In 2019, Israel Adesanya claimed the title of the best male fighter.
Last year was one hell of a ride for the world of MMA. Fighters put their hearts on their sleeves each and every time out to deliver some of the most memorable performances that the world has ever seen. Among those who stood out the most, there was a former kickboxing sensation turned undefeated MMA kingpin, Israel Adesanya.
The Scrap staff whittled the list of contenders down to four for the final voting. In the end, the Nigerian-New Zealander would beat out two dual-division champions. The first in UFC bantamweight and flyweight titlist, Henry Cejudo with the other being Bellator’s lightweight and featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. The third of the four total finalists? Well, technically Jorge Masvidal did win the Baddest Motherfucker belt …
For Adesanya, his year started off with a dream fight of his when he was matched with former middleweight ruler Anderson “The Spider” Silva. Creating an even more perfect scenario for “The Last Stylebender,” the fight would take place in Australia as the main event of UFC 234.
Adesanya would cleanly outpoint his idol in a tense three-round showdown of flash and technique. Two months later, he would go onto compete in one of the greatest fights the sport has ever seen when he claimed the interim title over Kelvin Gastelum.
Capping his three-fight stretch off in 2019, Adesanya would look to unify the championship straps against his Aussie counterpart in the undisputed king, Robert Whittaker. The two would go to battle in the biggest fight in Australasia’s history as well as performing in front of the largest crowd in UFC history.
The 57,000+ in attendants witnessed Whittaker get stunned late in the opening frame before Adesanya beautifully finished the job in the second with a crisp counter combination consisting of three hooks. Thus making him the first and only person to defeat Whittaker at 185-pounds – snapping his nine-fight winning streak.
In terms of ways to win, Adesanya did just about all he possibly could have in 2019 without getting a submission. A methodical victory over a legend, coming out on top in an absolute war with a title on the line, then lastly, flawlessly executing a gameplan to finish a very skilled and proven champion.
At 18-0, the middleweight king will surely look to set the bar even higher in 2020.