UFC 259 saw one of the biggest major events in recent history. UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya failed in his quest to become a two-time champion after being defeated by UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Jan Blachowicz.
With his journey in the UFC Light Heavyweight division now over, who – or who – is next for Israel Adesanya?
The most likely answer is that “ The Last Stylebender ” will return to 185 pounds and continue to defend his UFC middleweight title. But with so many adversaries already defeated, who will be next for him?
Here are five potential opponents who could be Israel’s next Adesanya.
# 5 Darren Till (UFC record: 6-3-1)
Before his jump to 205 pounds to face Jan Blachowicz, there was certainly an argument to suggest that Israel Adesanya had cleaned up the UFC middleweight division.
“ The Last Stylebender ” won the UFC middleweight crown to Robert Whittaker at UFC 243, and 2020 saw him successfully defend him against Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa.
“ The Gorilla ” was last seen in a losing effort against Whittaker last summer and is currently booked to face Marvin Vettori at UFC Fight Night 188 in April.
Considering his loss to Whittaker, it seems difficult to argue that Till would pose a threat to Adesanya.
However, the Liverpool, England native is a highly skilled kickboxer and a major threat in melee.
In his welterweight victory over Stephen “ Wonderboy ” Thompson in 2018, Till showed he was also able to fight patient and tactical combat that could give Adesanya a challenge.
The fact that “ The Gorilla ” was named by Bareman suggests the UFC champion has his sights set on him. With a win over Vettori, that fight could be booked for the end of 2021.
# 4 Marvin Vettori (UFC record: 6-2-1)
Given that Israel’s coach Adesanya has identified Darren Till as a potential future opponent, it goes without saying that Till’s next nemesis, Marvin Vectors, will also be taken into account.
“The Italian Dream” is a particularly interesting potential opponent for Adesanya due to the two’s earlier history.
They faced each other in 2018 in Adesanya’s second fight in the UFC. Surprisingly, Vettori took “The Last Stylebender” to the limit.
He managed to win the first round of their fight by beating Adesanya in the clinch. Although Adesanya came back to win – well ahead of the Italian – it was not the most impressive display of his career.
Specifically, Vettori has improved considerably since that fight.
He’s a better submission artist now. His hitting has also improved considerably, as have his takedowns.
If he was able to push Adesanya to the limit before, could he do the same again? If “ The Italian Dream ” can beat Darren Till at UFC Fight Night 188, we might just have a chance to find out.
# 3 Robert Whittaker (UFC record: 13-3)
There is an argument to suggest that Robert whittaker has the best chance of beating Israel Adesanya for the UFC middleweight title.
Adesanya knocked out Whittaker to end his title reign in October 2018.
However, it should be noted that “ The Reaper, ” who has a history of serious injury, had not fought for more than a year prior to this fight.
Critics of Whittaker would suggest he made a serious mistake by being overly aggressive in the fight, essentially playing in the hands of Adesanya.
However, he has shown improvements in both his hitting and his patience since, and scored two wins in 2020 – highlighting both Darren Till and Jared Cannonier.
Whittaker is set to face Adesanya’s next victim, Paulo Costa, possibly in April.
If he can defeat ‘The Eraser’, the UFC could easily book a rematch between their two greatest Oceania-based fighters.
If the UFC is able to take a Down Under show in the near future, it would make sense to bring it up with this potentially huge rematch.
# 2 Kevin Holland (UFC record: 8-2)
One of the UFC’s most surprising achievements in 2020 was the middleweight contender Kevin holland.
“ The Trailblazer ” wasn’t on anyone’s radar to begin with, but has become one of the few UFC fighters to make the most of the strange year affected by COVID-19.
Holland managed to fight five times in 2020, winning all of his visits to the Octagon.
Even more impressive, “The Trailblazer” managed to finish off four of their opponents, with two of those knockouts – against Charlie Ontiveros and “Jacare” Souza – being among the best of the year.
Holland’s victory over Souza was his first in the UFC against a true elite-level opponent, and that put him in line for a shot against another top ten, Derek Brunson, later this month.
Brunson previously acted as the title challenge keeper. In fact, he was knocked out by Israel Adesanya on his rise to the top of the division.
If Holland can impressively eliminate Brunson – earning his sixth straight victory – then it would be hard to deny his title potential.
Given that his penchant for fighting anyone at all times put him in the good books of the UFC, it wouldn’t be at all a shock to see them reward him with a shot for the UFC middleweight title at the end. from 2021.
# 1 Colby Covington (UFC Record: 11-2)
Given Eugene Bareman’s opinion that only Darren Till and Robert Whittaker challenge Israel Adesanya, what if the two lose their upcoming fights?
The likely answer is that the UFC would look to a fighter like Kevin Holland or Marvin Vettori to challenge ‘The Last Stylebender’.
However, there’s always a good chance they’ll think outside the box and give in to the former interim UFC welterweight champion. Colby Covington.
In many ways, this fight could also make sense.
‘Chaos’ has an impressive 11-2 UFC record, but his loss to UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman seems to have eliminated it for the time being.
However, he remains one of the most visible figures in the UFC thanks to his outspoken nature.
And with his phenomenal wrestling game and incredible cardio, he would present a threat to Adesanya that we haven’t really seen him yet.
The fact that this fight would likely sell more pay-per-views than Adesanya vs Holland or Vettori could also tempt the UFC.
At the moment, this one is far away, but there’s no denying that we’ve seen stranger things in the past.