The old legend versus the young lion. Israel Adesanya is scheduled to take on Anderson Silva on Feb. 10th at UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia. In what seems to be a passing of the torch, the greatest striker of all time is making his return to the octagon to face what everyone is calling a younger version of himself.
Adesanya is coming off a first round knockout against renowned middleweight, Derek Brunson. This means he is likely one win away from a title shot. It would seem like guaranteed stardom awaits for the modern striking savant. Adesanya talks the talk and has walked the walk so far. But should a win over Anderson Silva earn Adesanya a title shot?
The UFC’s handling of Adesanya’s career is starting to look very familiar. Conor McGregor came into the UFC as a hotshot striker with questions of uncertainty about his ground game. The UFC was very careful to keep McGregor away from dangerous wrestlers for the most part. McGregor ended up taking a fight against Chad Mendes due to a Jose Aldo injury, but Chad Mendes was extremely undersized and underprepared for that fight. Guys like Dennis Siver or Dustin Poirer were unable to exploit McGregor’s achilles heel on the ground.
Sure, the UFC gave Adesanya a competent wrestler with a solid ground game in Brunson. For the level of talent Adesanya possesses, Brunson would not be the guy to give Adesanya a run for his money. Should Adesanya get a shot at the title with a win over Anderson Silva? Of course not, but what else can you do but let the UFC run its course. They certainly aren’t going to give him Yoel Romero or “Jacare.” At least not yet. They obviously want to develop Adesanya into a star first. A loss to Romero this early on might hinder Adesanya’s public appearance and we all know how much Dana White loves his poster boys.
If we take out all the extra variables, the matchup itself is a dream. If there is one thing that is almost certain, it’s that it isn’t going to the ground. Although Silva may have a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he is no doubt more comfortable keeping it on the feet. Adesanya, who has amassed a 75-5-1 professional kickboxing record, will most likely feel the same way.
What can we expect from this “dream” matchup? A brutal, one-sided match. A match that might make the Anderson Silva of old, long forgotten in our minds. Silva has not looked like the same Silva we became accustomed to since his first fight with Chris Weidman. He is clearly out of his athletic prime and has accumulated a lot of miles on that body. There is no doubt in my mind how this match is going to go. I’m going to give the edge to the hungry 29-year-old in his athletic peak with the an even more dangerous striking arsenal.
But just how good is Israel Adesanya? We have yet to see him in a danger on the ground. He may just evade the questions surrounding his ground game for yet another fight, but time will eventually tell whether “The Last Stylebender” has the potential to be the next Anderson Silva.