With the original UFC 234 headliner scrapped due to Robert Whittaker’s emergency hernia surgery, Israel Adesanya and Anderson Silva took center stage in Melbourne on Saturday night.
While Silva has been in numerous high-profile bouts over the course of his illustrious career, it was some added pressure for Adesanya, who has been tabbed as one the promotion’s rising stars. Ultimately, “The Last Stylebender” came through, taking a unanimous decision over Silva in an entertaining affair that was more competitive than expected.
“That first round was like Kung Fu movie. It was a fun fight to watch with two guys who are incredibly talented,” UFC President Dana White said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “I was saying [Friday], any oddsmakers that makes Anderson Silva 7-to-1 [underdog] is out of their mind. He’s a great martial artist; he’s always taking care of himself.
“But Israel went in with a sold-out house tonight and a lot of pressure on him…Anderson is  years old. He’s supposed to go in and beat Anderson.”
Adesanya has won five consecutive fights in the Octagon, tying him for the second-longest active winning streak in the middleweight division.
“The kid’s got ‘it,’” White said. “Not only is he talented in the Octagon, he’s talented outside of it too. His interviews are exciting, he’s an interesting guy, he’s fun to watch. I think he’s got a really bright future.”
White confirmed that Adesanya vs. Silva was supposed to be a No. 1 contender fight at 185 pounds. However, due to Whittaker’s injury, Kelvin Gastelum could still be next in line for a title shot. The UFC boss said Whittaker is expected to be out four to six weeks, though that is not necessarily an exact timetable.
“He’s out of surgery and basically what they told me was his colon and his intestines had popped out. He didn’t do anything [Friday], so they don’t think he did it yesterday. They think he’s had it for a while and it’s been popping in and out,” White said of Whittaker. “The scary thing about it is if he took a shot to the stomach he could have died.
“We have to see this plays out with the champ and see how long he’s gonna be out. We’ll go from there.”