Whit­taker pulls out with in­jury, Ade­sanya wins at UFC 234

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS -

Robert Whit­taker pro­vided most of the early drama at UFC 234 in Aus­tralia and Is­rael Ade­sanya quite a lot at the end.

About eight hours be­fore their sched­uled fight, Aus­tralia’s UFC mid­dleweight cham­pion Whit­taker with­drew from his cham­pi­onship de­fense against Kelvin Gastelum be­cause of a se­ri­ous ab­dom­i­nal in­jury and sub­se­quent emer­gency surgery due to a per­fo­rated her­nia.

That moved up the highly an­tic­i­pated No. 1 con­tender match be­tween ris­ing New Zealand star Ade­sayna and Brazil­ian vet­eran An­der­son Silva (34-9) to the main event on the sold-out Rod Laver Arena card.

In an evenly matched fight over the first two rounds, Ade­sayna landed the first blow — an out­side kick to Silva’s leg — then fol­lowed it up with a kick to his op­po­nent’s right thigh, but Silva fought back with two shots to Ade­sayna’s chin. De­spite the late flurry, Ade­sayna ap­peared to have marginally taken the first round.

Silva ap­peared to have won the sec­ond round, and chants for the Brazil­ian went up in the crowd to start the third and fi­nal round. But Ade­sayna, now 16-0, dom­i­nated the third for a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion, 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 as per the judges’ cards.

“This is like, for a kid, if I played bas­ket­ball against Michael Jor­dan... this is it for me,” Ade­sanya said. “An­der­son, thank you. You’ve been do­ing this for a long time my friend, I ap­pre­ci­ate you.”

Af­ter the fight, Silva was heard say­ing to Ade­sanya: “I pass the ba­ton onto you.”

“I’m very happy, guys. Thank you God, for giv­ing me one more chance to come here and do my best. I love my job,” Silva said at ring­side dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tions.

The Nige­rian-born Ade­sanya, 29, is con­sid­ered one of the UFC’s most high-pro­file ti­tle con­tenders , with a spec­tac­u­lar fight­ing style that re­minds many of the 43-year-old Silva in his prime.

Also el­e­vated on the card was the light­weight bout be­tween Amer­i­can Lando Van­nata and Brazil­ian Mar­cos Mar­i­ano, which Van­nata won by sub­mis­sion near the end of the first round. Van­nata im­proved to 10-3, two by no con­test, while Mar­i­ano fell to 6-5.

UFC pres­i­dent Dana White said the 28-year-old New Zealand-born Whit­taker, who has a record of 20-4, be­came ill Satur­day night and com­plained of pain in his ab­domen be­fore be­ing di­ag­nosed at a hospi­tal with a her­nia. White said Whit­taker could have died if he went into the ring with such an in­jury.

In a later state­ment, UFC said Whit­taker had un­der­gone emer­gency surgery due to a “se­vere ab­dom­i­nal in­jury.”

Whit­taker’s man­ager Ti­tus Day said Whit­taker first re­ported some is­sues around 6 p.m. on Satur­day.

“Rob said he was a bit bloated and a lit­tle bit tired which is not un­com­mon when you are go­ing through the process they are go­ing through, reload­ing and putting some food back in your body,” Day told Aus­tralian As­so­ci­ated Press.

“Then about 10 o’clock we got a call from (Whit­taker’s wife) Sofia say­ing he’s got some bad stom­ach cramps and he’s in quite a lot of pain and can’t sleep ... it got to the stage at about three in the morn­ing where he was taken to hospi­tal.”

Gastelum tweeted with “much sor­row” that the fight was off.

“I wish @rob­whit­tak­er­mma a speedy re­cov­ery champ! Get well soon!”

Tick­ets for the 15,000seat arena sold out in eight min­utes. UFC has of­fered full re­funds due to the can­cel­la­tion of the main bout.

It marks the sec­ond time Whit­taker has been forced to with­draw from a sched­uled ti­tle fight in Aus­tralia. In­juries kept him from fight­ing Luke Rock­hold at UFC 221 in Perth last year.

Ear­lier this week, White had said the win­ners of the Whit­taker-Gastelum and Ade­sanya-Silva fights would meet later this year.

ANDY BROWNBILL - THE ASSOCIOATED PRESS

Nige­ria’s Is­rael Ade­sanya, left, and Brazil’s An­der­son Silva fight dur­ing their mid­dlewe­sight bout at the UFC 234 event in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, Sun­day, Feb. 10, 2019.

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