Israel Adesanya beats Anderson Silva by unanimous decision at UFC 234

Adesanya: I'm too smart for Silva's games (1:17)

Israel Adesanya reviews his performance vs. Anderson Silva at UFC 234, saying he wouldn't be baited by the former champ. (1:17)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Anderson Silva spent 15 minutes at UFC 234 on Sunday (Saturday in the United States) trying to find that one flash of magic that's defined his entire career -- but it never came.

Undefeated middleweight prospect Israel Adesanya (16-0) defeated the all-time great via unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 234 inside Rod Laver Arena. All three judges awarded the three-round fight to Adesanya: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.

Silva, 43, threw all of his old tricks at the 29-year-old phenom, but they all came up short. He repeatedly put his hands down and dared Adesanya to hit him. At one point, he planted his back against the fence and demanded Adesanya come and meet him.

Adesanya, of Nigeria, refused to fall into Silva's traps. He calmly touched him up with leg kicks and right hands, and avoided the big counterstrike. According to UFC stats, Adesanya outlanded Silva in total strikes 65-34.

"This is like, if I'm playing basketball, to play against Michael Jordan. This is it for me," Adesanya said.

Though Silva lost, Conor McGregor took to social media to express his appreciation for Silva's effort.

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

"I love my job. I know it's tough. This game is tough," Silva told the crowd after the bout. "This is my heart. This is my life. I continue to fight because this is my heart."

The non-title middleweight bout headlined UFC 234 after defending middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was pulled from a title defense against Kelvin Gastelum on short notice due to an abdominal hernia. Whittaker underwent emergency surgery Sunday. There is no timetable for his return.

With the champ out, it was Adesanya's opportunity to shine. The Australian crowd chanted Silva's name at various points in the fight, but Adesanya remained in control. After just missing on a wicked head kick attempt, he smiled at Silva and held his fingers an inch apart.

The most dangerous moment for Adesanya came in the third round, when Silva launched into a flying knee attempt. Adesanya sidestepped the blow, however, and went back to work. It is his fifth win in the UFC, all of which have come in the past 12 months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.