Israel Adesanya: Y’all must have forgot… again!

"…I could still go on but my legs were tired. I tried everything but I couldn’t get you off me. Thank You. Great fight."

Israel Adesanya to Jan Blachowicz after their match at UFC 259

Right off the bat, I must admit: Israel Adesanya vs Marvin Vettori is a weird match-up. In the post pandemic era, there are few PPVs that can be labeled as hard to promote; and this is one of them. Yes, the card itself is stacked. Yes there are two titles on the line. And yes, we will see the return of Nate Diaz. But the main event is not easy to sell to the public. There are many reasons for this.

Firstly Adesanya has lost his most sellable tag. He is no longer an undefeated Mixed Martial Artist. There’s something about the zero in the loss column that makes combat sport fans excited. And Adesanya has had that for his entire UFC run, until now. Secondly, Vettori is with all due respect, a mandatory challenger. It is no secret that were Adesanya not interested in this fight, by now a match with Robert Whittaker would have been booked for August or September. But the reaper said he needed time to heal up and plan properly for a title fight and Israel is itching to go… so Vettori gets a shot. His last win was against an opponent ranked 10th in the division. He hasn’t had a definitive finish lately and no memorability to his run. Lastly, Vettori is not the most inviting personality. His rage-persona is entertaining in the moment, but he carries less hype than quicksand. With all that said, we’re still getting this fight because ‘they’re doing it again.’

In the 185 division, Israel Adesanya is already in rare company. He has 4 title fight wins. Despite the storied careers that have graced middleweight, only Anderson Silva has such a track record. On his way to the title, the tests came quickly and strategically for Israel. He faces strikers, wrestlers, grapplers and brawlers. He won the interim title against a knock-out artist in Gastelum. He unified the titles against a blitzer in Whittaker. He made his fist defense against a wrestling icon in Yoel Romero. He made his second defense against a marauder in Paulo Costa. But when Adesanya fought Vettori three years ago, the result was a split decision; and if we can buy into it as fans, then let’s see who has gotten better.

"…it’s crazy that you hold on to your loss to me as the biggest win of your career. This time, I will finish you."

Israel Adesanya tells Marvin Vettori during Interview hosted by Micheal Bisping

Twice before in the UFC, Israel has had what he considers less than stellar performances. The first time was against Vettori. After the split-decision victory, it was reported that he asked Dana White for a quick turnaround and was granted the Ultimate Fighter Finale Five-Rounder against Brad Tavares. And my o my did Israel give us a show. There were so many flashy moves slipped in between his more educated jabs and front kicks that the end of the fight saw a standing ovation before a 50-45 wipeout. Israel got upset that people would have the Vettori match as their ‘what have you done for me lately image’ and he decided to change it. It happened again.

At UFC248, Israel Adesanya asked to fight Yoel Romero. The Cuban phenom was on a three fight losing skid, so a title opportunity was not in his practical future, but Paulo Costa was injured and Israel wanted to feel good about himself. It didn’t really work. Romero came in not wanting to get tired, so he just stood in the ring. Israel came in not wanting to get knocked-out, so he took zero risk. And we had one of the most boring fights in UFC history. After that fight, Israel set his sights on Paulo Costa. And he did not disappoint. Never had Paulo Costa looked so amateurish. Izzy peppered Costa’s lead leg and cracked him open before knocking him out in the second round. The stylebender did it in style. People forgot; he reminded them with a flawless performance. It is happening again.

The Jan Blachowicz fight was not good for Israel. It wasn’t bad… but it wasn’t good. The standup affair was even but Jan went for round-stealing takedowns in the fourth and fifth that left the match clearly three rounds to Jan and two to Izzy (forget what those judges were drinking that night). It was a clear loss. And more than anything, it was underwhelming. So what has Izzy done for us lately? He’s lost. And now, we all have started to think that he’s been found out. Vettori thinks so. Vettori has said multiple times that there is nothing special about Israel Adesanya. He has said he believes he won the first fight. And since the last time we watched Izzy get outwrestled, the picture of Vettori using that blueprint is not difficult to imagine. We must’ve forgot… again. So it’s time to be reminded… again.

"…it must be a pleasure to watch this man. If you are a fan of martial arts, his feints, his movements are a thing of beauty. It is indeed a priviledge…"

Joe Rogan describes Israel Adesanya during a walkout

So this is the sell for the main event for UFC 263: Israel Adesanya is coming to put on a show. Watch his training videos and see his focus. Watch UFCembedded and hear the intent in his words. Watch the promos and compare the trends. Israel is hiding it, but he is fired up. He’s not coming to fight a war like he did with Gastelum, or a war of attrition like with Romero. He is coming to do what he did against Costa, against Whittaker, against Brunson, Against Wilkinson. Israel Adesanya is coming to sell stock in the Stylebender franchise. Futures have looked low for a while, but smart investors know that this is when to buy. Because come UFC 263 fight-night, the bell will ring, wall-street will start trading and it’ll be too late to get on the Israel Adesanya hype train. The journey is not over; the train has only stopped for gas. Next stop: The Avatar state, Broken Native Arena.