Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight kickboxers Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya will square off this Saturday (Feb. 9, 2019) at UFC 234 from inside Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia.
Silva is not the dominant champion he once was, that much is certain. It’s been two years since the 43-year-old Brazilian last fought, but it’s worth-noting he did win that bout, a tight decision over Derek Brunson. Despite his age and some of his losses from before the Brunson victory, Silva has remained adamant in trying to recapture his past throne. On the other hand, Adesanya burst into UFC less than one year ago. And in just four fights, he progressed from prospect to bonafide contender, as “Stylebender” seems to improve dramatically between each fight. While this is the highest level of striker Adesanya has faced in the Octagon, the multiple time kickboxing champ is likely more than ready.
It’s not the fight anyone asked for nor does it really make sense, but make no mistake that this is must-watch action. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 34-8 (1)
Key Wins: Chael Sonnen (UFC 148, UFC 117). Vitor Belfort (UFC 126), Forrest Griffin (UFC 101), Dan Henderson (UFC 82)
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (UFC 166, UFC 162), Michael Bisping (UFC Fight Night 84)
Keys to Victory: Silva may not be in his athletic prime anymore, but that doesn’t mean the man cannot fight. Silva remains a calculated counter striker and brutal range kicker, and there are unseen tricks up his sleeve.
Still, this fight is an uphill battle for “The Spider.” He will not have the range advantage that is historically so useful for him. Judging by his bouts with Bisping, Silva can no longer go on the offensive either, leaving himself vulnerable without the speed and chin of his youth.
To win this bout, Silva needs to find the perfect shot. To give himself the best chance of landing it, Silva has stick to his guns as a patient counter striker while being active with his kicks. Adesanya is high-volume and unlikely to hang back for too long, so getting reads and finding an opening quickly is vital. Otherwise, Silva will see his chances slip away.
Key Wins: Brad Tavares (TUF 27 Finale), Derek Brunson (UFC 230), Marvin Vettori (UFC on FOX 29), Rob Wilkinson (UFC 221)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Adesanya is simply a fantastic kickboxer. He can lead well, counter accurately, throw in combination, and snipe opponents with a single strike. Above all else, Adesanya seems inhumanly sharp at knowing the perfect strike to wiggle around his opponent’s defenses.
Opposite Silva, Adesanya definitely needs to be wary of the counter punch. At the same time, I’d like to see him push the pace and pressure opposite his older foe. Unlike a great deal of opponents who ran into Silva’s counter punches during “The Spider’s” title reign, Adesanya knows how to pressure without dramatically exposing his chin.
If Adesanya is methodically cutting off the cage and kicking hard with Silva, it will force Silva to make a decision. Should Silva choose to hang back and avoid taking chances, that’s an easy win on the cards for Adesanya — and one of his power shots could end things at any point. If, however, Silva goes after him, recent history has shown that’s when the Brazilian is most vulnerable.
Bottom Line: 2019 or not, it’s an Anderson Silva fight.
Silva has been promised a title shot with a win, but ask Colby Covington precisely how much UFC promises are worth these days. Making the bold assumption that the promise would be honored, this an absolutely pivotal fight for Silva. Realistically, it’s his last chance to get back into the title picture before his inevitable retirement.
And a loss firmly closes those doors.
As for Adesanya, there’s much on the line for him as well. I don’t know that a potential title shot is guaranteed, but a title eliminator with someone like Ronaldo Souza is very possible after this. Equally important is the fact that Adesanya enters as a massive favorite and was the one who called for this fight. If he comes up short to the veteran, it’ll be an embarrassing loss for the top contender.
At UFC 234, Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya will throw down in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?