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Cut from the same cloth as Jon Jones and
Anderson
Silva
, Israel
Adesanya
has all the characteristics of a generational talent:
world-class skills, magnetic charm and a flare for the
dramatic.

The reigning
Ultimate Fighting Championship
middleweight titleholder first
appeared inside the Octagon at UFC 221, where he buried Rob
Wilkinson
with a volley of knee strikes and punches in the
second round. Adesanya never looked back and rattled off seven more
victories without a loss during his climb to the top of the
185-pound mountain. The Lagos, Nigeria, native now carries a 19-0
record with 14 knockouts, along with widespread regard as one of
the sport’s 10 best pound-for-pound fighters. Perhaps most
importantly, Adesanya made all the necessary moves to round out his
skills—he was viewed as a one-dimensional kickboxer upon his
arrival in the UFC—and close whatever holes remained.

As “The Last Stylebender” awaits his next assignment from UFC
matchmakers, a look at a few of the rivalries that have fueled his
ascent:

Adesanya beat Romero in an absolute snoozer. (Photo: Getty
Images)



Crushing leg kicks and evasive, risk-averse movement carried
Adesanya to a unanimous decision over Romero and allowed him to
retain his undisputed middleweight championship in the UFC 248
headliner on March 7, 2020 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Scores
were 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46, all for the
City Kickboxing
lynchpin, who remained undefeated amid a chorus
of boos from a crowd disappointed by passivity from both men. The
striking totals were anemic for a five-round fight: Adesanya was
48-for-132, while Romero went 40-for-89. Romero connected with more
impactful head shots—they included an overhand left in the first
round that stopped the champion in his tracks—but they were too few
and far between to make a difference on the scorecards. Adesanya’s
commitment to leg kicks took an undeniable toll on the 2000 Olympic
silver medalist, providing him with the separation he needed to
maintain his hold on the 185-pound throne.

Adesanya took over late against Gastelum. (Photo: Getty
Images)



Adesanya showed his quality in the UFC 236 co-main event, where he
navigated treacherous waters, outlasted Kelvin
Gastelum
to a unanimous decision in the eventual “Fight of the
Year” and captured the interim middleweight championship on April
13, 2019 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Scores were 48-46, 48-46
and 48-46, all for the supremely skilled City Kickboxing star.
Gastelum had “The Last Stylebender” teetering on the brink on more
than one occasion but could not seal the deal—a testament to the
Nigerian-born kickboxer’s unshakeable resolve. Adesanya was
credited with three knockdowns in the decisive fifth round, where
he outlanded Gastelum by a 43-15 margin and appeared to be headed
for a finish when the final horn sounded. By the time their
25-minute classic was over, the two men had combined to connect on
200 significant strikes.

There is considerable build-up for an Adesanya-Costa showdown.
(Photo: Getty Images)



Armed with a chiseled physique and a perfect 13-0 record, the
Brazilian stormed to the top of the contenders list at 185 pounds
with consecutive victories over Garreth
McLellan
, Oluwale
Bamgbose
, Johny
Hendricks
, Uriah Hall
and Yoel
Romero
. Only injury has prevented him from fighting for the
title already. Costa kept his pristine resume intact, as he was
awarded a unanimous decision over Romero in a crackling UFC 241
barnburner on Aug. 17, 2019 at the Honda Center in Anaheim,
California. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for
the Costa, who went the distance for the first time in his 13-fight
career. Both men were credited with knockdowns in a back-and-forth
first round that seemed to lean Costa’s way. He dropped Romero to
all fours with a clean left hook and managed to weather a flying
knee from the
American Top Team
mainstay. The middle stanza saw Costa attack
the body with kicks and hooks from both hands, only to concede a
takedown in the closing seconds. Perhaps sensing the need for a
finish, Romero found another gear in Round 3, where he continued to
absorb body blows without so much as a deep breath and responded
with a savage right uppercut, straight lefts, heavy combinations
and an inside trip takedown. His efforts fell short, and Costa now
finds himself next in line for a shot at Adesanya’s middleweight
crown.


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