MMA Review: #671: UFC 234: Adesanya vs. Silva

-This was the first UFC main event of 2019 to be changed – on the third show nonetheless – as originally Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum for the UFC Middleweight title would’ve headlined, but on the day of the show Whittaker came down with a really bad hernia and had to pull out, leaving us with a super-weak card with a weird main event of Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva.

UFC 234: Adesanya vs. Silva

Melbourne, Victoria

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Dominick Cruz.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Jimmy Crute vs Sam Alvey

Crute had debuted with an exciting win over Paul Craig back in December and this was his second test at the UFC level, while Alvey – one of the most dangerous one-dimensional fighters in the division – was looking to bounce back from his unlikely KO loss to Rogerio Nogueira. Despite the experience difference I was taking Crute as I felt he could avoid Alvey’s counterpunching game to pull out a win.

First round begins and both guys look quite tentative, sizing one another up from distance and missing with some early punches. Crute looks in far better shape than Alvey at least. Couple of head kicks glance for Crute and he lands nicely with a low kick. Couple more kicks land for Crute and Alvey is barely throwing anything back. Short right hand counter drops Alvey to his knees and he looks done, and Crute stops fighting….but ref Marc Goddard actually lets it continue and a wobbly Alvey gets up and stumbles around. Head kick misses for Crute and Alvey grabs the leg for a takedown, but he’s not with it at ALL and Crute rolls him over and starts to smash him with punches with Alvey in the turtle position, and so Goddard stops the fight there.

Post-fight Alvey is FURIOUS with Goddard and has to be restrained from going after him, feeling the fight was stopped early, but there’s just no way – he could’ve stepped in when Alvey first went down to be honest, and when the fight was actually stopped, Alvey was on his knees taking clean shots and wasn’t defending at all. Good win for Crute even with the semi-controversy and he’s a good prospect to watch at 205lbs.

Women’s Flyweight Fight: Montana De La Rosa vs Nadia Kassem

This was an odd choice for a main card bout as both ladies were a bit unproven in the UFC; De La Rosa was coming in at 2-0 with two submissions, while Kassem was 1-0 and just 5-0 overall. I somehow picked Kassem, I think it was basically a guess.

Fight begins and De La Rosa tags Kassem instantly with a series of hard punches that set up the clinch. Flying triangle attempt from Kassem goes badly wrong and De La Rosa gets on top in the guard and starts to drop shots. Kassem looks like she’s got nothing from her back here to be honest, just holding on and I’d presume trying to stall for a restart. De La Rosa’s doing enough to keep this fight grounded, though. Less than a minute to go and this has been a totally one-sided round. Round ends with De La Rosa passing into north/south and almost getting a kimura variant. 10-8 round for De La Rosa for me as Kassem had zero offense.

Into the 2nd and Kassem pushes forward but ends up tagged by more punches and De La Rosa hits a quick hip throw into guard. Kassem tries for a rubber guard this time but ends up giving up half-guard instead and De La Rosa looks to pin her arms down. From there she transitions into a mounted triangle and Kassem is in deep trouble. She rolls around a bit and ends up giving an armbar instead, and De La Rosa straightens it out but somehow Kassem won’t tap. De La Rosa switches back to a pretty tight triangle instead, then rolls into the mount again with the choke still locked up while landing elbows for good measure. Somehow Kassem STILL HOLDS ON but has to finally verbally tap once De La Rosa goes back to the armbar.

Totally one-sided fight in favour of De La Rosa, and she looked really good on the ground although you’ve got to question such an inexperienced opponent I guess. Perfectly acceptable fight that probably didn’t belong on a UFC pay-per-view in 2019 if we’re honest, but them’s the breaks these days.

Bantamweight Fight: Ricky Simon vs Rani Yahya

Yahya was on a surprising 3 fight winning streak here – I say surprising as I thought he would’ve washed out of the UFC years ago – and he was clearly hoping that a win over Simon would put him in title contention, while the prospect Simon was looking for his first big win after going 2-0 in the UFC thus far. Tough fight to pick really but I thought Yahya could pull it out via submission.

