They say that the best time to be on the bandwagon of a fighter, is during their rise and in beating Derek Brunson with a first round KO/TKO, Israel Adesanya has capped off his insane 2018 in the UFC. Earlier this year, Adesanya made his UFC debut against Australian Rob Wilkinson and in four fights this year, Adesanya gone through the levels to match the quality of each opponent, thus leaving us in glee as regular #KiwiUFC readers have watched it all unfold.
Brunson presented the strongest challenge that Adesanya had faced to this point, yet this looked like his easiest fight of 2018. That's not a knock on Brunson, mainly a sign of the growth and progression of Adesanya who has also suggested that he's got plenty of tricks tucked away. In this fight, Brunson was wise not to stand in front of Adesanya to trade shots and quickly looked to establish his wrestling dominance over Adesanya via 7 takedown attempts in just 4:51mins.
None of those takedown attempts were genuinely successful and Adesanya comfortably dealt with Brunson's under hooks, before wriggling out of however Brunson was trying to hold him. Adesanya is proficient in takedown defence and if he isn't sliding his hips back and down to snuff a takedown, he's getting to the fence and fighting with Brunson's hands to gain some level of control. One of my lasting memories from the fight was Adesanya having Brunson clinging to one of legs and Adesanya skipping free, which happened a couple of times.
The issue for Brunson wasn't just that he was unable to truly sustain damage on Adesanya during those takedown attempts, he was clumsy in going for his single-leg takedowns. You can not be slow and cumbersome against Adesanya, or even repeat the same moves regularly because Adesanya has shown in all these UFC fights that he observes, calculates and gauges what's going on in the opening exchanges. The next time Brunson went for a single-leg, he wore a knee to the face and with blood in the water, Adesanya got busy.
"I don't throw and hope, I aim and fire".
There is so much about Adesanya - in and outside of the octagon - to like, although how he finishes fights is a thing of beauty. We've seen in his two KO/TKO wins (Brunson and Wilkinson), that Adesanya doesn't start frothing once he's got his opponent hurt and he instead dismantles his opponent via clinical striking; bang ... bang ... bang.
Starting with knees, Adesanya then landed a kick and finished the fight with his hands. In doing so, Adesanya showcased excellent defence along with insight to turn that defence into attack with the knee while Brunson was gunning for a takedown. Then came the typical dose of Adesanya striking and Brunson, well, later bo.
What's next for Adesanya? A rest. There is no shortage of options for Adesanya and come 2019 he will most likely fight another contender, before putting himself into the mix for a title shot. You can make a strong case for Adesanya to get a title shot asap, well with my #KiwiUFC bias I can any way, but the best option would probably be to fight someone like Jacare Souza, who defeated Chris Weidman on the same card.
Middleweight is a stacked division and with Luke Rockhold nursing an injury that forced him out of the fight against Weidman, Yoel Romero vs Paulo Costa likely to go down next year and Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum on the stove for a possible date in February, dust needs to settle. That gives Adesanya time for a break, well deserved after such a meteoric demolition of his four middleweight opponents this year.
2018 has been a hectic year for #KiwiUFC and with Dan Hooker, Kai Kara France, Mark Hunt and Luke Jumeau all fighting in November or December, we're not finished yet. There is still plenty of time to go all-in on supporting Adesanya, especially as he continues his climb to a title shot. For those who have lapped up Adesanya's antics this year, through his first four fights in the UFC, nothing quite compares to enjoying the journey of a lethal prospect.
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Peace and love 27.