The Ultimate Fighting Championship has had its fair share of champions and superstars throughout the years. The likes of Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Brock Lesnar and The Diaz Brothers have won the hearts of MMA fans across the world through either sheer power, technical ability or their determination to leave their hearts in the octagon after each fight. One rising star that cannot be overlooked is Middleweight Champion Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya. Adesanya has accumulated 100 combat sports victories with his latest being a successful title defence against another undefeated fighter, Paulo Costa, on September 27th , 2020.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Israel Adesanya boasts a 20-0 record in Mixed Martial Arts and fights out of Auckland, New Zealand. He initially decided to get into martial arts after being heavily bullied at school. After being inspired by the Muay Thai film Ong-Bak at 18 years old, Adesanya went on to build an impressive kickboxing record of 32-0 and amassed an 11-0 professional MMA record fighting in Hong Kong, Australia and China before being recognised by the UFC.
In just six fights, Adesanya propelled himself from mediocre standing in the middleweight roster to undisputed champion. Making his debut at UFC 221 in 2018, Adesanya advanced his record to 12-0 after making quick work of his opponent Rob Wilkinson, winning the fight by TKO. In his post-fight interview, he made his mark stating, “To all middleweights, there is a new dog in town.” Adesanya then went on to have dominant wins against Marvin Vettori and Brad Tavares. It was after this that Israel was given his first Top 10 contender in Derek Brunson at UFC 230. Known as a heavy hitter, Brunson was predicted to be a test to a young, fresh ‘Stylebender’. However, Israel disposed of him in the 1st round.
The UFC then proposed what fans touted a dream match-up between Israel and legend Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, with Adesanya often professing Silva to be his idol. Although past his prime, Silva didn’t disappoint as both fighters traded combinations of kicks, punches and elbows for three rounds. Nonetheless, Israel was victorious against Silva.
It was finally time for Adesanya to stake his claim as the best Middleweight in the world when he received his first title fight against Kelvin Gastelum for the interim title in April 2019. In this highly anticipated five round slugfest, both fighters showcased their durability and warrior spirit with blood staining the ring. Adesanya managed to capture the belt via unanimous decision after knocking Gastelum down twice near the end of the fifth. Adesanya then proclaimed himself “ready to die in there”, further marking his status in UFC royalty.
The 6th October 2019 marked the day that Adesanya etched his name into the UFC hall of fame, upon facing Robert Whitaker to unify the Middleweight titles. Though many predicted a kickboxing masterclass, Adesanya once again shocked the world and provided Whittaker a narrow escape at the end of the first round after landing a clean uppercut, before knocking him out early in the second round, finally claiming the Undisputed Middleweight Title. In such short time, Adesanya has risen to superstar status whilst making a substantial impact on MMA, becoming the second Nigerian champion since Kamaru Usman and putting the middleweight division on the map. After beating Paulo Costa in September, the sky is the limit.
Image Credit: The Sun