It’s sometimes important to revisit your past to see how far you have come.
For Israel Adesanya, he has reached heights like no other. Those heights wouldn’t be reached overnight though. After signing with the UFC, his road to gold would be absolutely amazing. The performances he has had at 185 are nothing short of spectacular.
‘Stylebender’ would take no breaks in his run through the division. He would defeat the likes of Rob Wilkinson, Marvin Vettori and Brad Tavares in his climb to the top. The prospect was quickly turning into a contender. A show-stopping win in late 2018 would cement that.
What was thought to be a tough test for Adesanya was nothing but a pop quiz. The seasoned striker would collide with heavy-handed wrestler Derek Brunson at UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden. The win propelled Adesanya towards the top and this would end up being the star’s last fight outside a headliner spot.
Fast forward a few years later and Brunson is eyeing a rematch with Adesanya in 2022.
Adesanya Almost Pulled Out
Adesanya would dive into great detail on this fight, breaking down the picture-perfect performance and the not-so-perfect lead-up to it, in his latest YouTube video.
“This fight had a lot of spiciness to it.” Adesanya said. “I knew when it was time to shine, I’d f*ck him up. Also, it was in f*cking New York. The time difference… that one got me. I’m used to going to L.A. or Las Vegas, but the east coast, the jet lag definitely got me on this fight. I didn’t sleep for the first 4-5 days or something. A day before the weigh-in, I started to sleep properly.”
“I almost pulled out of this fight, because I had some real problems with my knee. [I had to] take a week and a half off and not do anything. That’s really dangerous being so close to the fight. 5-6 weeks out, just take a week and a half off. Nothing ACL, MCL wise but it was really bad. I couldn’t walk on it. Took a week off, just doing nothing on it, not training at all. I took a week off this camp.
“It was really dangerous and it paid off, because I didn’t have to pull out of the fight. Was literally this close to pulling out.”
Staying inside the fight definitely paid off. ‘Stylebender’ would have had a more lengthy road to the middleweight title if he had missed his golden opportunity at UFC 230.
Brunson Was ‘Shook’
While he may not have showed up to the fight at 100%, Adesanya still had an A+ performance at MSG. An absolute showcase to the entire world. He was sleep deprived himself, but he would be the one who nearly put Brunson to sleep.
“I was so relaxed and so calm. The main event was ‘Black Beast’ vs. DC and I felt like I stole the show. I feel like I was the talk of the show afterwards. You look at [Brunson’s] eyes, this guy was shook. He was really feeling the heat of the moment. I could see it in him, so I knew, ‘you ain’t about that life. That sh*t you’ve been talking, you’re gonna pay for.'”
“Look at him. He was shook.” Adesanya pointed at Brunson before the fight started.
Adesanya picked up a new anger early into his fight with Brunson. It wasn’t the words of past trash-talk that made him mad, it was because Brunson was hanging on to his shorts, attempting to takedown Adesanya. He would do this twice, shown visibly on camera.
“He’s already got his hands on my shorts. Look at that, my man was trying to tear off my pants. This guy, I got really mad on this one… I didn’t have emotional ties to [Brunson] but I felt mad, because this guy is [grabbing my shorts] for the second time. When you can consciously raise your anger without any emotion behind it, you’re a dangerous person.
“I flipped him off. Look at his face… stupid. Should have slapped him right there.”
Proving The Doubters Wrong
This was the Kiwi’s biggest test to date at that stage of his career. The expert striker wasn’t known for fighting wrestlers. And former foe Marvin Vettori showed he could be controlled on the ground, earlier that year in 2018.
Everybody thought this was his kryptonite, but Adesanya was no Superman in this fight. He was ‘The Last Stylebender.’ And he styled all over Brunson.
This is the fight, everybody was saying [I] haven’t fought a wrestler like Brunson, he hasn’t fought a guy with one-punch knockout power like Brunson. He’s gonna do this, gonna do that. He’s gonna get ragdolled. Blah, blah, blah, slammed on his head. I heard it all before this fight.
“[Brunson] was diving for the legs like a f*cking beggar’… I love grappling but I’m like, do something with it. He was just trying to stall, he didn’t do sh*t. He knew he was f*cked, he had nothing for me on the striking.
The Finishing Sequence
Brunson had nothing for Adesanya on the feet and after a few minutes, it was evident he couldn’t get the fight down to the mat, where he is known to shine. Instead, the kickboxer would open up in his world. Combination after combination, Adesanya sniped him with his slick striking.
The wrestler would be no match for him in the stand-up, being knocked down multiple times.
“I was just touching him, wasn’t trying to f*ck him up. Herb Dean saved his ass, because I was about to destroy it… I was just touching the guy and he was done. I knew I had it, and that was it. Done.”
What do you make of Israel Adesanya’s recap of the fight?