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UFC 234 Preview: Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya

By: Jesse Donathan

Anderson Silva is a great fighter, an icon of the sport whose legacy is forever cemented in the hallowed halls of mixed martial arts greats. Before there was Conor McGregor, before there was Ronda Rousey, there was “The Spider” Anderson Silva. A fighter who Chris Leben famously promised to send back to Japan where the competition was easier, Silva went from being a Pride FC fighter that the UFC was going to make an example out of to enhance their own brand to the sport’s biggest star. Anderson is still an elite fighter with the ability to finish virtually anyone in the UFC middleweight division even at the age of 43, nearly 44 as of April 14th of this year 2019. Whether or not Silva can turn back the clock and defeat a fighter some 14 years his junior and considered a virtual clone if not in fact a better striker than himself in Israel Adesanya is the million-dollar question.

At one point, Silva (34-8-0) went a remarkable 16-0 in the UFC, snatching the title from the well-respected former middleweight champion Rich Franklin. Silva would not look back until his infamous July, 06 2013 loss to Chris Weidman where some showboating from Silva resulted in “The Spider” getting smashed. That marked the beginning of a four-fight losing streak after his UFC 183 unanimous decision victory over Nick Diaz was overturned to a no contest following a positive test for the metabolites of the performance enhancing drugs Drostanolone and Androsterone according to an August 13, 2015 article titled, “UFC’s Anderson Silva suspended for one year following bizarre NAC hearing” by Michael Hutchinson.

Israel Adesanya (15-0) has a relentless, stifling Muay Thai offensive game that has the ability to break the will of his opponents and turn them into purely defensive minded fighters. “I know him better than he knows himself,” exclaimed Adesanya in describing his idol Anderson Silva. Originally from Nigeria, “The Last Stylebender” is a former professional kickboxer who now fights by way of New Zealand. According to a November 2, 2018 article titled, “5 Things You Might Not Know About Israel Adesanya” author Guy Portman writes that Adesanya is quite the dancer even entertained becoming a professional dancer prior to becoming a fighter. “There is no doubt that Adesanya’s dedication to dance has been beneficial to the rangy, 6-foot-3 pugilist’s fluid movement and exceptional footwork,” writes Portman.

“There is no scenario where Adesanya comes out this thing unscathed. There is no scenario where Anderson Silva comes out of this thing feeling great that night, gets a good night’s sleep. That just simply is not happening. One or both of these athletes is going to the hospital,” exclaimed Bad Guy Inc. CEO and ESPN analyst Chael Sonnen in his January 22, 2019 YouTube video titled, “Anderson Silva likes the stylistic matchup with Israel Adesanya…”

If Anderson Silva fights smart, this is a very winnable fight. Both Silva and Adesanya are strikers, this means stand-up fighting is their specialty. But this is a mixed martial arts fight, not a kickboxing bout, though it could easily turn into a stand-up war if both fighters choose to engage in that style of fight. Conventional wisdom has it that Adesanya is the younger, sharper, faster fighter in the cage and has the advantage in the striking department.

While this may be true, Anderson Silva is an accomplished striker in his own right and is thus intimately familiar with the stand-up game himself. This familiarity with Adesanya’s strongest fight attributes puts Silva in a perfect position to compete long enough on his feet in order to close the distance, weave his way into a grappling exchange where he can then attempt to tie Adesanya up and drag him to the floor where Silva’s Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt can become a wild card that has been put into play.

The fans use their imaginations to fill in the blanks, to create false narratives of make-believe fantasies where they get exactly what they want. In this case, a stand-up battle with Anderson Silva going out on his shield or shocking the world with one last great performance. While all of these scenario’s are possible, the quickest route to victory for Silva is to exchange just enough with Adesanya to use his own kickboxing experience to tie Adesanya up and make this a mixed martial art fight instead of a kickboxing bout where Silva enjoys an edge in experience over the undefeated, up and coming Adesanya.

Israel Adesanya has displayed the remarkable ability to improve from fight to fight, his propensity to avoid the take down and enter the matrix while his opponents remain subject to the realities of physics is impressive. Adesanya is a stand-up wizard, his keys to victory will be to stay focused and not overly respect Silva for the great former champion that he is. Israel just needs to fight his fight, it’s even possible he is the superior fighter on the outside and in the clinch, which will necessitate the fact Anderson Silva needs to make this a mixed martial arts fight, not a glorified kickboxing match. “The Last Stylebender” will need to capitalize on his youth, athleticism and technique to dismantle the former champion and introduce the world to the Israel Adesanya era. This is the biggest fight of Israel’s career, he is on the precipice of becoming a house hold name and he will certainly take one step closer to towards realizing that goal come Saturday night against the legendary Anderson Silva.

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