Puma just announced their sponsorship of Israel Adesanya, the UFC champion.
The mouth watering deal was signed recently and a confirmation of the Nigerian born, New Zealand based fighter as a growing force in combat sports.
How did his journey get to this junction?
The Last Style Bender as he is called, is redefining MMA combat sports.
But many of the sport fans feel grated by his perceived loquacious approach to his fights.
Other fighters adopted the oriental attitude to fighting, calm and introverted. Allowing their fighting to do the talking.
But israel chose the Mohammed Ali approach, running down his opponent before the fight.
Naturally, this coalesce majority of the fans against him.
Unfortunately for the fans he gets there and destroy their favourite for the fight.
Then he caps it with a kneeling two handed firing of an imaginary machine gun at all around him.
He has been described as too thin to pack a considerable punch.
But the high quality of those he had destroyed in the octagon questions this opinion. .
He got his belt from the defending champion Robert Whittaker whom he virtually destroyed.
The legend, Anderson Silva felt his power immensely.
His last flight, with Romero was not well appreciated by UFC fans.
They wanted him to go and confront Romero, whose fight system, mostly involves appearing lethargic, then suddenly bursting into a knee first, hurtling ball of fury aimed at the opponent’s skull.
Israel who calculates an opposition’s whole fight tactics, understood the traps Romero sets, stayed his ground and picked points off him without committing himself into a stationary position.
Romero stymied with this approach, got disoriented and hardly threw a punch throughout the fight.
The demanding fans who had seen the traps set by Romero and believing their hope of seeing Israel Adesanya battered and bleeding from that same mouth was now at hand, tried to encourage him into the trap.
They were disappointed as Isreal chose caution against brashness, the fans disappointed, turned on him, booing the champion, instead of the challenger who should have done more to force a confrontation.
The last style bender should be hailed for even inviting Romero to fight him. Which sane champion does that.
Other fighters avoid the unpredictable Romero, as you might win him and still end up in a hospital with serious injuries.
He comes armed, with a Bull head and bull shoulders. There is no more terrifying sight in the octagon, as those hunched but bulky head and torso, with extended knee, flying through the air like a heavy projectile flung by an angry tornado.
Israel had called on Marvel and other action movie franchise to look his way.
With Puma coming on board, they may not be far behind.
He is also known as the Broken Native, a testament to his challenges as a kid who looked different than others, in his environment.
As a fan of the Last Style Bender, the 2 opponents I am concerned about are Jon Jones and Costa.
Both comes with contrasting techniques.
Costa the Brazilian, adopts the relentless punching style of Pacquiao. Heavy and always coming with such rapidity, that you can barely evade the flow!
Jon Jones must always take you down and keep you there, then leisurely pick the part of your face to disfigure with his punches and elbow joints.
Getting saved by the bell, hardly avail you much respite, cos as soon as the next bell rings, you are on the floor again, your arms locked under his elbows as he decides whether to intensify the unpaid cosmetic surgery on the areas of your face that already had his earlier hands on attention or chose a fresh area of your facial landscape to introduce his elbow joints to.
And the Broken Native have ticked these 2 guys off by using every chance to call them out.
It can be argued that Israel have added more glamour to UFC fight franchise.
His different entrance routines are always looked forward to, as they are usually accompanied with perfectly choreographed dance steps and exotic costumes.
Puma choosing him as their first MMA fighter talent, accords the niche combat sport, more recognition.
Already, Africa is warming up to the sport, watching israel and other African fighters, like the Usman Brothers, trade kicks and punches in the octagon.
Who knows, the Hollywood studios might come calling tomorrow.
But at present, he has a date with Costa on 27th of September.
We have mentioned how Costa fights, but israel fight system is more of a multilateral than a unilateral approach.
He can lead into a fight with either leg.
Targets the legs constantly and with his long reach can pick out punches.
He tends to see his opponent’s grapples and high kicks before they are launched, sliding away before the moves even gets half way.
He can kick with both legs, high kick to the head, which sometimes leaves him open for a counter punch.
He usually makes the opposition to respond to his moves without creating theirs.
This explains the awkwardness experienced in the Romero fight, as Romero stuck to his covered hole type of trap, instead of, like other boxers, reacting to Israel’s moves.
However, Costa appears to be overwhelmed by the attention Israel kept calling on him.
This would likely affect his composure in the octagon, reducing his confidence level.
Israel needs to win the fight, that niche needs a visible and relatable super champion, he fits the bill..
We are behind him.
By Izu Osuigwe