Israel Adesanya Gets His Redemption: So Who Is Next For The Champ?

Israel Adesanya Gets His Redemption: So Who Is Next For The Champ?
Image ©Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
✍️ Written by
Frank Weber
🗓 Updated
May 19th 2023

In one of the most exciting championship fights in recent memory, Israel Adesanya reclaimed his Middleweight belt on Saturday night after knocking out Alex Periera.

There was obviously more behind this fight than just the belt–this was the fourth time Adesanya and Pereira have faced off, the second in MMA, and Periera had come out on top in all three of the first matchups.

However, contrary to my prediction, Adesanya was able to get his hand raised in the fourth, and he did so in an emphatic fashion. It took only a round and a half for Adesanya to get it done, managing to put Pereira out COLD with a quick counter right, followed up by, well, a flurry of punches.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Adesanya opened the fight as a moderate favorite, sitting at around -180 to get it done. He proved himself worthy of those odds, and now has his sights set on his next opponent.

Speaking of his next opponent though…who should it be? Just take a look at the top 5 in the Middleweight Division, and how Adesanya has faired against all of them:

1. Alex Periera (1-1, most recently knocked him out at UFC 287)

2. Robert Whitaker (2-0, most recently won via decision at UFC 271)

3. Marvin Vettori (1-0, most recently won via decision at UFC 263)

4. Jared Cannonier (1-0, most recently won via decision at UFC 276)

5. Paulo Costa (1-0, most recently won via knockout at UFC 253)

So, Adesanya is 6-1 against the top five in the division, and the next guy up is Dricus du Plessis who is, in my opinion, not ready for a title shot.

So let's take a look at who could fill in:

Jan Blachowicz

Blachowicz took to twitter after UFC 287 to express his interest in taking on the Middleweight champ for the second time in his career. Blachowicz and Adesanya first faced off at Light Heavyweight at UFC 253, where Blachowicz won via a unanimous decision.

Blachowicz’s tweet was the following:

"Congratulations on a successful rematch, @stylebender. If you want to try another one, you know where to find me. This time at middleweight for your belt. #UFC287"

I’d love to see a rematch between Blachowicz and Adesanya, but the fact that Jan wants to do it at Middleweight is a bit…confusing. Blachowicz is, lightly put, an absolute unit. The man is HUGE–and he wants to come DOWN to 185?

Blachowicz has never fought at 185, but to his credit has also never missed weight at 205. So maybe he can do it–but, frankly speaking, that’s not a weight cut that I want to see.

Khamzat Chimaev

This is the fight I want to see the most, but Chimaev is just such a wild card that I never know if it will come to fruition. Chimaev, who is technically a Welterweight, has struggled to make 170 on COUNTLESS occasions. He’s been rumored to be moving up to 185 for what feels like a year now, and has actually only two official welterweight bouts under his belt in the UFC.

So, assuming Chimaev wants to move up, it’s safe to say he’s in line for the title. But, does he deserve an automatic shot?

As much as a Chimaev vs Adesanya championship fight would excite me, the prospects of a Chimaev vs Whittaker fight entices me even more. Even a Chimaev vs Pereira bout would be incredible–so maybe instead of rushing Chimaev into a championship fight, we play around with him a bit first and see what matchups we can piece together.

Dricus Du Plessis

I know, I said earlier that he’s not ready, but there’s an extra crumb to this fight that makes it a bit more realistic. Adesanya, who reigns from Nigeria, is very proud of his African roots. He’s been pushing for a fight card to take place in Africa since he became champion, and Dana White said at the UFC 287 press conference that they are definitely working towards it.

Du Plessis, who reigns from South Africa, has recently said that he is the true African UFC fighter.

“Did those belts ever go to Africa?” Du Plessis told reporters during the UFC 285 media day. “As far as I know, they came to America and New Zealand. I’m going to take a belt to Africa. I’m the African fighter in the UFC.”

Adesanya took umbrage with these words, even saying he would be interested in fighting Du Plessis, but only if he got a couple more wins under his belt.

“F*ck, I don’t want to give (Du Plessis) no clout,” Adesanya told reporters at the UFC 287 post-fight press conference. “I want to whoop his ass so bad. I want to do it in South Africa, or Nigeria, but he’s got to do work. He’s got to do something. Show me something so I can whoop that ass and I can show you history. I’ll remind you, because you’ve got to choose your words wisely when you speak on people that have come before you, people that have paved the way for you. You’ve got to pick your words wisely.

“If he does work, and I pray to God he keeps winning, I will gladly drag his carcass across South Africa.”

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