With Conor Mcgregor nearing the end of his career and Jon Jones not fighting in two years, the UFC is looking for the next face of the league, and no candidate is more deserving than Israel Adesanya.
On February 13th, the “Stylebender” won his fourth consecutive title defense via unanimous decision against Robert Whittaker, which would also be his eleventh straight UFC win in the middleweight division. He is a true performer, often having elaborate performances while walking to the octagon, and also is not afraid to speak his mind.
So the question arises: can anyone beat this guy in the middleweight division? Or is this just the beginning of the Adesanya era? I will try to break down his best possible competition and make my prediction for who, if anyone, will take the belt from the master kickboxer.
Likely Adesanya’s next fight, Jared Cannioneer is a powerful striker, Cannonier has won five of his last six fights. His most recent bout came in UFC 271, where he knocked out Derek Brunson in the second round.
In a fight against Israel Adesanya, things may not turn out great for “Tha Killa Gorilla”. Adesanya fights his best against aggressive fighters, recently knocking out aggressive striker Paolo Costa in the second round.
Recent opponents of Adesanya have fought more passively after Yoel Romero took Adesanya the distance in possibly the most uneventful title fight in history. However, Cannoier fights his best when controlling the pace of the fight with an onslaught of strikes. That will play right into how Adesanya likes to fight, and will have his way
- Prediction: Adesanya win by KO
Another option to dethrone the middleweight champion is someone who has not even fought in the weight class yet. Khamzat Chimaev is a rising welterweight who remains undefeated, and has dominated every fighter in his path to this point.
Chimaev has received high praise from UFC standouts and former champions, most notably Henry Cejudo. Cejudo claims Chimaev could “easily beat” Adesanya in a fight, and can overwhelm the champion with his flawless wrestling.
UFC legend Daniel Cormier did respond to Cejudo’s statement in favor of the Style Bender, explaining on his podcast that Khamzat Chimaev would not stand much of a chance.
“I don’t know if Chimaev is the guy because he’s obviously smaller . But his style won’t allow for him to sit back with Adesanya.”
Chimaev is a top candidate to take the welterweight belt from Kamaru Usman, and would certainly fight Adesanya if he is the champ of the division below.
While the sky’s the ceiling for the fighter from Chechnya, it is too early to tell if he has what it takes to move up a division and take down one of the best pound for pound fighters in the entire UFC.
- Prediction: Adesanya by decision (for now)
Now this is interesting. The best fight that will never happen, Kamaru Usman is Israel Adesanya’s best possible challenger if he was to move up to middleweight, as both have developed into flawless fighters.
The problem is, however, Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya have both come out and said they do not want to fight one another. The two Nigerian-born UFC champions prefer sharing the spotlight together for their country, as the two have established Nigeria as a MMA powerhouse.
In a theoretical fight however, Usman would have the advantage wrestling and has the knockout power to take Adesanya down. Unlike the first two candidates, he does not rely on an aggressive fight style and can sit back and still control the fight.
This would be a fight for the ages, but I respect their decision against brawling each other.
- Theoretical Prediction: Usman by decision
Overall, it does not seem like Adesanya has much short-term competition to take the belt from him. The face of the middleweight class may remain the Style Bender for years to come.
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