Adesanya Defeats Childhood Hero at UFC 234

Image Credit: [Getty Images]

Israel Adesanya remains undefeated, claiming a victory, via unanimous decision, over his childhood idol, Anderson Silva, at UFC 234.

Billed as a Middleweight title eliminator, this fight was originally scheduled to serve as the co-main event. However, with just hours to go, it was promoted to the main event as Australian Robert Whittaker pulled out of his Middleweight title defence against American Kelvin Gastelum with a severe abdominal injury. Silva and Adesanya did not disappoint however, delivering a thrilling show to a sold out Rod Laver Arena, in which their spectacular striking techniques were on full display. 

In an emotional build-up, at 43, Silva is in the twilight of his career and he struggled to hold back the tears after the weigh-in. After the fight, he hinted that he may fight one last time at UFC 237 in his home town of Curitiba, Brazil, on 11th May.

For Adesanya (29), this match-up was a dream come true. Growing up idolising Silva, he said that beating Silva would be mean more to him than winning a UFC belt. In the post-fight interview, Adesanya said, “This is crazy. This is like, for a kid, just to play… If I’m playing basketball, to play against Michael Jordan. This is it for me.” Adesanya’s rise through the ranks has been remarkable given he only made his UFC debut at UFC 221 in February 2018. Now, after claiming the biggest scalp of his career to date, Adesanya is one step closer to his dream of becoming the Middleweight champion. 

Meanwhile, Robert Whittaker’s run of bad luck continued. Illness and injury had forced him out of a title defence in Perth in 2017, whilst his victory over Yoel Romero at UFC 225 left him with a broken hand. Whittaker’s manager, Titus Day, said that around 6pm, he was feeling bloated, but that it was not uncommon with fighters regaining weight following a weight cut. Then, at around 10pm, Whittaker’s wife alerted his coaches that he was suffering from stomach cramps and was in considerable pain. UFC doctors were then called to his room, at which point, he began vomiting and was taken to hospital at around 3am on fight day.

UFC president, Dana White, revealed that he had been diagnosed with a hernia and described it as a freak injury. “His bowel and his intestines poked through the hole and it didn’t happen yesterday [at the weigh-ins]. They think he had this problem and it’s been going in and out. And it’s one of those situations had it popped out during the fight, it could have been fatal for him. So this is really serious.”

Meanwhile, Kelvin Gastelum, sporting a UFC belt, declared himself as the new Middleweight champion because he “showed up, travelled thousands and thousands of miles from home, [and] made the weight.” Gastelum explained how, “in my world, the wrestling world, if the guy shows up and makes the weight, for some reason cancels the bout, the guy forfeits the match – I win. I am the champion.” Dana White later quashed Gastelum’s claims by stating that Whittaker would remain the official champion and that they would look to reschedule his title defence. He also revealed that the belt Gastelum was wearing was in fact Henry Cejudo’s, the current Flyweight champion. 

Udit Shankar