Israel Adesanya is in the midst of a Middleweight title reign that will be remembered throughout UFC history, and this week from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, he faces a familiar opponent. Alex Pereira has two well-documented wins over Adesanya going into their third clash, which will take place in MMA. Adesanya has had several rematches throughout his championship run, and I'd like to look back and see how he has adjusted against former opponents in the past.
The first Marvin Vettori fight was early in Adesanya's martial arts journey. This would show against a well-rounded and game opponent such as Vettori, which resulted in one of the closest fights of his career and a split decision win. The fight began very well for Adesanya, who earned ratings of 9.9 and 10 from the Verdict community after the first two rounds. He effectively controlled range keeping Vettori out of takedown range and landing the cleaner shots. The third round was one of the first extensive tests of Adesanya's career as we saw Vettori succeed with the grappling against him, which earned him the round on the Verdict scorecard and nearly stole him the fight.
The first fight with Robert Whittaker had a feeling like it was going to be the Israel Adesanya show as although the odds came in near even, there was a feeling this was the coronation of the next great champion. We saw some excellent exchanges in the first round, with Whittaker charging recklessly. Although Adesanya had not landed anything significant for the early portion of the round, he had begun to touch Whittaker as he entered before dropping him as the round ended, making it a definitive one for Adesanya. The second round saw the highlight knockout that crowned the champion.
After the first loss of Adesanya's career against Jan Blachowicz at Light Heavyweight, Adesanya and Vettori were set to face off again, with many believing the weakness against wrestling that Adesanya has shown would lead to Vettori being victorious. That was not the case, however, as this fight displayed how far Adesanya has come in mixed martial arts as he effortlessly defended the grappling that had given him issues in their first fight. This was a complete shutout, with Adesanya winning every round on the Verdict scorecard by a wide margin by clearly out-striking Vettori and defending the takedowns with ease for the most part.
The second matchup with Robert Whittaker felt like much more of an actual test of if Israel Adesanya was as far ahead of the rest of the division as he seemed to be. This was Robert Whittaker in peak form, knowing what he was up against, and through the fight, it showed. Round one began a bit slow, with Adesanya landing more strikes and dropping Whittaker at the end of the round, somewhat similar to the first matchup. Round two is where this became a rivalry as Whittaker began to have the most success we had seen him have against Adesanya; he began doubling the attacks with the lead hand, which made a clear impact on how well Adesanya was controlling the range, and he was able to land a takedown along the cage although he did not control for long. For what it's worth, my card gave Adesanya the second going against the Verdict community, although I can understand giving Whittaker the round.
The third round saw Adesanya respond by continuing a forward attack and being willing to go first in the exchanges rather than be caught moving backward, and this was another close round where the Verdict community leaned toward Adesanya. The fourth round was the closest between the two, with just over 50% of the Verdict community edging the round to Whittaker, who was able to land a nice takedown into a back take to go with some striking success in the round. The fifth round saw Whittaker have his most success of any round in either fight, with him clearly winning the round on Verdict. Overall this fight saw Whittaker be the one to make the adjustments. This fight saw many small adjustments from each fighter that led to it being a great fight, and although Whittaker made the more noticeable adjustments, it was the ones made by Adesanya that would earn him the win in the eyes of the judges and continue his impressive run at Middleweight.
This weekend we will see something different as Adesanya adjust to an opponent who has beaten him, and it is on him to prove that he is the better fighter and the first two fights are in the past. So far, we have not seen Israel Adesanya lose a rematch in mixed martial arts, and with a massive edge in experience, he should be able to make the critical adjustments and win this fight.