Round One begins and Simon looks like Miguel Torres with his mullet. Yahya just looks OLD, dude. Good left hand from Simon in the early going and they trade momentarily with neither landing cleanly. Good sprawl from Simon allows him to avoid a takedown, but Yahya tags him with a wild combination. Simon obliges and these guys are swinging hard. Beautiful right hand uppercut drops Yahya for a second but he pops right back up. Body kick from Yahya sets up a flurry and Simon looks stunned, but he manages to counter with a BIG RIGHT and drops Yahya! Hammer fists follow and then Simon decides to force him back up to his feet. Big left hook puts Yahya down again but Simon wants nothing to do with the ground. Another flurry lands for Simon as the Brazilian stands and he shrugs off a potential throw attempt too. Big hooks to the body land for Simon now. He’s looking great here. Yahya just can’t get him down. Simon continues to pressure Yahya with more strikes and even gets a takedown of his own in the waning seconds. He still won’t go into the guard though and just kicks at the legs until Rani gets up. Big head kick connects partially for Simon before the round ends. 10-9 Simon in a great round.

Round Two and Yahya opens with a couple of hard low kicks. Couple of jabs get through too and he’s looking smoother on his feet now. Nice throw puts him down though as Simon counters a flurry. Simon stands over him to kick the legs again, then lets him back up. Looks like Simon’s cut over the right eye. He backs Yahya up some more but he is taking more shots in this round. Takedown is avoided again by Simon. Exchange continues with Simon landing the better shots now. Yahya is still swinging though and he has Simon hurt with a right hand. Simon backs up and Yahya’s walking him down with more punches now. Couple more hard shots land for Rani, but he walks into a shoulder strike (!) and goes down HARD. This is a pretty great fight. Simon again won’t go to the ground with him, and so Yahya stands and continues to fire off punches. Another throw works for Simon as the round closes out, and this time he lands some punches – but takes an illegal upkick too that the ref ignores. Round ends with Simon on top. 10-9 Simon but it was a closer round.

Round Three and Simon comes out swinging, but Yahya pulls guard and goes for a triangle. Simon pulls out of it and calls him up to his feet with some taunting, and Yahya eventually joins him. Striking exchange continues and Yahya is hanging in there decently. Another sprawl from Simon avoids another takedown attempt, and he drops a couple of punches to the body this time for good measure. Simon is totally in counter mode now. Yahya is busted open on the hairline from an apparent accidental headbutt. Another sprawl from Simon and they come back up and Simon counters a head kick and throws Yahya down. Combination has Yahya a little rattled and he’s backing up. About one minute to go now and Yahya glances on a combo only to be taken down. Simon again hovers over him with some punches and then actually drops into the guard this time. Action ends on the ground with Simon landing punches. 10-9 Simon for a 30-27 in my opinion.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25 for Ricky Simon. Don’t know about that 30-25 score but whatever, Simon clearly won and this was a great showing for him as he shut Yahya’s game down in all areas and basically beat him up standing, even if it wasn’t flawless as he did take a couple of shots. This has set him up for a big fight against Urijah Faber this weekend and if he wins that then who knows how far he can go? Hell of a fight actually where I was expecting nothing.

Lightweight Fight: Lando Vannata vs Marcos Mariano

This one got moved from the prelims to the main card when we lost the main event, and although Vannata hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he got for his wild 2016 fight with Tony Ferguson I still figured he’d win here, as I hadn’t ever heard of Mariano and he had a weak record of 6-4.

First round begins and Mariano is a legitimately huge 155lber. Like a small Anderson Silva in his build too. They trade some kicks and Vannata pushes forward and glances on a right hand. More kicks from both men and then Vannata gets a bodylock and slams Mariano down into half-guard. Mariano looks totally lost from his back. He flails his legs a bit and does get to full guard, but Vannata looks calm from the top and lands a couple of punches. More good punches get through for Vannata and Dominick Cruz is pretty scathing on Mariano’s ground game on commentary. Really heavy elbow gets through for Vannata and Mariano is in trouble now. Seconds to go in the round and Vannata keeps on landing before passing into north/south, and from there he locks up a remarkably easy kimura to force the tapout.

Total squash match as Mariano didn’t appear to offer a thing from the ground and Vannata took full advantage of it despite not really being known for that. Wouldn’t surprise me if Mariano turns out to be one and done in the UFC in fact. As for Vannata hopefully it’s the start of a decent run for the guy.

Middleweight Fight: Israel Adesanya vs Anderson Silva

Adesanya had become the breakout fighter of 2018 as he’d won four fights in a row, debuting in February and then ending the year by KOing perennial contender Derek Brunson. He’d garnered comparisons to Silva for the way in which he picked up that win, and so despite Silva being miles past his prime and without a really impressive showing since like 2012, this fight was put together with the idea being the winner would get the next title shot. As Silva looked so old I figured Adesanya would win comfortably in a real passing of the torch moment.

