On Oct. 6, two of the most exciting and dynamic fighters in mixed martial arts will be taking to the octagon as part of the UFC 243 in Sydney, Australia.
The main event will feature a middleweight championship title fight between Nigerian-New Zealander Israel Adesanya and the current champion, Australian Robert Whittaker.
Adesanya is a self-taught disciple of Brazilian mixed martial arts legend Anderson Silva, whom he defeated in February of this year.
Silva was known as a nearly untouchable fighter. He was a legend of the sport who has been praised by Ultimate Fighting Championship commissioner Dana White and commentator Joe Rogan, both calling Silva the greatest fighter of all time. He held the middleweight belt from 2006 to 2013, but the loss to Adesanya was his seventh defeat in his last eight fights.
Silva’s career accomplishments are second to none, but many that follow the UFC see similarities between Adesanya and Silva, both fighting with an element of unpredictability that has produced dozens of highlights for fans.
The 17-0 Adesanya leans into the quirks that made Silva so much fun to watch, using misdirection and speed as dangerous weapons. His hands are always slightly above his waist, a stance that would infuriate any Muay Thai coach. But even then, Adesanya utilizes superior footwork to calmly step out of the way of kicks and punches.
The confident stance adds a layer to his unorthodox style. His punches become unpredictable when thrown from the height his hands rest at. He constantly throws out feints and slight shifts to his stance, feeling out the space he creates rather than aggressively trying to close in on his opponents.
Adesanya even utilizes his own unique kick that carries great misdirection, a low-to-high feint kick that has become a signature weapon in his repertoire.
Many MMA commentators question Adesanya’s ability to fight on the ground due to his lack of experience. Adesanya was recently awarded a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which is just the second belt in the martial art ranking system. The belt system recognizes a fighter’s technical knowledge and practical skills in the sport.
If Adesanya is essentially a more agile Silva, then Whittaker is a more vicious version of Georges St-Pierre. Whittaker’s aggressiveness and ability to decisively finish a fight have warranted his nickname, “The Reaper.”
Facing the Cuban boxer Yoel Romero, Whittaker showed his ability to take strikes from one of the scariest guys in the division while staying on his feet and throwing back just as hard. It is impressive that he was able to weather Romero’s storm to successfully defend his title.
This highly anticipated matchup could go in any direction. It will be interesting to see if Whittaker’s aggression is beneficial for him, which depends on Adesanya’s ability to see the barrage coming.
If this fight goes to the ground, Adesanya will most likely be at a disadvantage against the well-trained wrestler.
There is also a chance that this fight could result in an overly cautious stalemate with just a few explosive moments.
Regardless of who wins this championship fight, the chance to see incredibly promising young fighters at the very moment they solidify their reputation in the UFC is rare. The technical skill on display should make it worth watching for seasoned spectators and newcomers alike.
Graphic: Shawna Langer / Graphics Editor