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04th Nov 2018

No doubt about it, Israel Adesanya is the UFC’s breakout fighter of 2018

And just like that, there's a new middleweight contender

Darragh Murphy

What next for Israel Adesanya?

Saturday night represented a daunting test for Israel Adesanya, who was competing in Hex Fighting Series less than a year ago, but the Nigeria-born Kiwi passed it with flying colours, inspiring UFC 230 commentator Paul Felder to posit that Adesanya deserved an A-plus-plus for his performance.

Coming up against the well-respected Derek Brunson, who had previously shared the Octagon with the likes of Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and reigning middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, Adesanya was either going to walk out of Madison Square Garden as an over-hyped prospect or a legitimate contender.

And it took less than five minutes for ‘The Last Stylebender’ to confirm his status as the latter.

In the midst of successfully defending several early Brunson takedown attempts, Adesanya told referee Herb Dean that his shorts were being held before flipping the bird in the American’s direction.

It was in the final minute of the opening frame that the undefeated Adesanya made Brunson pay as a knee landed flush before the 29-year-old let his hands go to devastating effect.

Having previously gone 75-5-1 as a kickboxer and 5-1 as a boxer, Adesanya cemented the fact that his striking is no joke and likely moved into the top five at 185 lbs with the biggest win of his mixed martial arts career to date.

“I give myself a B-minus,” Adesanya said in his post-fight interview.

“This was all the talk before the fight, they said that this man ain’t got no wrestling after seeing my fight against Brad (Tavares), saying I was light work but this was like a walk in the park. This was like a walk in the Garden!”

That’s the first UFC fighter to earn four victories in 2018, that’s the third longest win streak of active UFC middleweights and that’s the breakout fighter of the year, Israel Adesanya.