#KiwiUFC: Israel Adesanya Thrives In Deep Waters

To say that Mixed Martial Arts in Aotearoa would never be the same after Israel Adesanya'a win over Kelvin Gastelum doesn't quite do justice to the monumental shift that has taken place; combat sports in Aotearoa will never be the same. Adesanya defeated Gastelum by unanimous decision to snatch the UFC's interim middleweight belt, more importantly though this aligns Adesanya with a fight against Robert Whittaker later this year.

The prospect of Whittaker vs Adesanya is nothing less that bonkers. Big boss man Dana White alluded to the fight being at a stadium in Australia and that is the most logical option considering the fight will likely sell out any stadium, with a bigger market in Australia. The day after Adesanya's win, I have no issues in saying that the fight against Whittaker will be the biggest kiwi sporting event of 2019. Even if you aren't all in on #KiwiUFC antics and not savvy with what is happening here, as we slide closer to the fight, it will be impossible to avoid the hype.

Adesanya sealed the win vs Gastelum with a fitting fifth round. Gastelum was a challenge that Adesanya hadn't faced to this point and this was evident throughout the fight as Gastelum's swift hands, movement and power tested Adesanya. As fans, we hadn't seen Adesanya deal with such a puzzle before and we hand't seen Adesanya taken into deep waters either. For Adesanya to come out in the final round and ensure victory with how he finished the fight, now puts everything out in the open in terms of seeing what Adesanya can do.

The fight was fairly even heading into the final round, hence the ability of Adesanya to rise to the occasion was so impressive. With three knockdowns and more total strikes, as well as more total strikes landed, Adesanya unloaded on Gastelum to ensure victory. We saw Adesanya thrive in uncharted territory and we also saw Adesanya reinforce his low key impressive grappling work in restricting Gastelum to 1 takedown in 9 attempts, along with a lovely flow from guillotine to triangle.

We've seen Adesanya's defensive prowess against wrestlers/grapplers before. This time he limited the effectiveness of Gastelum's takedowns in conjunction with the striking of Gastelum, the type of all-round threat that none of Adesanya's previous opponents had. For Adesanya to demonstrate his own grappling threat, is a testament to Adesanya's development and much of that goes back to Auckland City Kickboxing.

One may have been a bit iffy on the start from Adesanya, as Gastelum was the main aggressor in round one. The precision striking has been present throughout Adesanya's UFC career, as has his takedown defence and while we saw new wrinkles such as submission skills and thriving in the deep waters, Adesanya's ability to assess his opponent and then adjust has been a notable consistency.

Regardless of his opponent, Adesanya will more often than not, allow for the calculations to take place in the opening exchanges or even the whole first round. While Gastelum may have settled into a rhythm or enjoyed a boost in confidence, the important note about Adesanya that was reinforced in this fight is to ride the wave with Adesanya. Don't get sucked into what happens early, because the joy of Adesanya is how he processes the fight and the influence that has on later action.

Gastelum enjoyed a resurgence in the fourth round also, putting the fight in a precarious position for Adesanya. Adesanya was in deep waters, he'd been in a fifth round before against Brad Tavares, yet Adesanya controlled and dictated that fight. In these deep waters, Adesanya combined the precision and calculated assault with the purest desire to win. That's what it takes to hold a belt and we've now seen all we need to see to know that a fight vs Whittaker is going to be fun.

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