The middleweight champion and striking phenom, Israel Adesanya returns to action to take on Sean Strickland at UFC 293. Many believe that the fight will be one-sided in favour of the champ, however, nothing is ever certain in MMA.
We take a look at all of Israel Adesanya’s UFC wins and rank them from least impressive to most.
Ranking Israel Adesanya’s Wins
UFC 248 -Yoel Romero via Unanimous Decision
Who could forget this epic battle? Everyone. This was one of the most underwhelming fights in UFC history, especially after the hype that the two men bought into the fight itself.
A total of just 88 strikes combined were landed in a fight which saw both men stand across from each other for large periods of the bout not wanting to engage. Without a doubt, the most underwhelming performance of Izzy’s career, however, it does take two to tango.
UFC on FOX 29 – Marvin Vettori 1 via Split Decision
In just his second UFC fight, there was already a lot of hype around The Last Stylebender. Already on the main card, many expected Adesanya to put on a dominant showing as he did in his UFC debut.
What played out, however, was an extremely defensive display, constantly aware of the threat of Marvin Vettori’s takedowns. Like the Romero performance, instantly forgettable, just without the hype of the Romero fight.
UFC 276 – Jared Cannonier via Unanimous Decision
Adesanya’s most recent decision victory came against Jared Cannonier at UFC 276. Cannonier was outclassed over five rounds, however, it’s not a fight that anyone will go back to watch. It was difficult for Adesanya to look good due to him not wanting to engage with Cannonier and feel the power of the former heavyweight.
He completely out struck him and landed 114 of 226 distance strikes as per UFC stats. The win itself was impressive and dominant, but not one of his best. It didn’t help that Cannonier didn’t engage with Adesanya either.
The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale – Brad Tavares via Unanimous Decision
The UFC clearly bought into the hype that Adesanya had. After a lacklustre fight against Vettori, Izzy was handed his first headline slot in his third UFC fight. Taking on the veteran Brad Tavares, Adesanya truly outclassed the Hawaiian and was at his elusive best, avoiding 78% of Tavares’ strikes. He out-landed his opponent 127-46, defended 11 of 12 takedowns and showed that he can work for the full 25 minutes.
UFC 234 – Anderson Silva via Unanimous Decision
In what promised to be a striking masterclass between both men, it proved to be just that. It was a changing of the striking middleweight guard with Adesanya coming away with the victory over three rounds.
It was promoted to the main event at the last minute, however, the fight lived up to some expectations. The current champion was too quick and too slick for the old veteran and provided fans with plenty of viral moments.
UFC 263 – Marvin Vettori 2 via Unanimous Decision
Vettori appears to be Adesnaya’s kryptonite with regards to an entertaining fight. Like the first fight, Vettori was weary of Adesanya’s attacks, constantly bit on the feints of the champion and had little success on his takedowns, only landing four of 14 attempts.
Adesanya couldn’t ever really get into his flow state due to the pressure and takedown threat of Vettori, making this one not particularly entertaining. It’s worth noting that this was against an extremely in-form Vettori, however, who had won his last five fights and Adesanya was coming off a loss to Jan Blachowicaz at 205lbs.
UFC 230 – Derek Brunson via Round 1 TKO
Taking place in the fight Mecca, Madison Square Garden, New York, Adesanya took on his first out-and-out wrestler, Derek Brunson. Many believed that Brunson had the style to cause Adesanya problems, however, what played out truly announced The Last Stylebender to the masses.
A dominant display of elite takedown defence (zero in seven attempts for Brunson), world-class striking and a finishing instinct. Three knockdowns saw Izzy dominate his opponent and really make a name for himself on a huge stage.
UFC 221 – Rob Wilkinson via Round 2 TKO
Israel Adesanya’s promotional debut came at UFC 221 against the well respected, Rob Wilkinson. The first round saw Wilkinson take Adesanya down twice and control him for prolonged periods, a method that appeared to work if he could replicate it across all three rounds.
What played out in the second, however, was the future champion punishing Wilkinson, out-landing him 46-7, most of which were stinging shots that caused Wilkinson to shell up and arguably look for a way out. Adesanya got the victory after 3:37 of the second round, announcing himself in a big way to the UFC fans.
Wilkinson, of course, has gone on to record six straight finish victories after this loss, including winning the PFL 2022 light heavyweight tournament, cementing what a good win this way for Izzy.
UFC 271 – Robert Whittaker 2 via Unanimous Decision
In a highly anticipated rematch, Adesanya showed that not only can he knock Robert Whittaker out, as we saw in their first meeting, but also that he can out-point him across 25 minutes.
