It’s hard to believe given that he’s fighting Robert Whittaker this weekend in a UFC Middleweight title unifier, but Israel Adesanya hasn’t even been in the UFC for two years. ‘The Last Stylebender’, who defeated Kelvin Gastelum for the Interim Middleweight title back in April, has only had 6 fights in the Octagon, making his rise to championship status up there with the fastest in UFC history.
Along the way we’ve seen some incredible moments from the Nigerian-born, New Zealand-based striker, including a win over one of the biggest legends in UFC history and some brutal knockouts, too.
Here is a breakdown of Israel Adesanya’s rise to the UFC Middleweight title.
#1 An unforgettable debut – UFC 221
February 11th, 2018 marked the date of UFC 221 in Perth, Western Australia, and while most of the headlines that night surrounded Yoel Romero’s vicious knockout of Luke Rockhold in the main event, a certain preliminary bout left fans with plenty to talk about too.
After putting together an 11-0 record on the Chinese, New Zealand and Australian circuit, Israel Adesanya was signed by the UFC and matched with Aussie native Rob Wilkinson in his Octagon debut. Fans and observers in the know suggested that Adesanya – a flashy former professional kickboxer – could bring an Anderson Silva-esque style to the promotion, but few could’ve predicted how true that would be.
Wilkinson arguably took the first round, albeit only by constantly clinching with Adesanya and forcing him into the cage. But by the second round, Adesanya looked more comfortable and began to snipe at Wilkinson from all kinds of angles, busting him up with some incredible combinations until ‘The Razor’ finally wilted with just over a minute remaining.
To cap it all off, Adesanya showed some tremendous charisma in his post-fight interview – suggesting he was the new “big dog” who had just marked his territory inside the Octagon. After just one fight, it was clear that the UFC had a potential star on their hands.