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5 UFC fighters who could dethrone Israel Adesanya

C. Naik
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya [Image courtesy of @espnmma on Twitter]
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya [Image courtesy of @espnmma on Twitter]

Israel Adesanya has emerged as one of the most dominant champions in the UFC. The enigmatic Kiwi has blossomed into one of the most entertaining fighters in the world. His performances atop the middleweight division are adding to the aura of invincibility that surrounds him.

Adesanya has already handily beaten most of the top contenders at 185 lbs including Robert Whittaker (twice), Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori (twice), Derek Brunson and Kelvin Gastelum. At just 32, 'The Last Stylebender' still has a lot of fights left in him and is en route to joining the pantheon of MMA greats.

Let's play matchmaker. 📝Who gets the next shot at Adesanya's middleweight crown? #UFCVegas24 https://t.co/SZjTQIPnu0

In a sport like MMA, dominant champions often see their reign cut short by a challenger. Anderson Silva's loss to Chris Weidman, Demetrious Johnson's defeat to Henry Cejudo and Amanda Nunes' setback against Julianna Pena saw seemingly unbeatable fighters shockingly lose their belts.

That said, here are five UFC fighters who could potentially dethrone Israel Adesanya.


#5. Darren Till - Elite striker just like Israel Adesanya

Israel Adesanya and Darren Till have mutual respect for one another. The reigning middleweight champion has reiterated his desire to fight the Brit on numerous occasions and has even claimed he hopes to take on 'The Gorilla' in London.

🇳🇬 Izzy 𝕍 Darren 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿Israel Adesanya wants to fight Darren Till in the UK!Big interview with @stylebender dropping soon 🔥 https://t.co/yNzx7k4w0E

Till is currently ranked No.8 in the middleweight division and has struggled to stay consistent at 185 lbs. Since moving up from welterweight, the Englishman has gone 1-2 in his new weight class and is coming off back-to-back defeats to Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson.

However, there are some important points to note while discussing Till's struggles at middleweight. The fight against Whittaker was a razor-thin affair and the judges were likely swayed by a last-ditch takedown by 'The Reaper' in the fifth round. Additionally, it was well-documented that the former welterweight title challenger was injured going into his fight against Brunson.

At just 29, Till is just now entering the prime of his career. On his day, he is one of the most lethal strikers on the UFC roster. His background in Muay Thai matches up very nicely against Israel Adesanya's kickboxing roots. A fight between the middleweight duo would undoubtedly produce fireworks.

The primary reason for Adesanya's dominance atop the 185 lbs weight class is that the Kiwi is levels above every other fighter in the striking realm. Till is perhaps the only top-ranked fighter who can stand toe to toe with 'The Last Stylebender' in the stand-up exchanges.

The middleweight champ is complimentary of Darren Till and hasn't closed the door on a future fight 🚪(via @stylebender) https://t.co/N7gRre9pZH

Darren Till will have to put together a meaningful string of victories if he is to contest for the title and take on Israel Adesanya. Considering the fact that the champion has already beaten most of the contenders in the division, Till is likely just two wins away from a shot at UFC gold.

Watch a compilation of Darren Till's performances in the UFC below:

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#4. Jared Cannonier - Has the power to put away Israel Adesanya

Jared Cannonier remains the only fighter in the top 5 of the UFC middleweight division who is yet to fight Israel Adesanya. 'The Killa Gorilla' undoubtedly secured a title shot at UFC 271, where he finished Derek Brunson in a No.1 contender's bout. He is expected to take on 'The Last Stylebender' in his next bout.

Calling his shot 🗣 [ @KillaGorillaMMA | #UFC271 ] https://t.co/iT6Xf2fJlT

Cannonier doesn't possess the necessary threat of wrestling to trouble Adesanya. However, he has the power to put away the Kiwi champion if he connects and is known for his durability.

Jan Blachowicz, the only fighter to have a win over Adesanya, stifled the middleweight champ's offensive striking with his power. Cannonier can employ a similar game plan and has the ability to finish the fight at any moment.

It'll be interesting to see how the fight between Cannonier and Adesanya will play out.

𝙎𝙏𝘼𝙏𝙀𝙈𝙀𝙉𝙏 𝙈𝘼𝘿𝙀 for @KillaGorillaMMA 😤[ #UFC271 | Tune in LIVE on E+ PPV: ufc.ac/3ow1158 ] https://t.co/gYXTB8cEbG

#3. Andre Muniz - Elite submission specialist unlike anyone Israel Adesanya has faced

Andre Muniz is one of the most intriguing contenders in the UFC's middleweight division. The Brazilian is quite far off a shot at Israel Adesanya's middleweight throne at the moment. Nevertheless, he remains an ominous presence in the division.

Muniz secured a UFC contract following a submission victory on Dana White's Contender Series. He put together a four-fight win streak upon joining the promotion's middleweight division, of which three came by way of submission.

The Brazilian grappling phenom's fight against MMA veteran Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza was a real eye-opener. 'Jacare' was the resident submission specialist in the 185 lbs division at the time. Muniz not only secured an armbar finish against the multitime Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, he managed to break Souza's arm as well.

The win over Souza at UFC 262 was followed by a dominant first-round submission victory over Eryk Anders. Muniz claimed the No.13 spot in the rankings soon after.

