Beating Anderson Silva wasn’t as easy a task as most thought it would be for Israel Adesanya.
“The Last Style Bender” defeated the former UFC middleweight champion on Saturday night, but it took all three rounds to do so. Adesanya topped Silva in the main event of UFC 234, which took place at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia.
The bout was bumped up to the headlining spot on fight day after 185-pound champ Robert Whittaker was forced out of his title defense against Kelvin Gastelum due to a hernia in his abdomen.
Adesanya’s youth certainly played a part in the fight, as he seemed to be the quicker man in the cage. He was a bit more active, and ultimately landed more strikes altogether; still, it was a relatively close contest — or at least closer than most thought it was going to be.
Silva had his moments throughout the 15-minute affair, and luckily for the 43-year-old, never got dropped or hurt badly. On the other hand, “The Spider” never rocked Adesanya, but he did land his fair share of punches and kicks.
In a competitive, back-and-forth fight — one of Silva’s best performances in years — it was Adesanya who did just a bit more, earning him the judges’ nod.
What was the highlight of the fight?
Many — if not most — thought Adesanya would starch Silva. After all, he is more than a decade younger and hadn’t been on the sidelines for two years like Silva. Coming off four straight UFC wins in 2018, Adesanya is the one on the rise, while Silva’s best days are most definitely behind him.
If you go back and recall how the MMA community reacted to the announcement of Adesanya vs. Silva, it was largely negative. Very few were supportive of the pairing, with the expectation that Adesanya would destroy the former titleholder within minutes of the opening bell. There were no surprises that Adesanya was a major betting favorite heading into the contest.
But the Brazilian made it competitive. Two of three judges gave Adesanya all three rounds, but that is still better than what most pundits and fans expected of the MMA legend.
So, the fact that we did not have to watch Silva take an unnecessary beating against the rising contender in Adesanya was the highlight of the fight. Adesanya vs. Silva ended up being fun, and not nearly as depressing as largely expected.
Where do these two go from here?
If Whittaker vs. Gastelum went on as planned, it would have been a given that Adesanya had earned a title shot with the Silva win. The winner of both bouts were expected to fight each other later this year. But now with Gastelum still looming as a viable title challenger — and with Whittaker sidelined for at least a few months — Adesanya’s next step isn’t as clear.
Adesanya deserves a crack at Whittaker, but so does Gastelum. It would not surprise me to see the UFC book Adesanya vs. Gastelum for the interim middleweight title while Whittaker recovers, because the UFC loves interim titles. If that doesn’t happen, though, Adesanya might have to fight once more before a title shot while Whittaker and Gastelum take care of their unfinished business.
If I’m being totally honest, I would be OK with watching Silva fight once or twice more. The Silva that showed up against Adesanya — one of the best middleweights in the world — is the best Silva we’ve seen in a while. He might not be as shot as some of us thought.
But of course, if “The Spider” wants to hang up his gloves and spend more time with his family, I say go for it. There is nothing left to prove, and there hasn’t been for a while — he still holds countless UFC records, including the longest winning streak and longest title reign, and is one of the best to ever do it.
Watch now, later, or never?
You know what, I enjoyed this fight. I really did. Watch it now.