Late Sunday afternoon, Israel Adesanya will fight Kelvin Gastelum for the UFC's interim middleweight title. Having stormed through the middleweight division to get to this point, Adesanya isn't exactly chasing the golden belt and recognition that the interim champion nod gives you as there is a major carrot lurking on the horizon in a possible unification bout vs Robert Whittaker.
The prospect of Whittaker vs Adesanya in Australia, genuinely boggles the mind. To get there, Adesanya needs to pass another test in fighting the bloke who was due to fight Whittaker until Whittaker had to pull out due to illness. Adesanya showed that he has the wide range of skills to pose a threat to any middleweight champion in his win over Anderson Silva and while Silva's ability is undeniable, the challenge of Gastelum is likely to test Adesanya further.
Stats tell the basic story of the match up, with Adesanya landing more strikes per minute, with a greater percentage of those strikes being 'significant strikes'. Adesanya absorbs less strikes than Gastelum as well which amounts to Adesanya a surface level analysis of Adesanya being a superior striker, with better defence.
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute
Significant Strike Percentage
Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute
Factor in that Adesanya does a great job to avoid, or snuff out takedown attempts and the blueprint is there. Against noted wrestlers, Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson, Adesanya restricted them to a combined 1 of 19 takedowns and in doing so forced them to step into Adesanya's realm of striking. Gastelum is a lot better than Tavares and Brunson, more polished, more powerful, yet the same basic premise of Adesanya flexing his defensive prowess and then landing a wide range of strikes applies.
Silva was different and Adesanya routinely drew his own comparisons between himself and Silva. Gastelum is more in the Tavares/Brunson category and Adesanya will be required to execute at a far higher level than he did in the fights prior to defeating Silva.
Don't expect Adesanya to step into Gastelum's forte of grappling; Adesanya doesn't even bother with takedowns. That is not to suggest that Adesanya isn't skilled in other aspects of fighting other than striking because defensively he is a borderline wizard, but for casual #KiwiUFC fans, expect Adesanya to keep it standing.
A notable reach advantage will play into Adesanya's striking prowess. Adesanya is considerably taller (6ft 4" vs 5ft 9") and using this reach advantage via jabs and his arsenal of kicks, will not only limit Gastelum's ability to take Adesanya down, but most notably limited Gastelum's ability to land with his heavy hands. This opens the door for Adesanya to put on a masterclass in distance control and the skill he has in using his wide range of strikes will amplify that control.
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