A world title, a UFC legend and the sport's next big star: A look ahead to UFC 234
Hot on the heels of the Australian Open, the Rod Laver Arena will play host to the UFC's world-famous octagon as Australia's Robert Whittaker defends his UFC middleweight title in the main event of UFC 234 this weekend.
AUSTRALIA'S FINEST PUTS HIS BELT ON THE LINE
Robert Whittaker's official nickname is 'The Reaper', but he's affectionately known to his legion of fans as 'Bobby Knuckles'. It's an appropriate nickname.
The Aussie's scrappy fighting style and heavy hands have powered him to the top of the UFC's middleweight division. And after going 10 punishing rounds with Cuban powerhouse Yoel Romero in his last two fights, Whittaker has more than proved his worth as the UFC middleweight champion.
Now he stands as the figurehead of UFC 234 as he looks to defend his world title on home soil against dangerous American contender Kelvin Gastelum.
Both men are in their prime, both have genuine knockout power and each is more than capable of defeating the other.
In short, it's a superb match-up for the biggest prize in middleweight MMA.
THE BRIGHTEST YOUNG STAR FACES HIS BIGGEST TEST
While Whittaker and Gastelum are set to go head-to-head for the title in the main event, the middleweight division's brightest rising star will bid to book his spot in a title fight against the winner with victory in the night's co-main event.
Kiwi kickboxer Israel 'The Last Stylebender' Adesanya has looked the real deal ever since swapping the ring for the octagon, and his recent knockout win over contender Derek Brunson cemented his position as a legitimate contender for the title.
And on Sunday morning in Melbourne Adesanya will look to claim the biggest scalp of his career when he faces the greatest middleweight champion in UFC history, Brazilian legend Anderson 'The Spider' Silva.
He's confident, he's cocky and he's incredibly talented. But can he slay a legend at UFC 234? If he can, he'll get a shot at the UFC middleweight title.
A LEGEND RETURNS
The man standing between Adesanya and a title shot also has eyes for the UFC middleweight belt. And he has more reason than most to want to get his hands on the title - it used to be his property for seven years between 2006 and 2013.
Back then, Silva was the greatest world champion in UFC history as he dispatched opponents in spectacular fashion and produced performances that led many to label him as the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
After losing his title, then suffering an horrific broken leg in the world title rematch, Silva became embroiled in anti-doping issues as he looked to mount a career comeback.
Now back in the fold once again, and with a win in his latest outing, Silva has the opportunity to halt the charge of an exciting young contender and earn himself a shot at the title he once called his own.
Does 'The Spider' still have it? We'll find out this Saturday.
AUSSIE STARS LOOK TO IMPRESS
While the big names at the top of the card fight for the title, or a shot at championship gold, a host of rising Australian stars will look to stand out from the crowd with big performances on home soil this weekend.
Light-heavyweight Jim Crute has the no-nonsense approach and exciting fighting style that could make him a star in Australia. After a late opponent change, he faces noted American knockout artist Sam Alvey in a contest that could push him towards some of the division's big names if he's successful.
Flyweight Kai Kara-France will look to continue his impressive start to life in the UFC by securing victory over 18-1 Brazilian newcomer Raulian Paiva.
And Australian featherweight 'Sugar' Shane Young will look to build momentum in the UFC's 145lb division with victory over American prospect Austin Arnett.
THE ATMOSPHERE WILL BE ELECTRIC
The Rod Laver Arena always generates a special atmosphere, and with a host of local fighters set for action, the famous arena will be rocking this weekend for what should be a superb event.