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The Strengths and Weaknesses of Israel Adesanya

| November 10, 2020 3:47 am PDT
Israel Adesanya Strengths and Weaknesses

The genesis of Israel Adesanya can be traced across two different continents, as well as several unique combat sports disciplines.

A technical striking master, “The Last Style Bender” is regarded as one of the most potent fighters in the world of mixed martial arts. The Nigerian-born Kiwi is the incumbent middleweight champion of the UFC. A title that pretty much serves as a reflection of his greatness.

Elite middleweights such as Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, and Yoel Romero have all tried to solve the puzzle of Adesanya. However, all three have ended up feeling the full extent of this striking wizard’s spells.

To us fans, Adesanya’s strengths are there for all to see. But behind those strengths surely lies a weakness that has yet to be uncovered. If that is the case, can we surmise that the champ is, in fact, capable of being humbled?

Join me as I aim to put Adesanya’s strengths and weaknesses under the microscope in a bid to answer that question.

Adesanya’s Main Strengths

Let’s first start with Adesanya’s strengths.

Now, you may or may not know the full extent of the MMA phenom’s arsenal of weapons. But put that to the back of your mind for now and approach this breakdown as if you are barely accustomed to what he can do inside the cage.

Let’s start with the most obvious facet of his game. That is, of course, his striking.


I wouldn’t be stretching the fabric of reality by suggesting that Adesanya is the greatest striker in modern MMA.

Adesanya’s kickboxing background is integral to his success inside the Octagon. A highly successful kickboxer, the resident of Auckland, New Zealand amassed a kickboxing record of 75-5 and a professional boxing record of 5-1 before turning his attention to MMA.

His shot selection, power, and accuracy make him a very dangerous fighter to engage with on the feet. Just ask the 20 defeated opponents who were at the end of his strikes in his career so far.

Range Control

A master of range, Adesanya’s control of distance enables him to set the tone for his fights.

Standing at 6’4″ and with a reach of 80″, this tall and gangly striker can punish opponents from the outside before bursting forward with excellently timed shots. The ability to control the distance between himself and his opponents is a major reason for his success.

If a fighter cannot adequately close the distance, their chances of landing on Adesanya diminish with every passing minute that he wisely uses to work them out.

Fight IQ

More than any other of his attributes, Adesanya’s fight IQ could be his most important quality.

Forged across his experience in taekwondo, kickboxing, and boxing, Adesanya’s ability to read a fighter is truly frightening. His revolving wheel of options when it comes to shots is improved by his positioning, his movement, and his feints and setups.

He effortlessly switches stances to confuse an opponent before switching kicks, or basically pulling counters from all angles. His ability to convince a fighter that they are in range before beating them to the shot is mesmeric.

Intelligence underpins Adesanya’s key strengths. His IQ is almost guaranteed to be better than anyone he faces, much to the chagrin of the pour soul standing opposite him inside the cage.

Adesanya’s Biggest Weaknesses

It’s difficult to really know what weaknesses lie beneath the veneer of greatness that Adesanya has shown us thus far.

But let’s not pretend that any fighter is without their weaknesses. Even icons of combat sports like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Georges St-Pierre, or Samart Payakaroon had their soft spots. Adesanya’s Achilles heel, you could say, is yet to be revealed.

But what I do know is that some areas are not as tight as others, and could potentially be exposed by the right opponent.

Wrestling Defense

A latecomer to the sport of MMA, Adesanya’s wrestling prowess was never going to be his greatest attribute. His trash talk or belittling of great fighters might not be on point, but wrestling defense certainly stands out.

Relying on his striking to keep wrestlers from landing takedowns at will, Izzy has yet to be overwhelmed on the ground. His elite-level movement and punishing counters stand as a stark warning to anyone who dares shoot in with no concern.

With that said, the truth is that we just don’t know how the champ will react when faced with a bigger, stronger guy that can hang on the feet with him and exert pressure with their wrestling.

Until that day comes, consider this area as one with a big question mark hanging over it.


Adesanya is a very slippery fighter. One that, while not exactly immune to the threat of a poisonous wrestler, has thus far failed to show a strong side to this part of his game.

But what about submissions? Well, he is unbeaten in MMA, so has never lost by way of submission. He has never won by submission, either, and has never even attempted to do so.

Like his wrestling, there is reasonable concern surrounding how he will react when dragged into the murky waters by a crafty submission expert. Can Adesanya hold his own on the feet forever? Or will his plan of foiling his opponent’s ability to pass guard eventually culminate in a submission loss?

It’s a good question. Especially since, well, this is an area of weakness for The Last Stylebender.


I am not going to sit here and claim that Adesanya has a glass jaw. Why? Because that would be, well, wrong.

He has proven that he can take a punch. Although it is important to remember that it hasn’t really been fully tested in the UFC because his range control has been so effective.

However, when we look back on his kickboxing days, he was rocked on several occasions and knocked out cold by Alex Pereira in 2018. The shot was a left hook at close range, which didn’t look that vicious.

A fighter that believes that they can get inside Adesanya will be a fighter that believes that they can knock Adesanya out.

More Strengths Than Weaknesses?

An extremely slick fighter that has utilized his long reach and technical striking nous to shut his opponents out, Israel Adesanya is a tremendous example of what a technical striker should be.

With an exceptional fight IQ and impressive footwork, he applies a wide array of setups and feints to catch his opponents off guard. This highly intelligent approach has served him well in the Octagon thus far, but could darker days be on the horizon for the champ?

Perhaps. His chin is by no means unbreakable. The right opponent could apply pressure in an effort to get him on the ground as soon as possible in a fight and look to test his submission defense. Easier said than done, though.

The crux of the matter is that the longer a fight with Israel Adesanya stays on the feet, the higher the chance is of that opponent picking up another loss. Thus, it’s going to take something very special to part him with his illusions of ultimate supremacy in this sport.

In summary, Adesanya is a great fighter. However, he is by no means unbeatable. As time goes on, we’ll see how that theory pans out.

Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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