2018 Breakout Fighter of the Year: Israel Adesanya
2018 was a breakout year for many fighters, but one stood out above the rest.
Middleweight Israel Adesanya made his octagon debut at UFC 211 in February boasting an undefeated record. He defeated Rob Wilkerson by knockout and earned a Performance of the Night bonus. He fought Marvin Vettori in his next outing in April winning by split decision.
Following the win over Vettori, Adesanya said, “I’m just getting started,’ in his post-fight interview. The Nigerian went out in his next fight and dismantled UFC veteran Brad Tavares in July.
The accomplished kickboxer turned mixed martial artist raised eyebrows with his win over Tavares. He was suddenly ranked in the top ten after his third fight in the organization. He had his sights set on the top of the division and let everyone who would listen know.
His precision striking, explosive athleticism, and the diversity of his offensive attack made the 29-year old a difficult matchup for anyone. His speed, confidence and potential star power didn’t go unnoticed by UFC matchmakers. In his fourth fight inside the octagon, Adesanya faced No. 6th ranked Derek Brunson at UFC 230 in November.
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Adesanya’s third fight under the UFC banner was a main event against Tavares at The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale. His bout against Brunson kicked off the UFC 230 pay-per-view main card. He dismantled Brunson putting him away in the first round.
“The Last Stylebender” went from a prospect to a title contender in the span of four fights and kept his undefeated status intact. His fighting style has drawn comparisons to former middleweight champion Anderson Silva in his prime.
Adesanya idolized Silva as an adolescent. His success inside the cage has led to him facing his childhood inspiration. The two are set to meet in the UFC 234 co-main event on Feb. 10 in Melbourne, Australia.
2018 was a breakout year for Adesanya. He anticipates 2019 will be even better, starting with a win over the legendary Anderson Silva.