Israel Adesanya reminds me of that “build your own fighter” character my older brother would create when we were kids, where all the attributes were maxed out AND he had cheat codes. Then he’d talk smack the entire time he was beating my character up and come out untouched. I hate that guy…and his video game knowledge.
Yet, we still hear the sceptics. Can he strike? He has a professional kickboxing record of 75-5 and a professional boxing record of 5-1. But what about MMA? He’s 19-0 and the current middleweight champion. What about off his back, though? He has the highest takedown defense rate in the division. Adesanya went from his UFC debut to middleweight world champion in two years. It took me longer than that to get through the fourth grade.
So with tons of matchups available, I grabbed a couple that I thought would be fun.
5. Thiago Santos: Thiago Santos, please stand up. Yes, Santos is now at a higher weight class but he gave light heavyweight champion Jon Jones the fight of his life while on one leg. Thiago is a slobber knocker of an opponent and if he can get in his groove, this could be a barn burner. I mean, Jones and Adesanya have similar body types and Santos showed he can make a fight against anyone. Maybe we’d see another wheel kick knockout – I’m just not sure from who. Prediction: Violence. Adesanya wins by unanimous decision.
4. Edmen Shahbazyan – Edmen Shahbazyan is 22-years-old, 11-0 and he put the division on notice last November by kicking the head off of Brad Tavares. In fact, ten of his eleven wins have come in the first round. He’s an aggressive finisher with loads of talent, tons of skill and all the youthful enthusiasm of a 22-year-old in his prime.
With Shahbazyan being such a quick starter with concrete hands, there’s an excellent chance he could catch Israel in the first round. I’m certain we’ll see this fight soon. Prediction: Adesanya weathers the storm to win the unanimous decision. I think we’ll see these two fight more than once, though.
3. Gegard Mousasi: ‘Moose’ shows about as much concern over being in the cage as my high school history teacher cared when we were late to class. There’s just no reason for much more than a dismissive shrug. Maybe that lack of nerves comes from the fact that he’s been a dragon-slayer since he entered the sport. With fifty-five MMA fights under his Judo black belt, Gegard also sports an undefeated kickboxing record, and he’s got twelve submission victories, to boot. He’s both the calm and the storm. Prediction: Mousasi puts up a fight but has too many miles on his tires and falls to an Adesanya unanimous decision.
2. Jared Cannonier: Jared Cannonier threw his name into the mix with an absolute bludgeoning of Jack Hermansson back in September. Prior to that, he whipped the legs off of Anderson Silva for a TKO victory. The nickname “Killa Gorilla” fits him like a new pair of socks.
It took some time getting here, though. Cannonier fought some monsters at light-heavyweight and actually came into the UFC as a heavyweight. He’s faced some monsters in Glover Teixeira, Dominick Reyes, Anderson Silva, Jack Hermansson and Jan Bƚachowicz…I’d be more than excited to see how he and Adesanya match up at this point in their careers. Prediction: After a feeling out stage, Adesanya lights Cannonier up for a third-round TKO.
1. Paulo Costa: Paulo Costa is proof that life isn’t fair. He’s undefeated, hit’s hard as hell, he’s tall, his abs have abs…his nickname should have been ‘Captain Latin America’ instead of ‘The Eraser’. I’m jealous as hell. Plus, he had Yoel Romero so flustered that he was swinging in the opposite direction of his opponent. That right there should garner him some sort of award or acknowledgement in the UFC record books.
However, Costa has T-Rex arms. A reach of seventy-two-inches against Adesanya’s eighty-inch wingspan tells me that he better be ready to work those angles. That being said, Kelvin Gastelum lumped up Adesanya in their interim title bout, and his arms are about as long as my attention span. Costa’s aggression and ability to walk an opponent down should make this an exciting fight and it needs to be booked already! Prediction: Costa gets the W by unanimous decision.
When you act out anime cartoon moves, you’re going to get into fights – Adesanya clearly has no problem with that. Between his talent, work ethic, cocky attitude and ability to sell a fight, ‘The Last Stylebender’ is here to stay and he’s going to have a target on his back for the duration.