Round One and the crowd are AMPED. It’s a tentative beginning as they circle around pretty slowly, with Adesanya glancing on some long strikes and Silva throwing nothing. Classic hand movement from Silva but he’s still not really throwing anything of note. Hook kick glances for Adesanya. Lot of feinting from both men and then Silva decides to rush him, but walks into a heavy right hand counter that slows him in his tracks. Another right has him stunned and Adesanya follows with an elbow and a knee, and Silva’s dropping his hands now. Couple more shots land for Adesanya but Silva’s chin is holding up. Wild shots miss for Silva but he does catch Adesanya on the end of a hard right hand. Good body kick from Anderson. Clean one-two from Adesanya but Silva taunts him to a big crowd pop. More kicks from both men and Silva narrowly avoids a big head kick. Left hand into a body kick from Adesanya. Rush from Silva but he can’t land and he eats a left on the counter instead. Round ends with a brief trade and Adesanya poses and tells Anderson to bring it. Pretty fun round. 10-9 Adesanya.

Round Two and Silva tries a crescent kick that doesn’t land in the early going. Nice counter right hand connects for Silva as Adesanya steps forward. Lot of feints from Adesanya as he throws out some kicks, then he taunts Silva and throws some heavy shots as Anderson randomly decides to drop his hands. Spin kick to the body glances for Silva but he takes a hard left hand. Big head kick misses for Silva. Adesanya lands a left but Silva stings him with a counter right. Big combo from Silva and he’s got Adesanya backpedalling. Clinch follows but Silva lands some clean shots to break it. Adesanya took those punches really well to be fair. He pot-shots Silva with some long punches but eats two nasty right hands in return. Wild hand movement from Silva follows but he can’t find the killer blow and Adesanya manages to clinch to slow things down before moving out of range. Combination connects for Israel and Silva might be slightly tired. Less than a minute to go now and things have slowed down a lot. Big rush misses for Silva but he lands a clean right hook from close range once Adesanya can’t circle out. Round ends just after. 10-9 Silva for me as he landed the cleaner shots.

Round Three and the crowd are now chanting for Silva, surprisingly enough! Hard leg kick from Israel buckles Silva badly but he manages to recover by taunting. Body kick is caught by Silva and he throws Adesanya back and narrowly misses a wild flying knee. This is a really fun fight actually. Head kick lands for Adesanya but Silva takes it well and now he’s got his back against the fence like his fight with Stephan Bonnar as Israel pot-shots him. Adesanya backs out and Silva screams at him to bring it on, but Israel smartly doesn’t get too wild and keeps pot-shotting from the outside. Silva’s right eye looks badly swollen. Leg kicks from Adesanya and Silva keeps on taunting him, but he needs to get some strikes going here. More strikes from the outside land for Adesanya and Silva has clearly slowed down now. Nice left hand connects flush for Israel and he follows with a big combo as Silva decides to drop his hands and just take the punches. He’s still got some sort of chin at least. Right hand slows Israel down but doesn’t seem to have him hurt. Wild spin kicks miss for both men and that’s the fight. 10-9 Adesanya, 29-28 Adesanya overall.

Official scores are 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 all for Israel Adesanya. Fight was far better than it had any right to be in the end as it turned out Silva had a lot more left in the tank than many – myself included – gave him credit for, and he took a lot of good shots from Adesanya and gave a lot of good ones back too. It always felt like Adesanya was a step ahead though, and while he never came close to finishing, this definitely felt like a passing of the torch from one great flashy striker to the newer model, and whether Adesanya can replicate even a piece of Silva’s success remains to be seen. This probably shouldn’t have main evented a UFC PPV, but then it was never supposed to anyway to be fair, so for what it was it was pretty good.

-Show ends with a highlight reel and we’re done from Australia.

Final Thoughts….

Pretty good show in the end as we got five watchable fights with three good finishes, but despite that none of it outside of the main event felt really memorable and there’s literally no reason for a show like this to wind up on pay-per-view in 2019 really. As a bunch of fights it was fine but as a pay-per-view it’s a slight thumbs down, sorry.

Best Fight: Adesanya vs. Silva
Worst Fight: De La Rosa vs. Kassem

Overall Rating: **1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: