Israel Adesanya punched his ticket to a title unification fight against Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker later this year after winning the interim strap last Saturday night (April 13, 2019) by defeating Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236.
Indeed, “The Last Stylebender” and Gastelum put on a fight for the ages, going back-and-forth for five rounds until Israel pulled away in the final frame by scoring three knockdowns. And Whittaker was watching and was impressed by both men’s performances, especially Adesanya.
“I think this fight forced him to draw a little bit more out of the tank, a little bit more will power, a little bit more heart,” Whittaker told “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show” on via MMA Junkie. “You can see in the fight his ups and downs. A little bit more trials, a little bit more obstacles he had to get over. The adversity he had to get through to make sure he lasted to the end of the fight. I thought it was an amazing fight from both guys,” he said.
That said, “The Reaper” used the fight as great study material, saying that the holes in Adesanya’s game have been exploited even more after the five-round war.
“If you watch the fight you can see the holes that were there from every fight before, they just got exposed bigger. There were holes and there were a lot of things Gastelum exploited, and there were a lot of things Gastelum could’ve exploited but couldn’t because of his makeup, because of his striking style, because of his height, his reach,” said Robert.
“Gastelum was getting in. Gastelum was landing his left. I’ll get in, I’ll land my right. I’m much faster than Gastelum, I’m a better striker. Israel should be very worried. I’m a very hard fight.”
Whittaker and Gastelum were set to fight at UFC 234 earlier this year before a couple of injuries forced Robert out of the event. While that fight could still very well happen down the road, Adesanya is next for the champ. And if Israel got pieced up by Kelvin, Robert says it won’t end well for “The Last Stylebender” once he starts eating his punches.
“He doesn’t like getting hit and he’s very, very hittable,” Whittaker said. “I hit hard. If he can weather the storm and take my shots and survive five rounds like he did with Gastelum, then congratulations to him, he’ll get the win. But I don’t think he’s going to. I’m a better fighter than Gastelum. I hit harder, I’m faster and I come with a new level of intensity he’s not used to,” he added.
“None of (the talk is) going to matter. We’re going to see each other in the octagon and go leather for leather. And if he beats me, he beats me. Good on him. He would’ve earned his place, but I’m going to do everything in my power to make it not happen.”