This weekend at UFC 281, Adesanya will look to make the sixth defense of the 185-pound belt against former kickboxing rival Alex Pereira. At the Madison Square Garden-held event, “Poatan” will be looking to do what Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori, Robert Whittaker, and Jared Cannonier all failed to — blemish the middleweight record of “The Last Stylebender.”
Early into his UFC tenure, Adesanya gained a reputation as a slick and entertaining striker. That narrative was aided by stoppage victories over Derek Brunson, Costa, and Whittaker, as well as a five-round war with Kelvin Gastelum.
However, having gone to the scorecards in his last three defenses, Adesanya has begun to face the wrath of fans who brand his style ‘boring’ and too defensive. That came to a head at UFC 276 this past July, with many leaving the arena early as the champ outpointed “The Killa Gorilla.”
As well as many fans, a number of fighters have also taken issue with how Adesanya is maintaining his place on the throne.
While he later backtracked, former champ-champ Henry Cejudo initially called on the UFC to “stop pushing” the middleweight titleholder. In addition, light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith and welterweight star Khamzat Chimaev criticized Adesanya’s approach.
But the Nigerian-New Zealander isn’t without his backers. And now joining the likes of Alexander Volkanovski and Chael Sonnen in that bracket is the #1-ranked UFC bantamweight.
O’Malley Defends Adesanya Against ‘Boring’ Narrative
During a recent episode of the TimboSugarShow podcast, Sean O’Malley looked ahead to this weekend’s pay-per-view, which will be headlined by the unique combat sports trilogy bout between Adesanya and Pereira.
Before discussing the matchup itself, O’Malley took aim at those who have been criticizing the reigning middleweight champion’s reign. According to “Sugar,” Adesanya has been doing everything required of him.
“It drives me crazy when people start talking about Izzy’s last performances, how they’re not entertaining,” O’Malley said. “Dude, he’s been defending the belt, he’s been an active champion, he’s fighting the number one guys, he’s fighting the next guy in line, and sometimes the fights aren’t the most fun, but he’s still continuing to put on performances for the fans.
“So, it drives me crazy when people talk about him not being super entertaining. Because him versus Kelvin Gastelum, I mean, that was because Kelvin brought it to him. You’re the champ. You gotta beat the champ to be the champ,” O’Malley added, “I think what he’s been doing is working for him.”
Should Adesanya’s pre-UFC 281 predictions ring true come fight night, it’s unlikely fans will be left with the same attitude as many were earlier this year.
Given his history with Pereira, Adesanya has insisted that their headliner is about more than just the title, it’s about retribution. With that, “The Last Stylebender” is looking to put an exclamation point on a victory over the Brazilian.
Do you agree with Sean O’Malley’s assessment of Israel Adesanya’s recent defenses?
Please provide transcription credit with a link to this article if you use any of these quotes.