The Spider, 43 years old, was the Silva of old. He smiled and swatted away shots with the bravado fans grew accustomed to during his 2457-day stint on the throne.
It was as much art as it was the fight of the night. Both slipped punches and kicks with ease before one would land, putting the receiver on the back foot if only for a fleeting moment.
Ultimately Adesanya prevailed over his hero in a unanimous decision victory (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) in UFC 234’s main event in front of 15,238 at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.
«This is the end of the first movie, where I get to fight the guy that brought me into the game,» Adesanya said.
«It was cool. The best way I can describe it is just being cool sharing space with him, playing games with him, and we put on a good show for the crowd.
«I had fun in there. I showed off, and he’s a good dance partner. I feel like fight of the night is well-deserved. The best way I could describe it is like being in the twilight zone.
«That was cool. He caught one of my kicks, I knew he was trying to catch it. I tripped, and as I was getting up I was like ‘here comes a flying knee, I’ve seen this many times’, and I just slid to the left. He tried so many tricks I’ve seen.
«I got to beat the guy that inspired me to get into this shit. Moments like that… with me standing there with that stance, him being right there, there’ll be more.
«Those little moments in time, the photos, the videos, I like those. I like to collect those moments and that was a cool moment for me.»
Silva is not the fighter he once was, but Adesanya seemed to ignite some sort of fire in one of the greatest of all time. He again possessed the aura that would leave everything holding their breath.
They weren’t always going to be the main event at a packed house — that was originally supposed to be Robert Whittaker’s ultimately cancelled title defence against Kelvin Gastelum.
Adesanya will tell you he and Silva are the reason Rod Laver Arena sold out inside eight minutes anyway.
His inspiration in the rear-view mirror, Adesanya now has his sights set on a middleweight championship match — but so does Gastelum, who strode around the arena with Henry Cejudo’s belt proclaiming «I am the champion».
How long it will be until Whittaker is fit to fight after dual surgery for a twisted and collapsed bowel as well as an internal hernia of the intestine remains to be seen.
A title looks beyond Silva but his legendary career lives to fight another day — if only for just one more match in his home country before he draws the curtain.
While he stopped short of comparing Adesanya to himself, he had one parting message for the one many believe is the future of the division.
«Israel is very fast, he’s young. He has a great future inside the UFC. Please, keep straight with focus, don’t lose your focus, because you have amazing talent,» Silva said.
AT A GLANCE
UFC 234 results:
Middleweight: Israel Adesanya bt Anderson Silva via UD (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Lightweight: Lando Vannata bt Marcos Mariano via submission (first round, 4:55)
Bantamweight: Ricky Simon bt Rani Yahya via UD (30-27, 30-27, 30-25)
Flyweight: Montana De La Rosa bt Nadia Kassem via submission (second round, 2:37)
Light heavyweight: Jim Crute bt Sam Alvey via TKO (first round, 2:49)
Lightweight: Devonte Smith bt Dong Hyun Ma via TKO (first round, 3:53)
Featherweight: Shane Young bt Austin Arnett via UD (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Flyweight: Kai Kara-France bt Raulian Paiva via SD (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Bantamweight: Kyung Ho Kang bt Teruto Ishihara via submission (first round, 3:59)
Lightweight: Jalin Turner bt Callan Potter via TKO (first round, 0:53)
Bantamweight: Jonathan Martinez bt Wuliji Buren via UD (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times