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Middleweight title bout confirmed as main event for UFC 234

Robert Whittaker will put his belt on the line at the home of the Australian Open next February.

UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
Image: AAP/PA Images

OVER A YEAR since he officially became the UFC’s undisputed middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker will hope to finally make his first title defence early in 2019.

A grand slam showdown between Whittaker (20-4) and Kelvin Gastelum (15-3) — who are currently serving as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter — has been booked as the headline attraction for UFC 234.

The event is scheduled to take place on 10 February at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, which is the primary venue for the annual Australian Open tennis tournament.

Whittaker, a Sydney-based 27-year-old who was born in New Zealand, will be aiming for his 10th successive victory when he welcomes Gastelum down under.

Having beaten Yoel Romero to win an interim middleweight strap in July 2017, Whittaker was promoted to undisputed champion the following December when Georges St-Pierre was forced to vacate the title due to illness.

After withdrawing from a scheduled clash with Luke Rockhold last February as a result of a staph infection, Whittaker was eventually booked for a championship defence in a rematch with Romero in June.

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Whittaker was victorious via split decision in the main event at UFC 225 in Chicago, but his belt ultimately wasn’t up for grabs as Romero failed to make weight.

PA-36469226 Kelvin Gastelum (left) en route to victory over 'Jacare' Souza in May. Source: Marcelo Cortes/Imago/PA Images

Kelvin Gastelum knows all about experiencing difficulty on the scales from his days as a welterweight, but the 27-year-old Californian has recorded some impressive wins since returning to the 185-pound division.

Gastelum will go into his first UFC title bout on the back of victories over Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and former middleweight champion Michael Bisping.

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Paul Dollery

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