The main card of UFC 230 in New York kicked off with a near-perfect
performance by one of the sport’s fastest-rising stars in Israel
Adesanya, who completed his transition from middleweight
prospect to bona fide contender.
“The Last Stylebender” faced his toughest opponent yet on Saturday
night when he came face-to-face with an experienced, heavy-handed
wrestler in Derek
Brunson, who has shared the Octagon with some of the best
fighters at middleweight including Ronaldo
Machida and Robert
Whittaker. As expected, Brunson wasted no time trying to take
down his opponent, but found little success as Adesanya stuffed
every attempt while putting on a striking masterclass and ending
the fight late in the first round.
The 29-year-old’s performance was not lost on Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana
White, who told reporters at the UFC 230 post fight press
conference (video) that he was hugely impressed with the
undefeated middleweight given the calibre of his opponent.
“Israel has been a guy who has been on the rise here for a minute,
but I really felt like tonight was his first big test,” White said.
“His opponent hits like a truck and wrestles really well, and
Madison Square Garden, opening the show, man, did he deliver. Many
people — including me — think this kid is the future, and he went
out and put a stamp on it tonight.
“The minute I saw this kid, I was like, holy sh*t this is really
good, I like this,” White added. “Then you hear him talk, I like
that too. He’s the whole package. He is very ambitious, I would
like him to pump the brakes a little bit. This guy wants to f*cking
fight everybody right now and he wants to fight every month, which
“Listen, you want to become a big star?” White continued. “Keep
fighting. If you’re a young guy who’s healthy enough to fight all
the time, I absolutely advise it. Do it. What you don’t want to do
is put on a great performance and disappear because people forget
real quickly. But yeah, I like him very, very much and I don’t want
to move him as fast as he wants to be moved, so he and I will get
together and find a happy medium.”
Adesanya has said he will be taking his time in deciding who his
next opponent would be with one eye on the title fight between
current champion Robert
Whittaker and Kelvin
Gastelum at UFC 234 next February. Alternatively, after
Souza’s win over Chris
Weidman on Saturday, the UFC may decide to pair Adesanya and
Souza on the same card, with the added appeal that the event is
scheduled to take place in Australia, close to Adesanya’s adoptive
home of New Zealand.