UFC Top 10 fighters from Australia, New Zealand

Adesanya doing everything right on path to a title shot (0:58)

Chael Sonnen breaks down what he likes from Israel Adesanya's game that makes him a fighter to watch in 2019. (0:58)

Dana White likes what he sees Down Under.

It's with good reason, too, as Australia and New Zealand boast some of the best talent in the UFC.

Ahead of UFC 234 in Melbourne this Sunday [AEDT], we count down the top 10 from both sides of the Tasman Sea.

10. Jim Crute

The Victorian made his UFC debut in Adelaide last December, announcing himself on the big stage with a third-round kimura submission of Paul Craig. "The Brute" had emerged from Dana White's Tuesday night Contender Series, earning himself a UFC contract with a brutal TKO of Chris Birchler. The undefeated Crute will return to the Octagon on Sunday when he fights American Sam Alvey, a win in Melbourne would launch him further up a light-heavyweight division he is determined to conquer.

9. Kai Kara-France

One of three Kiwis on our list, Kara-France also made his UFC debut in Adelaide last year. But a unanimous decision victory over American Elias Garcia was just the latest of his forays into MMA, with the Aucklander having pursued his dream for the best part of a decade throughout Asia-Pacific in various cage-fighting tournaments. The 25-year-old flyweight trains alongside countryman Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker at Auckland's City Kickboxing, and returns to the Octagon at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday against Raulian Paiva Frazao, a Brazilian who's making his UFC debut.

8. Tyson Pedro

One half of "The Halfcast Podcast", Pedro is an established light-heavyweight whose UFC record sits at 3-3 after he debuted in November 2016. Pedro is however coming off back-to-back defeats which have seen his ranking fall down the light-heavyweight standings, the most recent of which came in Adelaide via a third-round TKO. But that defeat by Brazilian star Mauricio Rua could have easily been different, with Pedro's hopes derailed by an ACL injury. He is set to have surgery and then begin his road back to the Octagon.

7. Jessica-Rose Clark

Due to fight on the UFC on Fox card in mid-December last year, Rose-Clark was forced to withdraw from her bout with Andrea Lee after she was deemed "medically unfit" to enter the Octagon. In attempting to make the 125-pound weight, Rose-Clark's body gave in and she has since announced a move back to bantamweight (135lbs). After back-to-back victories in her first two UFC bouts, Rose-Clark then suffered a unanimous decision loss to top-ranked flyweight contender, Jessica Eye, but is set for a strong return in the heavier division.

6. Dan Hooker

A Kiwi fighting in the most high profile UFC division of them all - lightweight - Hooker was on four-fight win streak before he ran into Brazilian star Edson Barboza at UFC on Fox 31. Barboza had previously locked horns with, and lost to, division champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, so there was no disgrace in the Kiwi's third-round KO loss in Milwaukee. But his ranking did drop back to No.15 as a result, and he now faces a tough road back up the division after an initially successful switch from featherweight in 2017.

5. Megan Anderson

Anderson's record sits at 1-1 in the UFC after she embraced one of the toughest challenges for her maiden bout, a showdown with superstar Holly Holm. That fight ended in a third-round loss on a stacked card for UFC 225 in Chicago, Anderson suffering a unanimous decision defeat by the first woman to take down Ronda Rousey. The 28-year-old Queenslander returned to the Octagon with a TKO featherweight victory over Cat Zingano, and has since called out Cris Cyborg for a bout in the 145-pound division.

4. Tai Tuivasa

The biggest UFC character on either side of the Tasman, Tuivasa shot up the heavyweight rankings with an unbeaten eight-bout run after he'd traded rugby league for MMA. He won his first three fights in the UFC, too, proving he was ready to "stand and bang" with the big boys of the Octagon. But he then ran into Brazilian legend and former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at Fight Night Adelaide, the Australian rocked by a right hand in the second round from which he never recovered. Tuivasa's next bout is still to be confirmed, but he did call out Justin Willis after his loss in Adelaide; the American had defeated Mark Hunt earlier on the card.

3. Israel Adesanya

One of the rising superstars of the UFC, Adesanya is making waves all over the globe after steadily climbing the middleweight rankings. Originally from Nigeria, Adesanya and his family immigrated to New Zealand; a move "The Last Stylebender" has embraced by labelling himself as a "Black Kiwi". Full of bravado but with the skills to match, Adesanya is unbeaten in 15 fights as a professional, going a perfect four for four in the UFC in 2018. He faces his biggest test to date in Melbourne this Sunday in an absolute legend of the sport, Anderson Silva, but he is determined to take the Brazilian down and earn the ultimate trans-Tasman contest with Robert Whittaker.

2. Alexander Volkanovski

A former rugby league player and concreter from Wollongong, Volkanovski has ridden a huge wave of momentum all the way to No.4 in the UFC featherweight rankings. Unbeaten in his last 16 fights, the last six of which have come in the UFC, Volkanovski is a complete MMA athlete who can get it done on his feet or on the ground. A victory over Chad Mendes on December 29 has put him within striking distance of a title shot later in the year, Volkanovski already putting title holder Max Holloway on notice, declaring he "fights a style that [Holloway] hasn't really fought yet." It promises to be a big year for the Australian.

1. Robert Whittaker

The first UFC champion from either Australia or New Zealand, Whittaker is among Dana White's favourite athletes after he first emerged via The Smashes - a made-for-television special that pitted Australian and English fighters against each other. Whittaker made his UFC debut proper in 2012, going 2-2 over his first four fights; he added one further victory at welterweight before making the decision to step up to middleweight. He hasn't looked back since. Unbeaten in eight UFC bouts as a middleweight, Whittaker became interim champion when UFC legend Georges St Pierre vacated the middleweight belt midway through 2017. But his first title defence was derailed by injury, and it wasn't until he defeated Yoel Romero for a second time, in Chicago, that he held the belt in triumph inside the Octagon. Sunday's showdown with American Kelvin Gastelum will be his second title defence, and first on home soil.

Catch UFC 234 on ESPN, and in Australia and New Zealand on ESPN and Main Event