“The Last Stylebender” continues meteoric rise

Tim Caplan – News Editor

Photo courtesy of Fox Sports

Israel Adesanya remained undefeated and established himself as a top contender in the UFC’s (Ultimate Fighting Championship) middleweight division on Saturday with a unanimous decision win over 185 pound Brazilian legend Anderson “The Spider” Silva.

 “The Last Stylebender” headlined the main event of UFC 234, which took place at Rob Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia.

The three round main event was announced the day of the fights, as the scheduled headliner between UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker and top contender Kelvin Gastelum was called off after it was suddenly revealed that the champion needed emergency surgery on an abdominal hernia the night before.

The fight between #15 ranked Silva and #6 ranked Adesanya marked a crossroads for both fighters. For Adesanya, whose prolific rise in MMA has caught the eyes of fight fans all across the world, it was the opportunity to make his dreams a reality. He would be able to face his idol, the man who he built his fighting style around, and establish himself as the number one contender at 185.

Anderson Silva’s task was different, it was a chance to show the world that at age 43, after 17 wins in the Octagon and 14 world championship title defenses, he was still the same fascinating matrix like fighter that had mistified fight fans for years. After a rough 1-4-1 record since losing his title, Silva’s time to shine and turn back the clock had arrived.

It was a matchup of elite strikers to say the least. Silva’s style has amazed fighters and fans alike for years. His lightning quick reflexes, lethal clinch, and creative style of kicks coupled with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been the template for a generation of strikers in mixed martial arts for a decade.

Adesanya is considered by many the second coming of “The Spider.” Israel was born and raised in Nigeria, he now lives and trains in New Zealand. After fourteen straight victories including three in the UFC, Adesanya knocked out veteran UFC middleweight Derek Brunson in November at UFC 230. Shortly after the fight fans began to talk about matching him up against the UFC legend Silva, and the contracts were signed to fight in Australia.

Adesanya came out confident in the first round landing one-two’s and outside leg kicks, while Silva circled and made reads on his opponent. Silva’s best strike in the first and throughout the fight was his right hook, which he began to land towards the end of round one.

Anderson picked up momentum as round two started and the fighters started to get comfortable in the Octagon, taunting each other while throwing a series of high level spinning kicks, including spinning heel kicks to the shin and head. Silva searched for the clinch throughout the round and succeeded briefly in drawing out a brawl from “Stylebender”

Adesanya “got on his bike” in the third round and continued to land leg kicks, which he tripled up on Silva in the fight, landing over twenty. Silva continued the overconfident ways that have gotten him in trouble in the past, often lowering his hands and allowing himself to be hit in an attempt to goad Adesanya into a firefight, but he stay composed, and landed shots from the outside.

At the end of three rounds three judges scored the contest 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28 for Adesanya.

Adesanya expressed his gratitude and admiration for Silva in the post fight interview, saying that “This is like for a kid, if I’m playing basketball with Michael Jordan. This is it for me.”