(JEFF BOTTARI/ZUFFA LLC/ZUFFA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Israel Adesanya looks to remain undefeated against Kelvin Gastelum.
It’s been a hasty rise through the ranks of the shark tank that is the UFC’s middleweight division for the former GLORY Kickboxing star Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya, and next weekend, he is catapulted into his premier promotional championship bout, albeit Interim.
The charismatic Nigerian-Kiwi exploded into the promotion just last year and has had arguably the most emphatic rise to stardom since Conor McGregor’s Octagon bow and subsequent blitzing in search of Featherweight gold circa 2013. The tough to solve striker has amassed an impressive 5-0 résumé since his birth. Remaining undefeated with a unanimous decision victory over former 185lbs best and MMA luminary Anderson Silva in his last outing, someone who the 29-year-old Adesanya has drawn many comparisons to.
With impeccable timing, technique and counter striking ability, the #5 ranked contender faces the sternest test of his still naive career when paired with the clean boxer Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 in Atlanta. Equipped with a wide array of striking techniques when compared to TUF victor Gastelum and a solid defensive wrestling game, something that more than likely is an option to be brought to the forefront by the Californian. Pocket boxing exchanges also offer some cause for concern for Israel. When pitted against the talented and well traversed Derek Brunson, Adesanya displayed very impressive single leg and body-lock take down defense and eye-catching killer instinct to swarm a damaged Brunson before the conclusion of the opening round.
Creative striking is the name of the game for Adesanya, with a very quick question mark kick from that orthodox stance on hand, or on foot rather, to catch an opponent off guard. Primarily fighting from the aforementioned orthodox position, Israel often switches to southpaw to set traps, seen in both decision victories over Anderson Silva and Brad Tavares. It can be argued that Kelvin has yet to be met with someone with such a vast arsenal of kicks as Adesanya, apart from Uriah Hall, Gastelum has mainly been matched alongside fellow boxers.
All roads point to an all Kiwi unification bout with Robert Whittaker for Israel Adesanya with a victory over Kelvin Gastelum sometime in 2019, but with contenders like Yoel Romero, Jacaré Souza, Paulo Costa and Jared Cannonier hot on the heels of ‘The Last Stylebender’, it’s a rocky road to travel if he aims to become the future of the promotion.