ANDRE MUNIZ DOES IT AGAIN!🇧🇷🥋 @AndreMunizUFC snatches another arm to announce himself as a MW contender! #UFC269 https://t.co/iH7CTLUlA8

The Brazilian is likely three or four wins away from a title shot. With Israel Adesanya, the champion, having recently signed a new deal with the UFC, this matchup is likely to materialize down the line. Adesanya hasn't fought a truly high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner during his time in the UFC and it'll be interesting to see how the fight between the two specialists will play out.

Muniz is yet to face a high-level striker like Adesanya. Perhaps we'll have a clearer idea of his striking prowess when he takes on divisional mainstay and KO artist Uriah Hall in his next bout. The duo are set to lock horns in April.

Andre Muniz is a PROBLEM folks. 😳⚠️ Making it 6️⃣ on the bounce in emphatic fashion! #UFCVegas9 https://t.co/lRoU0Eehu8

#2. Khamzat Chimaev - The worst stylistic matchup for Israel Adesanya

Khamzat Chimaev is undoubtedly the hottest prospect in the UFC right now and could be a real threat to Israel Adesanya's title down the line. The rising star is plying his trade in the welterweight division at the moment. Considering his propensity for finishing fights early and his hunger to stay active, this fight could happen sooner than we think.

The Russian-born Swedish phenom made waves in the MMA community with a couple of dominant performances on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. Subsequently, 'Borz' took on Gerald Meerschaert and knocked him out just 17 seconds into the bout, establishing himself as one of the most intriguing prospects in years.

5 seconds in and the game is done. Chimaev KOhttps://t.co/oFwfQlb8ip

Despite Chimaev's incredible 3-0 start in the UFC, there wasn't much talk of him competing for a championship as he was still unranked. The three opponents he faced were unranked as well, with two of them no longer being a part of the UFC.

Following a lengthy bout with COVID-19, he was booked to fight No.11-ranked Li Jingliang at UFC 267 on Fight Island last year. Many believed that the durable Chinese fighter would pose a threat to Chimaev and that the bout would be a conclusive litmus test to show whether he was a legitimate title contender.

He secured a takedown and effortlessly choked out Jingliang in the very first round.

Official decision: Khamzat Chimaev (10-0) defeats Li Jingliang (18-7) via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) #UFC #UFC267https://t.co/Bm3WfJmeVN

There was no doubt after the bout that Khamzat Chimaev is a real threat to Israel Adesanya's championship reign. His background in sambo-style wrestling, coupled with his underrated striking and relentless approach to fighting, will prove to be a real handful for most middleweights.

While a potential bout against Kamaru Usman is intriguing considering the welterweight champion's wrestling prowess, a fight against Adesanya seems undoubtedly winnable. Stylistically, he could be a nightmare matchup for 'The Last Stylebender'.

Chimaev poked fun at the Kiwi champion following his successful title defense at UFC 271.

The Wolf believes he'd make light work of Adesanya 🐺 #UFC271 (via @KChimaev) https://t.co/mT6mPtY2v1

#1. Alex Pereira - Has already knocked out Israel Adesanya once

Alex Pereira is one of the most decorated and accomplished kickboxers in the world. The Brazilian is undoubtedly an exciting addition to the UFC's middleweight division.

Pereira has gained a reputation for possessing an incredible amount of power and has produced some vicious knockouts in the kickboxing ring. Furthermore, he remains the only man to have knocked out the reigning UFC middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya.

The only man to stop Israel Adesanya is now in the UFC.Alex Pereira knocked out the middleweight champ in the Stylebender's last kickboxing match.Poatan makes his MMA debut at UFC 268 🔥 https://t.co/4qLis4dndm

Pereira began competing in MMA in 2015 and accrued a 3-1 record before being signed by the UFC. He made his promotional debut at UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington 2 in New York City, where he took on Andreas Michailidis. ‘Po Atan’ displayed his defensive abilities on the mat in the first round and knocked Michailidis out with a sensational flying knee in the second.

BOOM! Welcome to the UFC, Alex Pereira! #UFC268 https://t.co/D94V88XdXl

Following Pereira’s victory, analysts and fans started to fantasize about a potential matchup between the flashy Brazilian and Israel Adesanya.

Stylistically, it would be a sight to behold, as two elite strikers squaring off with no intention of shooting for a takedown will definitely produce fireworks. There is an extremely engaging storyline as well, with Adesanya most likely looking to avenge his KO loss to Pereira in kickboxing.

Speaking to MMAFighting.com after his debut, Pereira had this to say about Adesanya:

“I’m not worried, man. He’s the one that should be worried, right? He knows about my potential and knows I’ll get [to the top]. When I go somewhere, I do it to become the best, just like it was in kickboxing. I’ll do everything I can to get there, and maybe he won’t even be there when I do — [if that’s the case] what do I want with Adesanya? Nothing. Is he the champion? Cool, he’s the one I want. He’s no longer the champion? I want the one that is.”

In a video posted to his YouTube channel FREESTYLEBENDER, Adesanya gave his take on Pereira’s victory. He said:

“Good job, Pereira. That was nice. One thing I notice is everyone always holds on to that win he has over me like it’s the be all end all. I hope he does well. I hope he does well through the ranks. In the next four fights, I hope to see him. They’ll show you the knockout, but they won’t show you what happened before the fight. They won’t show you what happened before the finish. I hurt him, but I only throw these [raises fist] because I was infiltrated by other people’s thoughts. But that was when I was younger. Not anymore. It’s different now. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Watch Israel Adesanya’s reaction to Pereira's knockout below:

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Edited by John Cunningham
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