Israel Adesanya's Future Post UFC 259

Publish Date
Monday, 8 March 2021, 7:33PM
Getty Images

Getty Images

ACC UFC resident expert Felix Heath-Collins with an in-depth recap of Błachowicz Vs. Adesanya

Why Adasanya Lost...

Israel Adesanya now joins the ranks of would-be double champions who failed to capture that second UFC belt. This list now includes the likes of the widely admired Max "Blessed" Holloway, and the widely despised (due to admitted drug cheating) TJ Dillashaw.

From the very start of the fight, Izzy had Jan 'biting' on his feints, while the power of the Polish champion allowed Blachowicz to control the octagon. This so-called "octagon control" (which is the equivalent to boxing's "ring generalmanship") - essentially the controlling of the space inside the cage - easily went Jan in round one, and he (unofficially) landed 18 'significant strikes' to Izzy's 13. Rounds two and three were very close, but in both rounds, Blachowicz had the 'significant strike' advantage too.

Up to this point, with three rounds down and only the two championship rounds left, all three judges had the fight 29-28 Blachowicz (two rounds to one). Although popular consensus varies on if Adesanya won any of the first three rounds, in the fourth round things went downhill quickly for Adesanya. At 3:12 seconds left of round four, Jan took Izzy down and controlled him from there for the rest of the round.

Now approaching the fifth and final round, Adesanya's only plausible chance of winning was a KO strike. In his earlier middleweight interim-championship fight against Kelvin Gastelum the fight was close until the fifth when Adesanya summoned his inner champion to win dominantly. Against Blachowicz however, Adesanya had little stamina left in his tank to produce that much-needed finish. At three rounds to one on all scorecards, Adesanya needed either a dominant 10-8 round to get a draw, or a stoppage to win outright. Blachowicz was having none of it. At 2:31 left in the fifth and final round, he managed to secure a takedown and finish the fight on top. The final score came to two 49-45's and one 49-46, earning Blachowicz a comfortable unanimous-decision victory.

Apparently, Adesanya's team from City Kickboxing in Auckland had expected Blachowicz to attempt to wrestle early when Adesanya had more energy to defend the takedown. But that the main intangible of MMA: disciplines added together have an effect where the sum equals more than the parts. For example, boxing can facilitate wrestling, while wrestling can facilitate boxing. And that's just one example. Add into MMA the martial arts of BJJ (Brazillian jiu-jitsu), Muay Thai, Sambo, Judo, Taekwondo, Capoeira, etc, and you have a constantly evolving stylistic equation. It's an extraordinarily complicated web of competing styles, helping and hindering each other endlessly.

Although he had a four-inch height advantage over Blachowicz, (the admittedly "not-so-good" wrestler) used his power and superior grappling technique to take down the Kiwi kickboxing specialist. The lower centre of gravity inherent in shorter fighters sometimes allows for more balance and power generation. This switch to wrestling for Blachowicz really goes to show that styles make fights and that nobody truly knows what style or strategy will work best for each fight.

What's Next For Stylebender?

Coming off his first loss in this light-heavyweight title fight, Adesanya is likely to return to his original division of middleweight (where he still holds the title). Things could've gone much better for Stylebender. He was approachingGOAT' (Greatest Of All Time) territory and would've made strides toward that goal if he had earned two simultaneous championships while undefeated in MMA, something that has never been done before. Things could've also gone much worse for Stylebender. An early KO loss would have seriously dampened GOAT discussions for Adesanya. As for Adesanya's eventual attempt to take on controversial GOAT Jon "Bones" Jones, that seems less likely to happen soon. Stylebender really needs to work on his takedown defence because Jones has incredible striking defence and dominating wrestling skills. Blachowicz did have a much easier time with light-heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes than then-champ Jon Jones did, so maybe MMA maths doesn't rule out that fight just yet.

Previously he had promised to fight middleweight top contender Jared Cannonier if he were to beat former middleweight champion Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker in style. Known by fans as "Bobby Knuckles", the former champion Robert Whittaker instead beat Cannonier convincingly by unanimous decision last October at UFC 254.

Maybe Adesanya will face Whittaker in a rematch of his incredible victory at UFC 243 in Melbourne. Despite the home turf advantage for Whittaker, Adesanya put on an impressive dance demonstration for his walkout, then wobbled Whittaker in the first round, and assassinated the former champion at the start of the second. Such a shut-out victory doesn't easily lead to a rematch, however.

Adesanya's previous opponent Paulo Costa needs to do some work before attempting another title shot unless he wants to be the first actual death in the UFC octagon. That fight was not a close one, regardless of Costa's weak and whiney wine-hangover excuses. Of the other contenders, the only immediately obvious choice would be "The Italian Dream" Marvin Vettori. In their first contest (Adesanya's second UFC fight), the Kiwi middleweight won by a close split-decision, with two judges giving it to Adesanya, and one to Vettori. For a long while, this was the only scorecard to have Adesanya losing a fight. Now Vettori has improved to the rank of #5 contender, and maybe this rematch is in order for the two?

Whatever comes next the team at City Kickboxing has some work to do. Between improving Adesanya's late fight takedown defence, and fixing light-heavyweight teammate Carlos Ulberg defence by a factor of ten, head coach Eugene Bareman has some work to do to keep his best fighters at the top of the UFC.