Whittaker hospitalized, removed from main event hours before UFC 234

Mere hours before the start of UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia, the card was dealt a disastrous blow when ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported that middleweight champion, Australian Robert Whittaker was forced to withdraw from the card as a result of emergency hernia surgery.

On the broadcast, UFC President Dana White said that the promotion’s doctors had never seen a situation like Whittaker’s happen to someone as young as him and referred to it as a freak incident.

White would not speculate about whether an interim championship would be created and said that he projects Whittaker will be able to resume training in four weeks. White also said that had Whittaker fought, his medical issue could have been fatal.

6 Degrees Management, who manage Whittaker, released a statement during the event that the middleweight champion required dual surgery for a twisted and collapsed bowel as well as an internal hernia of the intestine.

Whittaker’s opponent Kelvin Gastelum arrived to the event with a new UFC belt over his shoulder, presumably belonging to his friend, flyweight champion Henry Cejudo who was on hand for the event and declared himself the new champion, referring to amateur wrestling rules where an opponent forfeits if they do not show up after weighing in.

Gastelum’s manager Ali Abdelaziz told Ariel Helwani on ESPN Radio that he hopes to see Gastelum face Israel Adesanya in April for an interim title.

Adesanya defeats Silva in brilliant striking display

Israel Adesanya looked a bit star struck when he faced former middleweight champion and all-time great Anderson Silva, who he admitted to looking up to following their weigh-ins on Friday, however that did not deter the up and coming contender from out striking Silva en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Due to Whittaker’s last minute medical emergency, the much anticipated matchup ended up serving as the main event of the evening and it did not disappoint.  The two athletes showed off an array of creative striking exchanges and ultimately the better of those went to the younger Adesanya.

Earlier in the week UFC President Dana White confirmed that the winner of the bout would be next in line for a middleweight title shot, however with Whittaker’s withdrawal, Adesanya will likely have to wait for the dust to settle between Gastelum and Whittaker.

After the fight, the 43-year-old Silva said that he hopes to continue his fighting career and is looking to be on the UFC 237 card, which will reportedly take place on May 11 at a 45,000 capacity stadium in his hometown of Curitiba, Brazil.

Attendance and Bonuses

UFC 234 at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia drew a reported sold out crowd of 15,238 for a gate of $3,484,855 (AUD).

Adesanya versus Silva earned the Fight of the Night bonus and Performance of the Night bonuses went to Montana de la Rosa for her submission win over Nadia Kassem and Devonte Smith for his first round knockout of Dong Hyun Ma. All four earn an additional $50,000.

Brunson expects Canadian Theodorou to be his next opponent

Appearing on ESPN Radio with Ariel Helwani, Derek Brunson said that he expects his next fight to be against 14th ranked middleweight, Toronto-native Elias Theodorou.

The 8th-ranked Brunson, who has lost two in a row against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Israel Adesanya, had been going back and forth with Theodorou on social media and now it looks like a matchup between them is in the works.

Brunson said that the targeted date and location for the proposed bout was on May 4 in Ottawa, however TSN has learned that the event details have not been finalized and that Quebec City is a potential destination for Canada’s first UFC event of 2019.

Theodorou has won three in a row, most recently, a split decision win over Eryk Anders in his hometown of Toronto at UFC 231 this past December.

Cirkunov in need of opponent for UFC 235

On Saturday night, MMA Fighting reported that Ovince Saint Preux, who was scheduled to face Canadian Misha Cirkunov at UFC 235 on March 2 in Las Vegas, has withdrawn from the bout due to an injury.

The 14th ranked light heavyweight Cirkunov, who rebounded from the first losing streak of his career with a first round submission win over Patrick Cummins, relocated to Las Vegas last year and told TSN in December that he was eager for his next bout to be in Vegas.

The UFC will seek a replacement opponent.

Brazilian light heavyweight Johnny Walker, who scored a 15 second knockout victory over Justin Ledet last weekend at UFC Fight Night in Fortaleza, Brazil, threw his hat in the ring, saying that he was waiting for the UFC to call.