NEW YORK — In just his fourth appearance since making his UFC debut in February, unbeaten Israel Adesanya may have just made the leap from bright prospect to legitimate title contender with how seemingly easy he handled veteran Derek Brunson on Saturday.
In the first of four middleweight bouts on the UFC 230 pay-per-view card, Adesanya (15-0) did his best to make anyone from UFC brass to current 185-pound Robert Whittaker take notice with how flashy and succinct his performance was in a first-round TKO.
Not only did the 29-year-old Adesanya showcase his dynamic striking ability, it was the way in which he dominantly stuffed all five of Brunson’s takedown attempts before walking him down in the closing seconds of the round that was most impressive.
“I expected him to come in like he did all clumsy against Robert Whittaker but he started patient,” Adesanya said. “I started at level two and he was still loading.”
A native of Nigeria who fights out of New Zealand, Adesanya firmly took control of the fight when he caught Brunson (18-7) shooting in with a flush knee to the face. A head kick followed and then a clean right hand that dropped the 34-year-old veteran.
But Adesanya took his time in making sure to finish Brunson by surgically hurting him with one clean punch after another. Two more flash knockdowns followed with Brunson regaining his feet only to get drilled again before referee Herb Dean finally waved it off at 4:51.
Adesanya, a former kickboxing world champion who also has seven bro boxing bouts under his belt, broke out into a lengthy celebratory dance upon the close of the fight as “The Last Stylebender” continued to turn heads as one of UFC’s brightest future stars.
“That was about a B- I would give myself, but it’s all talk about a fighter,” Adesanya said. “They said, ‘Man, he ain’t got any wrestling.’ But this turned into easy work. This was light work, actually. It was a walk in the park or a walk in the Garden.
“[I’m ready for the] top five, top five. I’m going to sit back and watch the rest of the fights in the middleweight tournament [on Saturday] and then I will applaud slowly.”
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