UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is often regarded as one of the most gifted strikers in modern MMA, with irrefutable talent and an impressive gas tank, the Nigerian has been elevated to the pantheon of the greats over his sublime MMA career. Adesanya recently defended his fabled middleweight strap against a determined Robert Whittaker at UFC 271 and cemented his status as the best pound-for-pound middleweight champion. With such a long list of incredible accolades, Sporting Index takes a look at Israel Adesanya’s best four fights in the UFC.
1. Israel Adesanya vs. Rob Wilkinson: UFC 221
In his UFC debut against Rob Wilkinson, the Nigerian revealed glimpses of a future champion. The first frame Wilkinson plagued the fledgling with a plethora of venomous takedowns, nullifying Adesanya’s fight game. The second round arrived and proved the opposite of the first, as “The Last Stylebender” adjusted well and started actively defending Wilkinson’s takedowns.
As “Razor” continued his takedown attempt game, Adesanya bided his time picking his shots. After the Australian’s 16th takedown attempt, it was clear that the 6”3 giant was getting tired. Adesanya, galvanised by Wilkinson’s energy depletion, started slicing Wilkinson up. Rob Wilkinson, shocked by the revitalised “Izzy”, found it near impossible to defend the volume of shots being thrown at him. After being punished for the majority of round two, the man from down under gave in and crumbled to the canvas. Adesanya emerged the winner via TKO and had clearly sent a message to the competitors in the middleweight division, a lethal and competent striker was here.
2. Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker 1
Israel Adesanya went up against the undisputed middleweight champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in a unification blockbuster bout. The Nigerian came into the battle as the interim champion after putting Kelvin Gastelum to the sword at UFC 236. Adesanya displayed his superior fight IQ against “The Reaper” as he avoided all the damage the Kiwi threw at him in the first round. “The Last Stylebender” even managed to put Whittaker on the canvas with a few seconds to go.
Whittaker tore out of his corner in the second frame as he adapted to the versatility his challenger possessed. The Kiwi showed his championship calibre as he piled on the pressure peppering Adesanya. The only problem was when Whittaker fired at Adesanya, he paid the price by getting inside his range. In an animated exchange in the fourth minute, Adesanya found his opening, unloading a mammoth counter right-hook, toppling the champion to the canvas. A few follow up strikes and the ref has seen enough. Adesanya had dethroned a giant.
3. Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa
The pair shared a palpable scorn coming into this bout, firing barbs pre-fight at any chance they could muster. The chess match started as both fighters exercised caution, working each other’s fight game out in the first. Adesanya opted to chew up Costa’s legs with some venomous chopping kicks, while all Costa could reply with is taunts and mocking gestures. “The Last Stylebender” turned on the style, firing on all cylinders, landing more than 20 leg licks rendering the Brazilian’s legs practically useless.
Costa looked like a pariah figure as Adesanya continued to school ‘Borrachinha’. After the punishment continued, Costa eventually decided to commit, however, the commitment was quickly nullified as Adesanya slipped Costa’s lead jab and buried a huge left hook on the jaw of his adversary. The humiliation continued as Adesanya performed a breakdance as an act of brazen disrespect.
4. Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker 2
The world knew that Adesanya was the undisputed middleweight king coming into this rematch, boasting a phenomenal (21-1-0) record competing at 185 pounds. Whittaker was hoping to banish the memory of the pairs’ first meeting back in October 2019, where the Kiwi was vanquished, ultimately leading to him abdicating the middleweight throne. Whittaker (23-6) performed better through the fight, but four out of the five rounds belonged to Adesanya. The Nigerian-born brawler utilised his unforgiving leg kicks, slowly sapping at his rival’s energy.
Whittaker came into the rematch with a game plan and stuck to it, but it just was not enough to claim his crown back. The Aucklander badly needed a finish in the championship rounds and even his takedown were not registering. Adesanya got his hand raised and silenced the former champion recording an eleventh win on the bounce.