Israel Adesanya has yet to lose in MMA including being 8-0 inside the Octagon where he defended his middleweight belt for the first time at UFC 248. There, he edged out a decision win over Yoel Romero in a lackluster fight. Although “The Last Stylebender” has looked impressive he has some tough challenges ahead of him.
When the UFC returns, Adesanya’s next title defense will come against undefeated Paulo Costa. If he gets past that, he could fight the likes of Jared Cannonier and Darren Till among others. Although some think Costa could earn a knockout win, it is another undefeated fighter in Edmen Shahbazyan who poses the biggest problems.
Everyone knows how good Adesanya’s striking is given he comes from the kickboxing background. Although many thought it would be wrestlers that give him problems that has not been the case. The Last Stylebender beat the likes of Derek Brunson, Kelvin Gastelum, and Romero. But, Shahbazyan poses a ton of problems for the champ.
First off, he has a well-rounded game and has finishing power. Since his UFC debut where he beat Darren Stewart by split decision, he has three-straight first round finished. He TKO’d Charles Byrd in 38 seconds, submitted Jack Marshman in 1:12 and then knocked out Brad Tavares in just 2:27. He became just the second person to knockout Tavares in the first with Robert Whittaker being the other. Adesanya went five rounds with him.
Why Shahbazyan can have success is the fact he has proven to be hard to hit. He absorbs just 2.56 significant strikes per minute while landing 2.24 significant strikes per minute. He also has a very impressive 0.96 knockdown ratio compared to Adesanya’s 0.88.
It seems unlikely this fight would hit the ground, but Shahbazyan’s ground game is underrated and he proved that in the Marshman scrap. If the fight hits the ground, the surging contender could have a shot to sink in a submission against Adesanya. But, he still could have success on the feet.
Although Adesanya uses his counter striking, Shahbazyan’s constant pressure and knockout power could be his path to success. He also uses all his limbs to mix it up and frustrate his opponents.
In order to get the crack at Adesanya, Shahbazyan will need to win most likely two more wins. But, he has what it takes to be the one to hand The Last Stylebender his first loss.
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This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 4/20/2020.