Sports can be very charismatic. Every once in a while, an athlete will pop up out of nowhere, when nobody is expecting, and draw people in. Israel Adesanya is one of those athletes. “The Last Stylebender” has amassed a 15-0 professional MMA record with some of the best striking performances we have ever seen in the UFC. This guy has everything a fighter needs to become a superstar.
His skill set in the octagon is inexplicable, but there’s more to him than that. Adesanya has a mouth on him. We’re talking about a guy who fights like a hybrid of Jon Jones and Anderson Silva in the cage and talks like a Floyd Mayweather.
The 29-year-old budding star originates from Lagos, Nigeria, but moved to New Zealand shortly thereafter, where he fell in love with kickboxing. Adesanya’s striking resume is as decorated as anyone’s in the UFC. Before he was signed by Dana White and company, the man put together a 75-5 professional kickboxing record. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that his striking is real.
“From the minute I saw this kid I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is going to be good, I like this,'” White said in New York. “Then you hear him talk, and I like that too. He’s the whole package.”
His Achilles Heel?
MMA promotes all styles of fighting however, and Adesanya’s ground game is unknown at this point. He does hold a blue belt in brazilian jiu-jitsu, but we haven’t seen a large enough sample size of him on the ground yet. What I will say is that his takedown defense is very good. Not only is it very good, but it’s an issue for that division to deal with. There is no one at 185 that should be willing to engage in a striking battle with Adesanya consistently throughout a fight. This means that the only solution is take this guy to the ground.
The Story of Adesanya vs. Brunson
That leads us to Derek Brunson. Brunson, a three-time Division II All-American wrestler in college, took on Adesanya at UFC 230. There was a lot of hype leading up to this fight, as both sides were going at it. Adesanya made it clear he had no respect for Brunson’s game and he showed it in the cage. Brunson knew he had no chance with Adesanya on the feet so his only option was to take it to the ground. The problem was he underestimated Adesanya’s 85 percent takedown defense. Brunson had no success taking the fight to the ground and was finished inside one round.
In the post-fight press conference, Adesanya called the fight “slight work.”
Where He Stands
After UFC 230, Adesanya is currently ranked at No. 6 in the welterweight standings. That means he is arguably a fight away from title contention. His upcoming fights will tell us whether this hungry up-and-comer has what it takes to fight at a championship level. Taking Adesanya against any of the top middleweights in the world is not a stretch to be honest. Except for Yoel Romero. No way I’m taking Adesanya over Romero. He needs to put on more weight to match the athleticism Romero brings to the octagon.
On the other hand, outside Romero, Adesanya looks like a bad matchup against any of the top guys. I don’t think Whittaker can match Adesanya’s length on the feet. I also don’t think Whittaker would be able to take it to the ground so easily.
The upside is undoubtedly there. Every time one of these fighters pop up, people just seem to know. Each one of these UFC stars that we see today have one thing in common. They all share a certain confidence about themselves that no one else has. They carry themselves with a swagger like no other.
Israel Adesanya has that swagger and confidence. Now its just a matter of time before he puts it all together and becomes one of the best fighters in the world.