The Spider met The Last Stylebender Down Under for something unforgettable.
UFC 234 had all the makings of a potential disaster.
An injury suffered by middleweight champion Robert Whittaker changed the main event. The champ suffered a collapsed bowel and internal hernia which required immediate surgery.
As a result, the co-main event took center stage and it delivered beyond expectation.
Anderson “The Spider” Silva returned for what many believed would be his last time in the Octagon. The former middleweight champion is a legend that at one time was the most dominant MMA fighter on the planet. His unconventional and showy style lights up highlight reels to this day.
The 43 year old was paired against his doppelganger in Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya.
Adesanya, the New Zealand-Nigerian former kickboxer, has made waves in the UFC with destructive wins. His last victim, Derek Brunson, was taken out in the first round at Madison Square Garden.
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From the outset, the energy was palpable and the fans were hungry for the unexpected.
Silva threw all of his old tricks at the 29-year-old phenom. He repeatedly put his hands down and dared Adesanya to hit him. Outrageously, he planted his back against the fence and demanded Adesanya come and meet him. Adesanya returned the favor, moving into the center of the ring and motioning for the same.
Adesanya did not fall victim to Silva’s traps, touching him up with leg kicks and right hands consistently. He also effectively avoided the big counter-strikes. According to UFC stats, Adesanya out landed Silva in total strikes 65-34.
“This is like, if I’m playing basketball, to play against Michael Jordan,” Adesanya said during the post-fight interview.
There were brilliant exchanges where Silva returned every stylistic strike that Adesanya threw. The two gave an almost rehearsed dance of beautiful physicality laced with bad intentions.
Still, the undefeated Adesanya (16-0) defeated the all-time great via unanimous decision in Melbourne, Australia. All three judges awarded the three-round fight to Adesanya: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
After the fight, Silva was heard saying to Adesanya: “I pass the baton onto you.”
“I love my job. I know it’s tough. This game is tough,” Silva told the crowd after the bout. “This is my heart. This is my life. I continue to fight because this is my heart.”
The two hugged and bowed to each other on the Octagon surface at the end.
UFC 234 will be remembered as the night the protege and the OG showed why the mixed martial arts can be beautiful.