Last night we saw not only the continued rise of the hugely popular Israel Adesanya, but the emergence of a potential title challenger in 2019.
The undefeated Nigerian-New Zealander dispatched the dangerous Derek Brunson with relative ease in the opening round, putting his stiffest competition to date away with a pinpoint, Anderson Silva-esque striking display. Avoiding all eight of Brunson’s takedown attempts, “The Last Stylebender” stung the wrestling-heavy Brunson with a knee as he desperately shot to avoid the continued assault on the feet and forced the stoppage after dropping the North Carolina native with a visciously varied follow-up barrage of strikes.
Taking to the mic alongside commentator Joe Rogan, Adesanya described the quickly culminating bout as a “walk in the garden”, playing to the jubilant Madison Square Garden crowd. The victory over Brunson not only proved he can hang with a heavy-hitter and an explosive wrestler, but also kept the wheels turning on his blockbuster 2018, which has seen him amass a 4-0 record since his February bow under the UFC banner. So, what’s next for the rapidly rising Israel Adesanya?
Jacaré Souza – #1 Contender Clash: Another UFC middleweight seen his stock rise considerably on Saturday night, as co-main event replacement Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza displayed his ever dangerous, often overlooked striking ability as he managed to stand with Chris Weidman for three rounds before starching the former division gold holder half way through the final round.
Souza, a phenomenal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, not only offers another test to Israel’s rise with his grappling base, but there’s also a significant size and stature difference between the pair.
Jacaré utilised a draining left hook to the body throughout the display against Weidman, but a fight ending overhand was on call for the Brazilian for the majority of the contest.
A 2019 date between Jacaré and Adesanya at Australia’s UFC 234 seems a logical option for both men.
UFC234 features a main event clash between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum for the 185lbs gold, with promotion match makers likely to have an eye on a potential replacement in case of injury to either champion or contender. With Jacaré and Adesanya playing second fiddle, any potential fallout would still see the main event take place.
Paulo Costa: With Yoel Romero electing to pull out of his UFC 230 clash with another emerging threat in, Paulo Costa, a clash with the highly dangerous Brazilian prospect would allow either man to make a legitimate run to Middleweight gold.
Costa, in my opinion, offers a potentially more dangerous match up for Israel than Jacaré Souza due to his cleaner boxing. The Belo Horizonte youngster has mirrored Adesanya’s 4-0 UFC record, finishing all four of his opponents, including former middleweight kingpin Johny Hendricks and last time out, had his cardio tested on his way to a win over Uriah Hall.
With Costa obviously failing to find an opponent in time for UFC 230, and Adesanya’s hasty finish, a bout in early 2019 or a spot on the NYE UFC 232 card would be an ideal venue for this mouth watering meeting.
What do you think is the next step for Stylebender? Comment below.