On a card filled with star-making performances, perhaps no one shone brighter than Israel Adesanya at UFC 230 inside Madison Square Garden.
Picking up his fourth win of 2018, Adesanya (15-0) steamrolled over Derek Brunson (18-7) en route to a violent first-round TKO.
Entering the bout, many fans and pundits predicted the far more experienced Brunson would provide Adesanya, who only debuted with the promotion in January, his first true test inside the Octagon.
But in the end, “The Last Stylebender” dispatched Brunson with a flurry of strikes as he stalked his opponent across the canvas with murderous intent.
“At the end of the fight [he landed one shot],” Adesanya told Luke Thomas on the latest episode of The MMA Hour. “But, he had his feet parallel so he had no power on it. By that time, that was when I set in, I wanted to throw some power shots and then he threw it and I was like ‘ooh.’ But he was on wobbly legs anyway. He was chicken dancing. So then I saw the next one and I just picked him apart.”
One of the more memorable moments moments in the scrap came early when Brunson was warned for holding onto Adesanya’s shorts against the fence. After breaking free, Adesanya extended his middle finger to Brunson and chastised him for the illegal tactic.
Looking back, Adesanya revealed that very moment he knew Brunson was in a world of trouble.
“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.
“The second time, he kept me on the cage by pulling my shorts. He almost ripped my f*cking 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*cked 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.’”
During the scrap, Adesanya, a multiple-time kickboxing champion, surprised many as he negated Brunson’s wrestling game. As a three-time Division II All-American wrestler, Brunson’s path to victory seemed clear as relentlessly worked to bring the fight to the canvas.
But Adesanya and his team were clearly prepared as the 29-year-old stuffed all seven of Brunson’s takedowns.
“He had double underhooks and he was fighting to survive,” said Adesanya. “Everything my coach Andre [Galvao] said he was going to do, he did. Every single thing. Even before we leave from hotel, me and Andre go over something in our room. Initially, on the fence, [Brunson] is going to rush, rush, rush and get the double underhooks or over-under and then on his left side he’s going to let it go and get wrist control. I was trying to get wrist-control and I couldn’t get it.
“Then I heard Andre, he calls an audible. I’m very coachable, I listen. I have have these ears and they’re big for a reason. He says ‘f*ck the wrist, bicep, bicep.’ So go I got bicep control and he threw a shot or two from the clinch and they didn’t do sh*t. So I got the bicep and I was able turn him and got off.”
From here, Adesanya displayed what can only be described as a masterclass in striking as he danced around his opponent before finishing him off in highlight reel fashion.
“Later on, when [Brunson] had double-unders, I turned him,” said Adesanya. “I felt I didn’t want my back to the center of the octagon. So I turned him back but it looked he turned me back. Eventually, I broke the grip and that’s when he tried to level change. Either he’s going to throw his left hand and if he doesn’t have that then he’ll try to shoot the takedown and try to take you down. So he tried to shoot and I stuffed his head and got off and he kept on running again. That’s when I just felt ‘oh okay, boom [knee].’ He was all f*cked. He was dazed and I was like ‘oh, pop, pop, knee, boom’ and he hit the ground.
“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*cked 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.”
Breaking down the finishing sequence, Adesanya revealed he didn’t even know what was happening as he wrapped his shinbone around Brunson’s skull. But once he smelled blood, he methodically swarmed in for the kill.
“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*cked. Just pick your shots.”
This victory not only kept Adesanya’s perfect professional mixed martial arts record intact but also marked his 13th career (T)KO while earning him his third Performance of the Night bonus.
“It’s not about hitting hard and about who can hit,” said Adesanya. “I can hit hard, trust me. Those shots that I landed, I was just going at like 40 percent. The knee that I landed, that was probably like 90 percent. You know how when you accelerate and you almost get to 100 percent? But he kind of closed it with his stupidity and his force. He hurt himself. He played himself.
“I remember he was laughing at my prediction. I said Round 1 and if his chins holds up then Round 2. He said ‘oh my wrestling—’ all that sh*t he’s been saying since my second fight in the UFC. He tweeted my ground game was trash. It’s the same sh*t they all say. So I watched his interview and you can see he’s just not even believing anything he’s saying. He’s just saying things like the same old rhetoric, the same old ‘he’s all hype.’ He said ‘hype is over.’ They say it’s all hype but they don’t realize there’s a hole f*cking train behind it running people over.”