It’s been a hasty rise through the ranks of the shark tank that is the UFC’s middleweight division for the former GLORY Kickboxing star Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya, and next weekend, he is catapulted into his premier promotional championship bout, albeit it is for an Interim belt.
The ever charismatic Nigerian-Kiwi exploded into the UFC just last year. Before making his promotional debut; Izzy was being touted by ‘hardcores’ as a future contender and if not a contender – a violent maniac capable of snapping anyones consciousness in an instant.
Adesanya has lived up to the hype and then some, arguably having the most emphatic rise to stardom since Conor McGregor’s Octagon bow and subsequent blitzing in search of Featherweight gold circa 2013. The enegmatic striker has amassed an impressive 5-0 résumé since his promotional birth. Remaining undefeated with his most recent win coming from a unanimous decision victory over former 185lbs beast and MMA luminary – Anderson Silva.
With impeccable timing, technique and counter striking ability, the #5 ranked contender faces the sternest test of his still naive career when he faces the crisp, clean-cut boxer Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 in Atlanta. Adesanya is equipped with a wider array of striking techniques when compared to TUF victor Gastelum and, Adesanya has a solid defensive wrestling game, something that more than likely will tested to the limit against the Californian.
When breaking down the Adesanya VS Gastelum matchup, pocket boxing exchanges offer some cause for concern for Israel. We’ve never seen him take on someone who’s talented with pocket exchanges. Adesanya likes to keep a long distanced fight and punish his opponent from the outside. When pitted against the talented and well traversed Derek Brunson, Adesanya displayed very impressive single leg and body-lock take down defense and eye-catching killer instinct to swarm a damaged Brunson before the conclusion of the opening round showcasing his ability to fight from a distance. Yet we’ve never seen him fight a close-up barn burner and maybe this is where Gastelum could have Adesanays number…
Creative striking is the name of the game for Adesanya, with a very quick question mark kick from that orthodox stance on hand, or on foot rather, to catch an opponent off guard. Primarily fighting from the aforementioned orthodox position, Israel often switches to southpaw to set traps, seen in both decision victories over Anderson Silva and Brad Tavares. It can be argued that Kelvin has yet to be met with someone with such a vast arsenal of kicks as Adesanya, apart from Uriah Hall, Gastelum has mainly been matched alongside fellow boxers.
All roads point to an all Kiwi unification bout with Robert Whittaker for Israel Adesanya with a victory over Kelvin Gastelum sometime in 2019, but with contenders like Yoel Romero, Jacaré Souza, Paulo Costa and Jared Cannonier hot on the heels of ‘The Last Stylebender’, it’s a rocky road to travel if he aims to become the future of the promotion.