UFC 243 really is a win-win for #KiwiUFC fans and as a fan from Aotearoa, you should feel glorious about a decision to support either Israel Adesanya or Robert Whittaker. In fact, you're probably better off not supporting either of them and merely enjoying the show via two #KiwiUFC monsters. They are both extremely like-able and if you appreciate the quiet, no-nonsense kinda kiwi vibe, then Whittaker is your type of dude.
Equally as kiwi though, is Adesanya's 'not many fucks given' type of vibe. In the interview below, you'll hear Adesanya harping back to the old school martial arts energy from respect and humility. Adesanya carries that in hefty amounts and when we consider that Adesanya's vibrant personality is rooted in morals, values and respect, we have someone who is quintessentially kiwi; just in a different style to Whittaker.
I suspect that this vibrant personality is why many folks have Adesanya as a favourite over Whittaker. I'm very much in the middle and will focus my energies on enjoying the show, while zoning in on observations for both fighters. For most though, Adesanya has been front and centre, all the spotlights in the building shining on the kid who emerged from Rotorua and Whanganui, which has coincided with Whittaker being absent from the global MMA scene.
Those spotlight were switched on and kept on thanks to Adesanya's activity since making his UFC debut back in early 2018. Since then, Adesanya has had six fights and won them all, with four fights in 2018 and this fight vs Whittaker will be Adesanya's third in 2019. Interestingly, Adesanya won all 11 of his MMA fights prior to entering the UFC via TKO/KO and since moving into the UFC, Adesanya has just two TKO wins from his six fights with the rest coming via decision.
Decision wins against Anderson Silva then Kelvin Gastelum look far more impressive than decision wins over Marvin Vettori and Brad Tavares. That's the journey Adesanya has been on though as the five fights before taking on Gastelum, led Adesanya to that point where he fought five rounds with one of the best middleweights in the world. A five round war tests everything about your MMA being and Adesanya passed that test to put him into this bracket with Whittaker. Adesanya's journey put him in a great position to survive and win that monumental fight with Gastelum, all of which serves as foundations from which he is immensely prepared for Whittaker.
The most intriguing aspect of this fight will be how Adesanya stops or slows Whittaker's attempts to get inside Adesanya's reach advantage and grapple with Adesanya. Given that Adesanya will pepper Whittaker with elbows and knees if he does get too close, Whittaker will likely use his wrestling prowess to try a few takedowns; serving the purpose of exposing a weakness as well as controlling the fight.
Adesanya has steadily shown the ability to defend takedowns and while he may not unleash his own attacking wrestling too often, he is well equipped to deal with those who will go the alternative route to the stand up, striking battle. With 85 percent takedown defence across his six UFC fights, Adesanya allowed just 1 of 9 takedowns from Gastelum and as that's not really Silva's buzz, we look to the fight against Brunson where Brunson tried 7 takedowns with no success. Adesanya is either dictating the fight on his feet, or he has shown that he can deal with takedowns using a few defensive wrestling plans.
Whittaker has similar takedown defence with 84 percent, the difference though is that Whittaker also has 57 percent takedown accuracy. Adesanya doesn't have the offensive wrestling threat that Whittaker has, while their defence is similar and this will put a sharp focus on how Adesanya goes about limiting those wrestling/grappling opportunities for Whittaker.
There's a bit of funk in these career stats...
Significant Strikes Landed per Minute
Significant Strike Accuracy
Adesanya is a supreme striker and this is reflected in the precision of his shots. Whittaker's striking can't be under-estimated though, especially when combined with the threat of takedowns and ground control. Whittaker will need to deal with a whole new puzzle himself, in terms of Adesanya's striking abilities and outside of these two both being #KiwiUFC troopers, this is an enticing stylistic match up.
Here's some Adesanya content to enjoy...
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Peace and love 27.