In the world of MMA, one of the best rises up the UFC ranks in recent years is without a doubt the amazing run of the still undefeated at 17-0 and current UFC Interim Middleweight Champion Israel “The Last Style Bender” Adesanya.
The man is fresh off an amazing performance where he won the Interim UFC Middleweight title against the always dangerous and tough as nails Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 – it was one of the best high level back and forth fights in UFC history on a UFC card that arguably had the best co main and main event back to back title fights ever.
I broke down how good UFC 236 main and co main events were with highlights right here, but I strongly urge you to watch the full fight when you get a chance.
If you didn’t know how good Israel Adesanya was before UFC 236 then you definitely do after watching how he dug deep and defeated Kelvin Gastelum in such a close fight to win the interim belt. But today at the MMAGateway we are asking the question – Can Israel Adesanya become the greatest of all time?
His striking is at times on a another level compared to most fighters in the UFC which is definitely down to his 81-5 pro kickboxing record before he even started MMA. His fight IQ is also through the roof, his cardio is excellent, and while not his main strengths his Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu is ever improving.
Look at this highlight reel of Adesanya –
Who has he been beating?
In MMA when you see an undefeated fighter step into the UFC it’s hard to say what is gonna happen, its an exciting thing to witness, because while watching the fight you will likely start thinking one of two things – “welcome to the UFC with a bad ass kicking” or “Shit this fighter is amazing, I can see why they are undefeated and now they are home in the UFC”.
Israel Adesanya was definitely in the second thought, because in his first UFC fight against Rob Wilkinson in February 2018 at UFC 221, it became immediately clear from the first punch he threw that Adesanya was special, dominating the fight easily with his highly skilled striking, finishing the tough Wilkinson with knees and punches in the second round.
Then he faced the young and tough Italian Marvin Vettori in his next fight, which I have to say was actually surprisingly close. I expected Adesanya to stop Vettori, but Adesanya seemed a little off and Vettori showed great toughness on the feet. Still Adesanya managed to win the fight by split decision also in the second round Adesanya landed an amazing right elbow, which Vettori thought was an eye poke lol.
Next came Brad Tavares, the first genuine UFC veteran that Adesanya had faced since joining the UFC. Now given the fact that Adesanya struggled against Vettori slightly, some expected that Adesanya would be stopped by Tavares. Wrong, not only did Adesanya win, he did it with ease landing beautiful strikes all fight winning an easy unanimous decision.
Then came another tough UFC veteran, but one that hits harder then Tavares and is more athletic in Derek Brunson. Now this one was probably still the most shocking of Adesanya’s UFC run thus far, by virtue of just how easy Adesanya made that fight look. It seemed at times like Israel Adesanya was in another dimension watching time in slow motion while Brunson was stuck in this world moving way too slow to even hit Adesanya.
So Israel Adesanya beat Derek Brunson by TKO in the first round and did some lovely dance moves straight after in the cage – but do you see what’s been happening here? As the competition has been getting stiffer, Adesanya has been putting in better and better performances as his MMA skills continue to develop. In this fight and in general at times he seems like a kid in a toy store, soaking up everything like a sponge.
At UFC 239 in February 2019, Israel Adesanya fought one his most inspirational fighters ever in the legendary Anderson Silva. The fight was slated as the old Anderson vs the new Anderson referencing the similarities in their virtuoso striking skills. Adesanya admitted to mentally struggling through training and in the fight to defeat one of his idols growing up, so I do think Adesanya purposely took his foot off the gas in this fight out of having too much respect for Anderson – nevertheless, Adesanya still won an easy unanimous decision in a very strange but entertaining fight, that was more like watching a theatrical dance off then a fight at times.
Then we come round to Israel “The last stylebender” Adesanya’s most recent fight which we mentioned at the top with his amazing UFC Interim title win against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 in April – which was easily his best fight yet as Gastelum is a true elite 185 pound fighter and honestly Adesanya nearly finished Gastelum in the 5th round after the fight being 2 – 2 going into the 5th. What heart and skill against such an almighty opponent from Adesanya.
So on the 5th June 2019 we stand with Israel Adesanya still being undefeated in MMA and now with an interim belt and a likely guarantee of the next title shot for a unification bout against current UFC Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker – being as both men come from the Oceanic region the fight is simply a must do for the UFC owners.
Do you notice that charisma?
Have you heard Israel Adesanya when he speaks? If you haven’t watch the video below to get a taste, because the guy has confidence for days and has great creativity and timing with a lot of things he says.
On top of his amazing martial arts skills, because Adesanya has such an interesting character, I believe this is a piece needed to connect with fans more in order for a fighter to be considered the GOAT of MMA. especially in today’s world of MMA where getting rating is becoming more and more important ontop of being a great fighter.
Listen to some of these great lines The Last style bender drops –
Can he be the greatest?
So many MMA fans are stubborn cynics, who will not admit something which is staring them in the face at times and even when they do see it they tend to knit pick. If you ask most MMA fans who is the GOAT of MMA you will likely get the same names coming up: Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, GSP, Fedor Emelianenko, Amanda Nunes etc.
Is Israel Adesanya in that conversation right now in June 2019? No. But can he join those select few fighter, to be even in the discussion for greatest ever? Yes he most certainly can.
If he unifies the UFC Middleweight title bout this year, then I fully expect his star to continue to grow and if Adesanya can defeat Robert Whittaker, the next challenge or a challenge in the future may need to be a move up to 205 and fighting Jon Jones, as both Jones and Adesanya have had heated words about each other in recent times.
That fight would be absolutely mind blowing and if Adesanya won that, his star would really sky rocket to unknown heights and it would basically cement his place as one of the greatest ever to compete in MMA.
Whatever happens in Israel Adesanya’s career, everyone here at the MMAGateway will be watching closely to keep all you MMA fans posted, that’s it for today, so as always like, share, subscribe and stay tuned.