How Israel Adesanya Must Go Down to Get Back Up

November 15, 2023
4 months

Israel Mobolaji Odunayo Oluwafemi Temitayo Owolabi Adesanya, or ‘The Last Stylebender’ to his friends and enemies, is a 34-year-old Nigerian from New Zealand who has just lost his recent UFC title to Sean Strickland in round 5 by unanimous decision in Sydney, Australia during UFC 293. 

Sean ‘Tarzan’ Strickland, who defeated Adesanya by landing 53% of his strikes, said, “You don’t fight that guy with that many highlight-reel KOs and not be concerned.” Strickland is right.

Strickland might have been concerned, but round five told another story. So, what’s up with Adesanya? What’s next for Adesanya? We will analyze what’s happening with ‘The Last Stylebender’ and predict what’s next for the professional MMA fighter who was bullied at school.

Until now, Adesanya has had an authoritative streak in the UFC middleweight division, beating Alex Pereira back in April by knockdown, placing a massive 57.6% of strikes, finishing the Brazilian mixed martial artist late in round two. Interestingly, Pereira has twice defeated Adesanya in kickboxing, so the two are rivals going back and forth since 2016.

This only leaves the question, Who will Adesanya fight next?

Who Will Israel Adesanya Fight Next?

A rematch with Strickland is an obvious choice, but is it likely? No, the smart money isn’t on a rematch anytime soon. No Stylebender and Strickland rematch means only a couple of worthwhile audience-approved matchups are in his weight class.

Enter, Dricus Du Plessis. Or a light heavyweight bout in the Octagon with Jan Blachowicz. They make the most sense, or do they? After suffering decisive losses in two of his last three fights, it may be time for Adesanya to take a holiday.

How Israel Adesanya

Dricus Du Plessis, ‘Stillknocks,’ is a 29-year-old South African fighter who has competed in the Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki, a hard-hitting Polish-based promotion. He’s twice been EFC Middleweight, and he’s a former EFC Welterweight Champion, but more importantly, since Strickland defeated Adesanya, he’s ranked 2nd in the UFC middleweight rankings.

Meanwhile, Jan Blachowicz, or plain old ‘John,’ is a Polish pro-MMA in the UFC light heavyweight and the former UFC light heavyweight divisions who beat Adesanya back in 2021 but now ranks 4th as he lost to Alex Pereira at the UFC 291 back in July. Still, there’s nothing plain about John, and he’s looking likely for the next Adesanya fight.

If not John, then who? Maybe it’s Tom Bergeron! It’s a little-known fact that before taking up MMA, Adesanya competed in dance competitions throughout New Zealand, taking his twinkle toes to UFC 243 by delighting fans with a performance during his walkout. Could Adesanya be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars?

Dancing with the Stars is not likely to happen for Adesanya right now; the chances are he will take to the ground and reassess his game in the hope of coming back fighting sooner rather than later.

If Not Now When: Adesanya vs. Strickland Rematch

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No one is saying if a rematch is on the cards, but Adesanya will have to face the UFC champion to save face and get back on track. In an interview with MMA Hour, possible contender Dricus Du Plessis said he thought an immediate rematch between Adesanya and  Strickland would be unfair on other fighters – “Are we giving every fighter an instant rematch if they lose their belt on the first try to defend it? Not fair, but what has fairness ever had to do with pay-per-view? It’s not about fairness. It’s about revenue.

Du Plessis would rather see a bout between the winner of Khamzat Chimaev vs. Paulo Costa (UFC 294) or will put himself up as an option if the bookies like it. So the consensus is that there won’t be an Adesanya and Strickland rematch; the purse isn’t there, and no one is sure Adesanya is in the mood for it right now.

Will Adesanya Retire?

Adesanya could rest and re-address his options; this is the sensible move. However, Adesanya is an anime fan and would like to start an anime production company when he retires. 

His nickname “The Last Stylebender” refers to Toph Beifong in ‘The Last Airbender,’ an anime-influenced 2010 film and cartoon series. Adesanya has the image of Toph Beifong tattooed on his forearm.

Adesanya may love anime and dancing, but he loves UFC more (for now). In 2020, he became the first MMA fighter to sign a deal with Puma, so Puma will want him to continue. Sponsorship with drink brand Prime is another reason to continue. Adesanya may be worth $6m, but it’s not enough to retire these days, so he won’t be doing that anytime soon.

Surprising Outcome for Adesanya 

What would be the most surprising outcome for Adesanya and why? We put this question on Reddit, and this is what we got:

This problem is gonna baffle the MMA community until the end of time, isn’t it? Lmao. Helpful, but not as useful as “I think he just needs a break. The dude has been fighting nonstop for going on three years. Eventually, you hit a wall mentally. It happens. No one can stay at the top forever at that work rate.” 

Afterward, Adesanya made a brief stop at the post-fight presser and issued another statement the next day on social media, stating it was all gravy. While he hates losing, he loves life. So maybe it’s an ad campaign for Bisto or Pioneer Country Gravy Mix.

On a serious note, Adesanya said he plans to spend time with his family, nurse his black eye and bruises, and then consider his options. He has plenty of time on his three-hour flight from Sydney back to Auckland. 

Adesanya’s head coach, Eugene Bareman, calls for an immediate rematch with Strickland, but almost everyone else is uninterested, including Tim Simpson and Ashley Belcastro, the dream team behind Adesanya’s management.

So there you have it: Adesanya isn’t ready to retire, but he’s going to put his feet up and rest, and he’ll be back on fighting form in a few months – it might be too late for UFC 293, but it’s not too late for Adesanya, he’s a fighter, and at 34 he’s in his prime. Or at least Prime Hydration, LLC thinks so!

One last prediction – the next mash-up worth watching will be between… Tarzan and John, just remember where you heard it first!

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