It turns out Israel Adesanya’s master plan was to face the old master himself, Anderson Silva, according to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. The matchup is scheduled for UFC 234 on February 9th in Melbourne, Australia. That card is headlined by middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, who defends his belt against Kelvin Gastelum.
The matchup makes sense in a number of ways. Adesanya, “The Last Stylebender”, is in many ways the spiritual successor to “The Spider”. Silva was for years known as the best striker in mixed martial arts, looking nigh untouchable during his 16-fight unbeaten streak, including 10 title defenses as middleweight champion. Adesanya, 75-5-1 in kickboxing, brings a truly elite track record to mixed martial arts, a record he has backed up by going 4-0 in his first year with the company. His latest win was a highlight-reel KO of Derek Brunson at UFC 230, leaving him one fight from a title shot.
It is fitting, then, that the 15-0 Adesanya will potentially earn that title shot in a high-profile matchup with the greatest middleweight of all time. A bout with Jacare or Romero would present a tougher challenge at this stage, but with less name value. Adesanya, like Silva, is a unique personality, with potential to become a global star. It makes sense that the UFC have chosen the matchup with the most exposure for the least risk, comparatively. UFC 234 also makes total sense for the Nigerian-born New Zealander Adesanya, setting him up to face the winner of the main event — possibly Robert Whittaker in an all-down-under affair.
Should Adesanya go on to fulfill his potential, this could be the last chance to see a matchup between the two. The 43-year-old Silva likely will not challenge for a title again; he snapped a five-fight winless streak with a tepid decision over Brunson in February of 2017 before failing a drug test. He returned from suspension only this month.
Presumably, Silva knows who Adesanya is by now. Either way, he will find out February 9th.