UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is to move up to the light heavyweight division to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the 205lbs title, according to UFC president Dana White.
Adesanya defended his title at UFC 243 in September, knocking out Paulo Costa in the second round after a dominant performance. On the same night, Polish veteran Jan Blachowicz knocked out Dominick Reyes to claim the vacant title following Jon Jones’ move up to heavyweight.
After last month’s UFC 254 event where former champion Robert Whittaker defeated Jared Cannonier, many believed it was all set up for a rematch between the two best fighters to come out of Australasia.
Dana White confirmed it was a ‘very appealing fight’ to make, while Adesanya had previously said that if Whittaker ‘wants that work’ then he’d be open to it also. Whittaker revealed in an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that he felt he didn’t need to campaign for a title shot as he felt it was ‘inevitable’ that he would fight for the title again.
That hasn’t gone down well with Dana White, who confirmed that ‘Bobby Knuckles’ stance has made it easy for him to grant Adesanya’s wishes and allow him to fight to become a double champ.
Speaking after UFC Vegas 12, White said;
“When the fight was over, the last fight on Fight Island, I was like ‘I’m gonna have to sit down with this kid [Adesanya] and convince him why he has to fight Whittaker. Whittaker’s come out and says he doesn’t want to fight him. Craziest shit I’ve ever seen. There’s no arguing with Israel now. I thought Whittaker deserved the shot and Whittaker doesn’t want it so yeah, we’ll let him do it [move up to 205lbs].“
While the fight is something fans will be excited to see, it also has drawn criticism for Adesanya. ‘The Last Stylebender’ has been going back and forth with Jon Jones online but had previously turned down his invitations to move up to the light heavyweight division for a super fight.
Now that Jones has left the division to pursue a career at heavyweight, Adesanya has moved up at the first opportunity to take on Blachowicz.
Blachowicz is obviously a great fighter with names like Jacare Souza, Luke Rockhold, Jared Cannonier and Dominick Reyes on his record. But he will have a clear striking disadvantage against Adesanya and it’s quite clear that this is a scenario where Adesanya is taking advantage of the fact the division has a weaker champion than it has had for the last decade.
Adesanya himself says this is all a part of the plan and says he still plans to fight Jon Jones in 2021, with the expectation that it will take place in the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in front of fans.
Despite his insistence that he wants the Jones fight, it’s hard to look at this decision without asking questions.
The decision not to fight Whittaker is understandable, considering he demolished him in just two rounds via a violent knockout too. Jared Cannonier’s defeat at UFC 254 has obviously thrown the UFC’s plans for the middleweight division into disarray too.
When it comes to the fight between Blachowicz and Adesanya, the Nigerian will be a heavy favourite going into it. His striking advantage, speed, accuracy and supreme confidence in the way he has conquered every fighter he’s come up against so far.
Blachowicz will be a different problem to anything he has faced before though. His genuinely huge frame will no doubt give him an edge in physicality and he has a good wrestling game which also allows him to rack up submissions. If he employs a tactic to get the fight to the ground he will have a clear path to victory, but overall this for me is Adesanya’s fight to lose.