Israel Adesanya’s UFC 259 showdown with Jan Blachowicz is a fascinating match-up with the middleweight king taking a risk by moving up.
The bookies have him as favourite to beat the powerful Polish champion and most MMA fighters seem to agree.
Despite the fact that Blachowicz has the size, weight and power advantage, the general consensus is that Adesanya has too many weapons in the stand-up game to lose.
Israel Adesanya demolished Paulo Costa at UFC 253 on Fight Island and is keen to move up
Adesanya defeated Robert Whittaker, who is well placed to make a prediction for the fight
One man well placed to make a prediction is Robert Whittaker, who was among the fighters to offer a verdict to Submission Radio.
He lost his belt to Adesanya and knows just what his antipodean rival is capable of.
Whittaker said: ‘Israel’s striking is just so much better. Jan has the big power but Israel doesn’t really get hit that much. I think this is a picture perfect time for Izzy to try and take that light-heavyweight belt.’
And Adesanya’s team-mate Dan Hooker added: ‘That is a tough fight for any man, the old Polish power can definitely get anyone. Israel is nuts. But if anyone can do it, that is my guy.
‘He’s fought guys over 100kilos in New Zealand before and pretty handily beaten guys that much bigger. As they get bigger, they slow down and that is where Israel finds the most success.’
Colby Covington is in the minority in thinking that Jan Blachowicz will win the main event
Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman agreed, saying: ‘To be honest I actually, I got Israel in that fight.
‘Israel is a wizard on the feet and Jan will be looking to knock him out rather than take him down. I would put my money on Israel playing it super smart.’
But there was a dissenting voice among the pro-Adesanya crowd. Colby Covington believes Blachowicz’s power is going to tell in the end.
‘I’m going with Jan Blachowicz, I think he can knock him out,’ he said. ‘I think ‘the last stupid bender’ is a little twig. He’s going to get pieced up and knocked out. Polish power!’
Islam Makhachev, who is fighting Drew Dober on the UFC 259 card, believes the fight will be a close one, with Adesanya just shading the striking battle.
Islam Makhachev (right) thinks Adesanya has the striking advantage by a narrow margin
He told Maclife: ‘I think both guys have very good striking. I think Adesanya maybe has a little bit more, maybe 55-45 in his favour.’
And his opponent agreed, adding: ‘Punching power doesn’t come from body size, it comes from accuracy and speed. Stylebender is so accurate and so fast, he’s going to be able to find a home and I don’t think (about) the weight difference in this fight.’
Two men who know a thing or two about holding two UFC belts concurrently also offered their verdict.
Daniel Cormier, former UFC heavyweight and light-heavyweight champion, offered words of warning for Adesanya and was not as confident as many of the other fighters.
‘Jan does not get the respect he deserves, this guy has come up against everyone on the recent run,’ he told Helen Yee Sports.
‘He’ll be at a disadvantage in terms of speed. There’s a lot of things in Adesanya’s favour and if he can win this fight he will skyrocket to the moon. But there is no room for error against Jan Blachowicz, he can’t get hit. Jan has unreal KO power and if he hits you, he’ll knock you out. Middleweights don’t tend to do well going up, Israel better be careful.’
Former two-weight champion Daniel Cormier thinks there is plenty to worry Adesanya
And Henry Cejudo, the last man to become a ‘champ-champ’ when he won a bantamweight belt to go with his flyweight version, thinks Adesanya will win by KO.
He added: ‘I think he’ll knock out the Polish nightmare, I really do. Nobody fights Israel with tactics. I like him, he is a world champion but he’s not well rounded yet, or at least he hasn’t shown it. Make me see you are going to be pound-for-pound, I don’t see that yet but I do see him winning on Saturday.’
So what of the protagonists themselves?
Adesanya is typically confident. ‘I’m not getting touched this fight, that’s my plan, not getting touched like I did in the Costa fight,’ he told TheMacLife.
‘I didn’t get touched in the Costa (fight) but like I did in the Costa fight because I didn’t let him touch me in the face at all. Make sure I don’t get hit and watch out for the body kick.’
While Blachowicz predicted: ‘I will use my striking to knock him out. It’s part of my game plan but you will have to wait until to see the fight. He will feel the Legendary Polish Power, I promise you.’
Henry Cejudo also believes that Adesanya has enough to get the job done at UFC 259