It didn’t matter that Israel Adesanya was thrust into the main event of UFC 234 on less than a day’s notice; he thrived under the magnified spotlight and triumphed.
Adesanya took on Anderson Silva, a man he’s idolized and mirrored his fighting style after and had the fight of his career. “The Last Stylebender” moved beautifully inside the Octagon in front of thousands of rabid Aussies in Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday night, and did what he set out to do — to out-Anderson Silva Anderson Silva.
Adesanya badly rocked the former UFC middleweight champion with a short right cross to the jaw in the first and wobbled him moments later with another. However, the Nigerian-born striker couldn’t put him away and settled for an exciting unanimous decision victory instead.
But immediately following his triumph over “The Spider,” Adesanya seemed bummed about his performance.
“I have to have a look at the tape,” he told the assembled media at the post-fight press conference. “As a fighter it’s hard to assess myself straight off the bat. The first thing I do after a fight is get in the shower and I get to be alone with my thoughts. I can assess how I feel about the fight and then after that, I watch the fight. With that said, I had a lot of fun in there. He’s a great dance partner and we showed off, so ‘Fight of the Night’ was well deserved.”
Adesanya has said on numerous occasions that he couldn’t believe he was going to be facing a man he’s revered for so long. When asked what it was like to finally step inside the Octagon to face Silva, the charismatic Nigerian relished in his thoughts.
“The best way I could describe it was like being in the Twilight Zone,” he said with a beaming smile. “That was cool as fuck. Even when he caught one of my kicks and I tripped, I was like, ‘All right, here comes the flying knee because I’ve seen this too many times.’ So, I just slid to the left.
“He tried so many tricks that I’ve seen,” he added. “Even when I would feint and make him reach and then he’d bring back his hands and do all the Kung-Fu s—t, I’m like, ‘My man! I’ve this too many times!’ That’s how Bisping got caught with an up kick. I’m not stupid. I may look stupid but I’m smarter than I look. I was just a cool experience. Everyone else plays it on EA Sports but I get to play it real life.”
Gears shifted immediately to what he wants to do next and with whom. The obvious answer was that Adesanya wants a crack at the title Silva held for years. Currently possessed by Robert Whittaker, who had to withdraw from UFC 234 for an emergency hernia surgery, Adesanya pulled no punches.
“I’m fighting for the belt next. I showed up to work. I did my job.”