UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has his sights set on a huge UFC Fight Night showdown between two of his divisional rivals. “The Last Stylebender” broke down the battle between his former foe Kelvin Gastelum and Jared Cannonier in a recent YouTube video. The No. 9-ranked Gastelum and the No. 3-ranked Cannonier are set to square off at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on August 21, 2021, on ESPN+.
Adesanya beat Gastelum in 2019 in a “fight of the year” bout at UFC 236 to win the interim middleweight title, but he hasn’t faced off against Cannonier. Both men are coming off of losses to former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, who is likely to face “The Last Stylebender” next. Adesanya said he thinks a big win over Gastelum could put Cannonier into the title picture. And after the way Gastelum and Adesanya threw down during their first fight, Gastelum is always in the championship conversation. Adesanya is predicting big things from the fight.
“I look forward to watching this fight, I feel like it’s going to be a beautiful chess match,” Adesanya said in his “Stylebender Breakdown” video. “Going to be one of those cerebral fights between both guys if they come in correct. And f***, it could be another fight of the year. Don’t at me. Don’t at me.”
Adesanya added, “This is an intriguing fight for many reasons. I know Jared is the dark horse of the middleweight division, regardless of his last loss. Don’t sleep on him. And because I fought Kelvin Gastelum and I know how tough he is to deal with.”
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Adesanya Says Cannonier Is a Finisher: ‘He’s a Guy Who Can Put People Away’
Adesanya pointed out that Cannonier has a six-inch reach advantage over Gastelum, 77.5 inches to 71. Cannonier, who holds a record of 13-5, stands at 5’11” and has fought at heavyweight and light heavyweight, while the 17-7 Gastelum is 5’9″ and is an undersized middleweight, having fought previously at welterweight.
“His advantage in this fight I’ll say is his reach. He’s got a significant reach advantage over Kelvin, which obviously isn’t always an advantage if you don’t use it right. So you have to learn how to use it. With jabs, long game, also kicks, leg kicks, Jared is really good at leg kicks,” Adesanya said. “If I was Jared I’d add a teep in there, because Kelvin will be looking to catch that leg and run a double. He loves a double, he’ll pick it up, get underneath you and then slam you to the ground. So I’d switch that up to the teep if I was Jared. If I was Jared, I would be establishing my long weapons first to start the fight off. For the first round ’til I find my flow. That’s where Jared’s boxing comes in, his head movement, his hooks, by then if you’re successful, Kelvin will be frustrated and really try to close the distance.”
Adesanya said Cannonier could also catch Gastelum with a knee or kick when Gastelum tries to come in for a takedown. “Feints as well … establish feints, get his brain ticking,” Adesanya said. “As a former heavyweight, former light heavyweight, he puts people away. He’s got that sting. When you walk around that heavy for so many years, it’s like weight training. And then when you get your diet right and bring your weight down, you still keep some of that power. Jared is a finisher. He’s a guy who can put people away.”
In the leadup to his fight with Gastelum, Cannonier told ESPN’s Megan Olivi he has been working on getting better with the goal of getting a title shot. “I’m right there knocking on the door of that opportunity, I’m definitely a more complete fighter,” Cannonier said. “I feel that just the way I even perceive MMA has evolved. I’ve dissected it more thoroughly. … This is like my 11th, 12th year of being a professional and I still feel like I’m green. I’m super enthusiastic about it, I’m always thinking about it. … I’m excited for the future.”
Before losing to Whittaker in October 2020, Cannonier had finished three straight middleweight opponents, beating Jack Hermansson, Anderson Silva and David Branch by TKO. Adesanya said about potentially facing Cannonier, “I look forward to that challenge. With a win over Kelvin, not just any win, a dominant win over Kelvin, he might just put himself in line, after Robert (Whittaker).”
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Adesanya Says Kelvin Is a ‘Motherf***** … He’s a Guy You Can’t Sleep On’
“A lot of people sleep on him because of the recent skid he’s had. But you don’t understand, Kelvin is a motherf*****. He f**** it up,” Adesanya said of Gastelum. “He’s a guy you can’t sleep on or else you’ll get slept.” Adesanya said the key for Gastelum will be to close the distance to get inside and past Cannonier’s reach.
“He does that by different methods, the stutter step, his footwork, he has to find a way to get close so he can box,” Adesanya said. “Kelvin does that by using intense pressure. Kelvin will be in your face from the get go of the fight and he will just force you on the back foot as much as possible until you feel like you can’t handle that pressure and have to do something else. But if you stay calm, you’re able to handle that and then switch it on him. His pressure into range is beautiful.”
Adesanya added, “His combos are slick. Not even just his combos, his 1-2, that’s something he’s dropped many people with. … One thing that’s definitely going to help Kelvin in this fight if he’s going to use it is wrestling. And I’d advise him to use it, almost from the get go. Get the single leg and then just come up. Pressure him against the fence. … Work him in the clinch, take him down, or break away and box him while you’re there.”
Adesanya added that Gastelum has the conditioning to push a pace against Cannonier. “If you fight Kelvin Gastelum, I’d advise Jared, pack breakfast, lunch and dinner, it could be a long night,” The Last Stylebender said.
Gastelum has recently been training with Olympic gold medalist and former UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo. “It feels great,” Gastelum said at a press conference. “The preparation we had for this fight was like any other. … I did a couple different things, I went out and trained with Henry a couple times, for a few weeks. And I got to pick his brain. … I got to learn from him, he got to show me how he structures his training. This guy is a winner. Behind the Triple C facade, there’s a really intelligent competitor.”