On Feb. 12, Israel “Stylebender” Adesanya successfully retained his middleweight crown for the fourth time at UFC 271. A highly anticipated rematch against Robert Whittaker ended in a unanimous decision win for the Stylebender. Following a dominant first round, Adesanya found himself in a close fight which ended up going the distance.
Prefight, it was obvious that this was going to be the hardest challenge yet for the champion. Whittaker not had lost a single round in his dominant three-fight win streak. It was clear that Whittaker was a much improved fighter and in a much better mental space coming into the rematch.
Although it was a unanimous decision win, Whittaker came out of the fight thinking he had won. After getting dropped in the first round and looking like it was going to be a repeat of what happened the first time these two fighters met, he steadied himself and got back into the fight getting better and better as the fight went on.
“Seven out of 10,” Adesanya said about his performance post-fight. “Not bad, good night in the office. Good chess match.”
“I said (to Whittaker), I don’t like you, you don’t like me, but I respect you. He said the same thing, and he said, ‘I’m sure in another life we’d be friends.’ I said, ‘maybe.’ We’re just two guys trying to be the best in the world, but tonight I’m the best in the world.”
Adesanya rarely ever looked in any real danger, he was comfortable throughout the fight even though he dropped a few rounds he was never vulnerable. He controlled range as he does so well, letting Whittaker come at him so he could counter. However, the most impressive thing to come out of this fight was the champ’s ability to defend the take down and get up when he was successfully taken down.
The scariest thing about Israel Adesanya is that every fight he continues to get better. Even though others may not like his risk-adverse method, it works. Hit and don’t get hit. He does it so effortlessly, and now that he is showing clear improvements in his takedown defense, it could be a long while before we see Israel Adesanya lose his Middleweight crown.
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