Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight rivals Derek Brunson and Israel Adesanya will go to war this Saturday (Nov. 3, 2018) at UFC 230 inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
Expect a definite clash of styles to open UFC 230’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card. On one side of the Octagon stands Brunson, a powerful wrestler with heavy hands and reckless aggression. Opposite him is Middleweight’s hottest prospect, the ultra decorated kickboxer Israel Adesanya. These two have been mouthing off at the other for some time now, and we’re almost to the point where we finally get to see what all the gossip is really about.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 119), Uriah Hall (UFC Fight Night 94), Lorenz Larkin (UFC 177), Dan Kelly (UFC Fight Night 110), Ed Herman (UFC 185)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 101), Anderson Silva (UFC 208), Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 35), Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FOX 27, Strikeforce: “Rousey vs Kaufman”)
Keys to Victory: A decorated wrestler who commonly holds a size and athleticism advantage over foes, Brunson commonly won fights early in his career with an overpowering top game. In the last few years, however, his approach has shifted, as Brunson now likes to lunge forward with massive punches.
It’s time to return to the wrestling.
Adesanya is way to scary a kickboxer to attempt a brawl with. Early on, Brunson’s wildness and unpredictability will keep him somewhat safe, but it won’t take long for a kickboxer of Adesanya’s experience to catch onto his timing and begin punishing his mad offense.
Luckily, Brunson is far and away the best wrestler that Adesanya has faced. Immediately, Brunson should test the waters with a driving double leg. If he gets Adesanya down and keeps him there on the first try, it’s going to be a very easy fight for the American. If not, that takedown attempt still serves many important purpose, namely slowing Adesanya’s strikes and setting up Brunson’s later punches. In addition to shooting often, Brunson has to pressure forward, ideally without leading with his chin. Still though, Brunson cannot afford to eat kicks and lose strength on the outside, he has to take away Adesanya’s range weapons with forward pressure, takedowns, and the occasional haymaker.
Key Wins: Brad Tavares (TUF 27 Finale), Marvin Vettori (UFC on FOX 29), Rob Wilkinson (UFC 221)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Long, powerful and precise, Adesanya is quickly proving that his incredible kickboxing skill has translated into mixed martial arts (MMA) perfectly. Above all else, Adesanya is creative, mixing together combinations, targets, and strikes in ways that few other manage.
As long as his defensive grappling continues to hold up, Adesanya is on his way to a title shot.
Opposite Brunson, Adesanya’s biggest challenge will be to weather the early storm. Fans online love to criticize Brunson’s lunging and awkwardness, but the fact of the matter is, his approach — while very technically wrong — is also very dangerous. Brunson hits damn hard and only needs a single slip up to land a big shot or fight-changing takedown.
If I were Adesanya’s coach, I would have him work from the Orthodox stance opposite the Southpaw Brunson. In a battle between opposite stances, Adesanya’s body kick should land more openly, which should be very helpful in slowing Brunson down. In addition, the person with the crisper straight shots generally wins out in opposite stance fights; there’s less chance that a looping haymaker comes over the jab and ruins everything.
That’s all secondary, though. As long as Adesanya can survive early and avoid anything too major, he’s primed to take over later in the fight.
Bottom Line: It’s another test for Adesanya … and it should be a great fight.
Brunson needs this win. In the last few years, his record has been remarkably consistent. The best fighters in the division tend to weather the storm and knock him out, while anything less is battered quickly by the wrestler. Brunson nevertheless remains near the top five of the division, but he’s not going to build any momentum if he isn’t able to prove his style opposite a fellow top 10 opponent.
It’s really a make-or-break fight for Brunson’s title hopes.
Make no mistake, this is not a gimme fight for the New Zealander. It’s a significant step up, but so was Brad Tavares, and Adesanya shined brighter than ever opposite the Hawaiian. If he repeats that type of performance, Adesanya is no more than a single fight away from a title shot. Should he come up short, it is still fairly early in Adesanya’s MMA career, so there’s time to bounce back.
At UFC 230, Derek Brunson and Israel Adesanya will open the main card. Which Middleweight will earn the victory?