MMA Ratings Podcast

September 30, 2020

UFC 253: What Israel Adesanya Needs to Do To Become MMA's P4P #1

By Adam Martin

This past Saturday at UFC 253 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, Israel Adesanya successfully defended the UFC middleweight title for the second time when he knocked out rival Paulo Costa in the second round. It was a masterful performance by Adesanya, who controlled the range and dictated the pace of the fight arguably better than he ever has before. The win over Costa improved Adesanya's perfect MMA record to 20-0, and he's a perfect 9-0 in the Octagon. "The Last Stylebender" is closing in on the #1 pound-for-pound spot in the sport, but he still has to do a little bit more to reach those lofty heights.

If you ask most fans and media right now, they would probably still list Jon Jones as the sport's #1 P4P fighter, but with so much uncertainty surrounding his career, it's possible to take his spot in the rankings. Never has Jones' position as the top fighter in the sport been more vulnerable. If Jones does fall off the list, then UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would likely be the heir apparent. But there would be a few other fighters vying for the title of best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA, and the undefeated superstar Adesanya would absolutely be one of them.

Every time we watch Adesanya fight, we see him get better and better. At UFC 253, he put it all together in a brilliant performance against Costa. It was arguably the cleanest performance Adesanya has had in a UFC career full of great fights. Adesanya controlled the fight from the opening bell with his low kicks, and then when Costa let his guard down, Adesanya opened up with his hands. Considering Adesanya was coming off of what may have been his weakest UFC effort yet, his UFC 248 decision victory over Yoel Romero, it was good to see the middleweight champ show improvements in this fight and then get the finish.

The win over Costa improved Adesanya's UFC record to 9-0, with wins over Costa, Romero, Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum, Anderson Silva, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Rob Wilkinson, and Marvin Vettori. That's an incredible resume and it includes victories over many of the best middleweights in the UFC, both past and present. But what is missing for Adesanya is twofold. One is longevity. He has only fought two years in the UFC and needs to get more wins to get on Jones' level. And two, it's doing something special to really prove that he's the best fighter in the world.

Adesanya picking up more scalps is inevitable along the way. but what would really set him apart from the pack is moving up to 205 lbs and winning another belt. Right now, light heavyweight is wide open and up for grabs, with Jones moving on. Jan Blachowicz knocked out Dominick Reyes to win the vacant title in the UFC 253 co-main event, but it's hard to say what comes next for Blachowicz. Sure, fights against Thiago Santos and/or Glover Teixeira would be fun. But a fight against a guy like Adesanya would be even bigger. Adesanya seems like the kind of guy that wants big challenges, and moving up to 205 to fight Blachowicz qualifies.

Israel Adesanya can be the UFC's next big superstar, and he's already well on his way, but there are a few things he can do to really take it to the next level. One of those things would be fighting at a second weight class. When you look at the best fighters of all time, almost all of them have fought at more than one weight class. If Adesanya wants to reach the lofty heights of the greats like GSP, Silva, Randy Couture, Demetrious Johnson, and soon Jones, then he has to take a risk and compete at light heavyweight. Being the middleweight champion is amazing. But to become the #1 P4P fighter, 205 is the move.

UFC 253
Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa (UFC Middleweight Championship): Israel Adesanya def. Paulo Costa via TKO (punches) at 3:59 of Round 2.

UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa was originally scheduled for September 19, 2020 at venue TBA in location TBA. It was rescheduled for September 26, 2020 and relocated to Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC 253 Analysis

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