Matt Damon and Chris Hemsworth were sitting front-row at UFC 234 in Melbourne on Sunday, and one moment left them in awe.
New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya closed in on a potential trans-Tasman middleweight title showdown with Australian Robert Whittaker, with a unanimous decision points win over legendary Brazilian Anderson Silva.
The three-round fight at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, between sixth-ranked Adesanya and 15th rated former champion Silva, was elevated to main event status, after a severe abdominal injury forced champion Whittaker to withdraw from his title defence against No.1 contender Kelvin Gastelum.
Nigerian-born Auckland-based Adesanya, who has a 16-0 MMA record, added to his growing reputation with a strong victory over Silva.
The Kiwi star left Damon and Hemsworth in shock with his showing against the UFC legend.
UFC boss Dana White, who was sitting front-row next to Damon and Hemsworth, later revealed how the Hollywood stars reacted during the brilliant fight.
“We were just like, ‘holy s***,’” White said in the post-match press conference.
“We were saying what everyone else was. This is awesome. What a great round.
“It was like a kung fu movie. It was fun to see two super talented guys, the up-and-coming kid and the living legend, go at it like they did.”
In the first round, 29-year-old Adesanya landed several kicks and right hands.
The 43-year-old Silva, who was fighting for the first time in two years, showed some flashy moves, but fired back little in return.
Silva enjoyed some success in a more competitive second round, nailing the younger man with some punches.
But a patient Adesanya, who like his opponent, also displayed some showboating, dominated the third, peppering the Brazilian’s face with punches as the veteran sometimes held his hands low.
Two judges scored the fight 30-27 to Adesanya and the third had it 29-28.
Silva said it was the equivalent of facing Michael Jordan in basketball.
But he drew boos from the crowd with what seemed to be a swipe at Whittaker.
“I showed up to work, a lot of people didn’t, even though it’s out of their hands, sometimes it’s not in their control,” Adesanya said.
The winner was in line to be the next challenger to Whittaker.