TLDR The long answer is yes, but the short answer is an unfortunate no.
What an incredible run it’s been for the Nigerian-born New Zealand MMA prodigy! Israel Adesanya has exploded onto the MMA scene as fast as anyone that I can remember, and in only five UFC fights (3 Performances of the Night and 1 Fight of the Night award), it appears that “The Last Stylebender” is next in line for a Middleweight title shot. Or is he?
At UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australian both co-main and main events featured top Middleweight contenders, with the main event being a championship match between current champ Rob Whittaker and well-deserved #4 ranked fighter Kelvin Gastelum. Winner would take the belt and fight the winner of Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya. Dana White even said so. But, unfortunately things are hardly ever this easy in combat sports.
In yet another terrible stroke of luck for the Aussie champ Whittaker, he had to pull out of the main event for emergency hernia surgery, leaving a seemingly confused Kelvin Gastelum to wander around Rod Laver Arena with Henry Cejudo’s 125 lb belt draped over his shoulder.
As such, Silva vs. Adesanya was bumped up to the main event and did not disappoint. Adesanya finally had the grand stage to display his stand up prowess and he took full advantage, nearly doubling both “The Spider’s” strikes thrown and strikes landed. Adesanya won via unanimous decision and advanced to 16-0 in his MMA career.
Unfortunately, beating arguably the greatest Middleweight to ever compete was the easy part. What’s next for Israel Adesanya is a bit more complicated. Rob Whittaker’s recovery time has been slated at anywhere between 6-12 weeks, and even when he is healthy enough to train and enter camp, I can’t see anyone except Kelvin Gastelum getting the nod again to fight for the Middleweight belt.
In my opinion, everything rides on Whittaker’s recovery timetable. If it’s closer to the 6 week mark, we could have a redo of Whittaker vs. Gastelum quite quickly. Adesanya could then either ride it out and wait for the winner, or fight literally anyone else in the top 5 should the itch to fight need scratching (Romero or Jacare Souza would be particularly interesting).
However, if Whittaker’s recovery is closer to the 12 week mark, I could see the UFC matching Adesanya vs. Gastelum for an interim title, as to not completely tie up the top ranks of the Middleweight division, and give Whittaker all the time he needs to be healthy when he returns to defend his rightful throne.