Showing off his elite takedown defence, Adesanya defended six of Whittaker’s 10 attempts, allowing him to fight his fight for prolonged periods of time. Although on paper the fight was close, in reality, the champion was never in trouble. A knockdown in the first round set the tone for the entire fight, an impressive win given the opponent and one that proved that he could do it with the elite of the division across the full distance.
UFC 243 – Robert Whittaker 2 via Round 1 Knockout
Set the scene. Australia, 57,000 people crammed into the Marvel Stadium to see the main event between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker. It was anticipated to be both men’s toughest tests, what played out, however, was one of the easiest nights of Adesanya’s career.
In the first round, Whittaker appeared to be rushing things and towards the end of the round, he paid for it, being dropped heavily by the interim champion. The second round saw Adesanya really sit down on his shots and become the first person to defeat Whittaker at middleweight. A truly breath taking performance, topped off with a brutal knockout. From the walkout to the finish, The last Stylebender dominated the night.
Top Three Israel Adesanya Performances
UFC 253 – Paulo Costa via Round 2 TKO
The bad blood between Paulo Costa and the champion, Adesanya was real. The two constantly went at each other, attempting to get under one another’s skin. Costa was undefeated at the time, sitting at 13-0 with 12 finishes and coming off an epic battle with Romero, Costa had a good chance of upsetting Izzy.
What happened in Abu Dhabi, however, saw Adesanya at his very best. Punishing the legs of Costa, landing 26 leg kicks and out landing the Brazilian 55-12 in overall strikes, Adesanya killed the attacking game of Costa and seemed to break Costa’s will early on.
In under nine minutes, the champion dispatched Costa, knocking him out and mocking him afterwards. He showed that he can be the matador and punish opponents when the openings appear.
UFC 236 – Kelvin Gastelum via Unanimous Decision
The middleweight champion’s top two performances are interchangeable. Two could be one, one could be two and they’re as good as each other. The narrative around the #1 on this list is what has narrowly edged it into the top spot.
Second, however, is Adesanya’s unanimous decision victory over Kelvin Gastelum. The interim middleweight championship was on the line and both men came to fight. Damage-wise, it’s arguably one of Adesanya’s worst performances. He was hurt, almost dropped and heavily landed upon multiple times. With that being said, the reason that this performance stands out is because of the context.
Izzy was competing for a UFC title (albeit the interim belt) and there were questions as to whether he really was championship material. On top of this, heading into the final round, there were many who would have had it scored 2-2. Both men were tired, both men were battered and Adesnaya wasn’t willing to let up. Staring down his opponent, Adesnaya spoke the words “I’m willing to die”, proving that he was willing to put on all on the line. He would famously go on to land three knock downs in the final round, securing the interim title.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 7, 2020
This fight showed us that Adesnaya has ‘that’ dog in him, can go into deep waters if necessary and ultimately set up his fight with Whittaker down under.
UFC 287 – Alex Pereira 2 via Round 2 Knockout
The UFC 287 main event is Israel Adesnaya’s best performance. For context, he was already 2-0 in kickboxing against Pereira. The Brazillian then worked his way to a title shot in the UFC and became the first man at middleweight to beat Adesnaya and moreover, knocked him out late on.
Returning just five months later, Adesnaya would clash with the man who had finished him twice, who seemingly had his number and who was full of confidence after his November knockout.
What played out in the fight, a fight where Adesnaya had a ton of pressure on his shoulders, was simply breathtaking. If Adesnaya had lost this one, he would have gone back to being a contender. This wasn’t to be, however.
The consensus was that if Adesanya was to win this fight, it would be across 25 minutes as he isn’t known for his finishing power and Pereira held a massive size advantage. Adesnaya showed, however, that his power comes from his elite timing.
After a close first round, Adesanya began the second and it appeared that Poatan had hurt Izzy. He began to unload on the former champion, pressed him up against the cage and looked to make short work of his career-long foe. Hooks to the body, a brutal knee and straight shots saw Adesnaya cover-up against the cage.
Arguably playing possum, Adesnaya countered Pereira’s onslaught with a huge overhand right. He’d thrown the shot previously, however, it was in the centre of the octagon and Pereira was able to lean out of the way of the attempt. He timed this one to perfection, catching the Brazillian and finishing him, reclaiming his belt.
A performance that showed that he could make the adjustments, come back from adversity and not only beat but finish his long time rival. A truly stunning performance by the middleweight champion.