UFC 234.
There is no way Whittaker should fight anyone else but Gastelum next. The two were set to fight last night, and given the champion had to pull out, the challenger should not be punished.
Depending on how long Whittaker is out, the UFC can rebook the fight for sometime in late spring, or early summer.
Gastelum held up his end of the bargain, but Whittaker unfortunately had to pull out of the fight.
After the card, Gastelum borrowed Henry Cejudo’s belt and declared himself the real middleweight champion. While some fans — and Conor McGregor — found this off-putting, it was a clever way for Gastelum to keep himself in the mix after Adesanya’s big win.
Even with Adesanya’s impressive win, however, Gastelum’s next fight should be for the middleweight belt against Whittaker.
Adesanya had a 2018 to remember. He entered the UFC in February and went 4-0 with notable wins over Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson. Then, 364 days from his debut, he took on a legend in Silva.
Many believed Adesanya would walk through Silva, but that was not the case. The fight was more competitive than anticipated. Now, Adesanya says he deserves some time off after the fight.
Depending on when the next title fight is booked, Adesanya could wait for a title shot, but realistically, a fight against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza just makes too much sense not to happen in the meantime.
The fight would test Adesanya’s takedown defense and his ground game. With a win there, he would no doubt be next in line for a title shot.
Silva made his long-awaited return to the Octagon after nearly two years off. Instead of taking an easy fight, he took on a rising star in Adesanya. Ultimately, Silva showed he can still fight at a high level, and he now wants to fight at UFC 237.
Although he recently stated he wants to fight Nick Diaz at UFC 237 in Brazil, that fight probably won’t happen. Instead, he should fight Uriah Hall, which would be yet another striking match.
The legend deserves the chance to fight in his home country, and a fight with Hall makes plenty of sense.
What do you think of these matchup options for Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum, Israel Adesanya and Anderson Silva?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 2/10/2019.