Israel Adesanya and another shot at light heavyweight

21-1. It’s a stat that haunts the record of Israel Adesanya. One of the most outstanding fighters of his generation, ‘The Last Stylebender’ has carved his way through the middleweight division with relative ease. His striking is made exceptional by his skill, speed and the ease with which he can switch between southpaw and orthodox stances.

At UFC 259, Adesanya came painfully close to becoming the latest two-division champion. Unfortunately for the 31-year old, Jan Blachowicz’s grappling was too much to overcome. Adesanya ate his first UFC defeat via unanimous decision.

Four months later, perhaps it’s time to consider why an Adesanya vs Blachowicz or Teixeira (depending on how UFC 267 goes) title fight would be worth booking in 2022. Assuming he remains middleweight king in that time, here are three reasons Israel Adesanya deserves another crack at UFC light heavyweight gold:

#3. Adesanya’s continued dominance of the middleweight division

While Adesanya’s 20-0 undefeated streak was snapped upon moving up to light heavyweight, he has now resumed his winning ways. At middleweight, Adesanya is arguably the most dominant fighter the division has seen since the prime years of Anderson Silva.

Frequently securing Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night honors, Adesanya really only came anywhere near defeat against Yoel Romero at UFC 248. Based on his title defenses against Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori since then, it’s safe to say the Romero scare was a blip on the middleweight radar.

Assuming ‘The Last Stylebender’ is able to defeat former champ Robert Whittaker once again, he may be out of mountains to climb at middleweight. With this in mind, it could be time for Adesanya to re-try securing the double champion glory that eluded him earlier this year.

#2. Adesanya’s recent improvements in the octagon

From fight to fight, Adesanya continues to show improvements in all aspects of his game. A natural striker, ‘The Last Stylebender’ has occasionally come undone due to his comparatively less impressive grappling.

This was especially evident at UFC 259 where the more-experienced Blachowicz was able to out-manoeuvre the kickboxer. Learning from Adesanya’s hard-fought but controversial victory over Yoel Romero, Blachowicz exposed several flaws in Adesanya’s defensive game. In doing so, ‘Polish Power’ managed to keep him slowed down for much of the fight.

In his subsequent UFC 263 middleweight title defense against Marvin Vettori, Adesanya proved he had learned his lesson. Vettori, a rock-solid grappler in his own right, found out the hard way that Adesanya has worked hard to improve his takedown defense.

If Adesanya continues down this road, while keeping his striking abilities at their insanely high level, he could become unstoppable in both weight classes.

#1. It’s a money fight

Adesanya’s first foray into the light heavyweight scene was greeted with controversy in some circles. Many believed that Blachowicz’s upcoming challenger, Glover Teixeira, was more deserving of Adesanya’s shot earlier this year.

While an argument for Teixeira can easily be made, the cold hard fact of the matter is there was more money in an Adesanya fight. While that shouldn’t be the primary deciding factor here, the UFC is still a business. Dana White, like everyone else, saw dollar signs when making the call.

The often outspoken middleweight champ has captured fans’ imaginations over the years. His drawing power will likely only increase with the tease of a Blachowicz rematch. Their first clash did an impressive 800,000 buys. A long-awaited second showdown has a good shot of passing the million mark.

Perhaps even more enticing is the prospect of an Adesanya vs Teixeira clash. Should Teixeira be able to unseat ‘Polish Power’ and complete his long journey to light heavyweight gold, the story tells itself. Initially passed over for Adesanya, Teixeira does what ‘The Last Stylebender’ could not and must now defend it against him. It’s almost cinematic in its dramatic potential.

Such a story screams money should it come to fruition. Either way, the light heavyweight scene will gain a big boost in publicity should Adesanya attempt champ-champ status again.

Edited by Jack Cunningham

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