Get used to the name Israel Adesanya. Yes, his performance at UFC 230 — knocking out Derek Brunson in round one — is one reason, but it’s not the only.
Luke Thomas sat down with the middleweight prodigy for the MMA Hour, and their discussion ran the gamut: from Nigerian education, and fighting, to provocative words (I’m being highly diplomatic here). It’s the kind of interview that could inspire hundreds of thinkpieces. More than just a colorful character, Adesanya comes across as quite the fight philosopher. Brunson didn’t offer much resistance, and Israel made note of it (transcription via MMA Fighting).
“I remember he panicked,” said Adesanya. “He threw a sh-tty-ass side kick to my leg and missed. I was like ‘why are you panicking?’ That’s panicked strikes. That was one thing I didn’t like as well. I watched the fight again and broke it down and I watched that bit over and over again. The first thing he does when he shot – it was so slow – and he got to my leg, is he pulled my shorts blatantly.”
He wasn’t a fan of Brunson’s illegal tactics, but it didn’t phase him. He continued:
“The second time, he kept me on the cage by pulling my shorts. He almost ripped my f—king shorts off. Then I remember he looked at [referee] Herb [Dean] like ‘it was only one time’ and a look on his face like ‘what did I do?’ That just shows he was already f—ked from the get-go. He already knew ‘f*ck this was my only hope. This is all I have.’ I really wanted to get to the second round so I could look into his eyes after the first. They all have that same look like ‘sh*t this is going to be a long night.’”
The exchange that led to the finish was highly designed in Adesanya’s mind. It was a great sequence to end the bout, but it didn’t happen by accident.
“Then I saw him get back up and smile. Earlier on I set up my question mark kick on my left side too early. That would have knocked him out. That would have slept him because I’ve done it a number of times. That would have slept him but I set it up too early and hit his shoulder. This time, when he was f—ked up and he was smiling at me, I switched back to orthodox and there’s something called a four-by-two – here’s the blueprint guys – I hit him with the right kick and I threw the right hand.”
Studying, scouting, and sequencing are just part of a process that allows Adesanya to fight with the kind of confidence the sport doesn’t see often.
“It’s just muscle memory,” said Adesanya. “It’s a memory. So it’s something I don’t even have to think about. My muscles are already doing it before my conscience brain or my frontal cortex is aware of it. As soon as I landed I was like ‘oh okay’ and then I framed and then just picked my shots. I don’t throw and hope. I aim and fire. That’s what I do. I was just hitting him at like 40-percent. These are just baby shots. People are just like ‘oh when I hit guys, they fall.’ I can starch guys, trust me. If I wanted to, I could have thrown the kitchen sink at him, and the fridge. But, what’s the point in that? He’s already f—ked. Just pick your shots.”
Adesanya doesn’t have an official opponent yet, but Dana White is on record as sticking Adesanya as the backup in case of an injury for Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum for UFC 234.