By: Quan (@TheFightFan_)
As we begin to wind down this crazy year of MMA, it’s about that time to start discussing who should be awarded fighter of the year. When thinking of who should win this coveted award, names like Henry Cejudo (15-2-0), Francis N’Gannou (14-3-0), and, Jorge Masvidal (35-13-0) come to mind. Strong arguments can be made for each of these fighters. Cejudo beat arguably the best Bantamweight of all time, T.J. Dillashaw when Dillashaw moved down to challenge Henry for his Flyweight title. Cejudo then moved up in weight to win the Bantamweight title over Marlon Moraes, becoming “Champ Champ” in the process.
Looking at the scariest fighter in the heavyweight division, Francis N’Gannou got two TKO victories this year over some of the greatest fighters the division has seen in Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. Finally, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal; one of the most electric fighters the promotion has seen in years. From his shocking upset over Darren Till, to the unforgettable flying knee that landed flush on the face of Ben Askren, becoming the owner of the fastest KO in UFC history, all the way until his recent domination of Nate Diaz. The man really made a statement this year. All of these fighters had a sensational 2019 and each could win FOTY…if not for someone that went on an absolute tear through the middleweight division.
Israel Adesanya. The MMA world has seen the blossom of a fighter that will become an all-time great. Stylebender (18-0-0) came into 2019 on a mission to cement himself apart from the rest of the pack. After a wild TKO victory that really put the Nigerian native on the map over Derek Brunson in 2018, Izzy went on to capture 3 wins this year as well as UFC Gold, twice. The Interim title and unified the division in October over “The Reaper,” Robert Whittaker; we’ll get back to that fight later, though. Adesanya started the year with a match against one of the best of all time, Anderson Silva. Although far past his prime, it is never a good idea to underestimate the genius of Silva and Adesanya passed this test with flying colors by fighting a true striking chess-match with the veteran Brazilian.
Next up was a real challenge in Kelvin Gastellum. Fresh off of a two fight win streak, Kelvin looked to put an end to the Adesanya hype train in their bout for the Interim Middleweight strap at UFC 236. This matchup was exhilarating from start to finish, a definite contender for fight of the year. Both fighters were hurt on multiple occasions, however, Stylebender showed the heart of a champion and weathered through the early storm to completely dominate Kelvin the championship rounds. With the Interim belt secured, Izzy was all set to fight Robert Whittaker to unify the division. Stylebender came into UFC 243 as the underdog with most thinking that Whittaker’s ability to blitz and roll through his past opponents would be too much for the fighter from Auckland, Australia to handle. Israel proved the doubters wrong by effectively dismantling Bobby Knuck’s gameplan by displaying a masterclass in striking. The swift head movement and hip feints threw Whittaker off and Adesanya was able to put him away in the second round with a devastating counter punch that 100% confirmed Stylebender as a truly special fighter.
As 2019 closes, Izzy has shaken up the MMA world, even getting Jon Jones riled up with entertaining trash talk. Who knows, maybe that is a fight that could come in the future? All of this said, it is hard to deny that Israel Adesanya took the promotion by storm and deserves to be crowned as the Fighter of the Year.
“I don’t throw and hope…I aim and fire.” –Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (2019)
Below is a short video about the hype surrounding Adesanya being the next UFC Superstar. Do you think Izzy is the next Anderson Silva? Comment below!
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