Can Anyone at Middleweight Challenge Israel Adesanya’s Dominance?

Israel Adesanya soundly defeated Paulo Costa


Brute strength versus impeccable technique— two unbeaten fighters going toe-to-toe in the octagon. There were months of buildup for the much-hyped fight between Israel Adesanya (20-0) and Paulo Costa (13-1) as the two slung insults back and forth. Many were expecting a match that would go down to the wire, but in the end Adesanya knocked Costa out in just the second round with seemingly little effort. Now the speculation begins on who Adesanya’s next opponent will be. 


 Adesanya, the reigning UFC Middleweight champion, has already defeated most of the contenders ranked below him.  Adesanya himself indicated immediately after his fight with Costa that he wanted to face Jared Cannonier (13-4).


“I already dm’d Jared Cannonier. He’s a hell of a dude. I love his energy. He’s a beautiful beautiful man. And I said you destroy Robert Whittaker (22-5) and you’re next. He’s the one I want to fight next. He deserves it.” 


Cannonier is set to face Whittaker at UFC 254 on October 24th. Dana White confirmed that in a post-fight conference that if Cannonier does beat Whittaker, he will be Adesanya’s next opponent. Cannonier is on a hot streak, knocking out his last three opponents including former champion Anderson Silva, and might be the only one who could properly contend with Adesanya. 


If Whittaker wins instead, then he would most likely be the number one contender and up next for Adesanya. This would also be a rematch of their title fight less than a year ago, in which Adesanya soundly won that bout, claiming the middleweight belt from Whittaker in a second-round TKO.  It doesn’t seem like a rematch would end any differently for Whittaker after such a short amount of time.


In what could be a longshot, Costa has also demanded a rematch in part because he felt Adesanya showed a lack of sportsmanship in his behavior after their fight.  


In a self-recorded video, Costa said that Adesanya was “human trash,” and that “nobody can stop me. I want my rematch.” 


With the way their fight went down, a rematch doesn’t seem likely.  There’s also been no indication from Adesanya or White that a rematch with Costa will take place anytime soon.  


The biggest dilemma with picking any opponent for Adesanya is that he has already beaten much of the competition at his weight class. Costa might have been the last big draw for pay-per-view purposes if Cannonier does happen to go down against Whittaker. Adesanya is a victim of his own success. For his part, Adesanya has said that he might try to move to heavyweight after a few more title defenses, echoing Jon Jones move up in weight. This would open up a whole new slate of opponents, but it remains to be seen if Adesanya would be as dominant at the new weight class as he is at middleweight.

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