Israel Adesanya and Anderson Silva served up three rounds of enthralling martial arts striking in the substitute main event of UFC 234, with undefeated kickboxing ace Adesanya extending his unbeaten record with a decision victory.
Adesanya outstruck and outworked the 43-year-old former UFC middleweight champion over the three-round bout, which was bumped up to the main event slot following the cancellation of the UFC middleweight title headliner between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum.
UFC champ Whittaker was rushed to hospital to undergo emergency stomach surgery to repair a hernia after waking up in main on the morning of the event.
It forced UFC executives to move Adesanya and Silva into the main event spot, where they produced a crowd-pleasing showcase of martial arts striking as they went all the way to the judges’ scorecards after three rounds of gripping action.
Adesanya’s superior striking and higher work rate saw the 29-year-old former kickboxer earn the unanimous decision victory with scores of 30-27, 29-28 30-27.
And the Nigerian-born Kiwi paid tribute to the Brazilian legend after his victory, saying facing the former pound-for-pound superstar was the MMA equivalent of playing basketball against Michael Jordan.
Adesanya’s win now puts him in the number-one contender position for the UFC middleweight title.
But with the confusion over Whittaker’s timeline for a return, it may be that we see Adesanya face Gastelum for an interim title later this summer, with the winner moving on to face Whittaker for the undisputed title on his return.