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MMA Squared: Israel Adesanya, willing to die - Heart of a lion

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Standing at the cage before the start of round 5, he whispered these words to himself and his entire UFC career flashes before our eyes.

Back against the wall, face swollen, twice rocked and the score tied, these words Adesanya spoke to himself going into the fifth round of his title fight with Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236. How did we get here?

UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini

The flamboyant kickboxer was known for his showmanship long before swaggering into the UFC.

UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini

Upon entering the octagon he marked his territory with a painfully literal metaphor.

UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini

But he performed well twice against journeymen...

UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini

Against Brad Tavares he looked dominant over five rounds and a broader portion of the fanbase was compelled to acknowledge his legitimacy.

UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini
UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini

Booked against Derek Brunson, the harder the challenge, the more profound his performance.

UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini

The Anderson Silva fight was pleasantly weird, and while it didn’t feature a highlight reel finish, maybe that was just another gift from Izzy to us. Don’t hurt Andy no more. We love him.

UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini

And then UFC 236. The fun and games are over. He dug deeper than most people will their whole lives, whispering to himself “I’m willing to die for this, heart of a lion.” Now he has a belt and Robert Whittaker is waiting, while Jon Jones says his name. The jungle has arrived.


Hey all, this is Chris @RiniMMA thanks for reading. I’ll be doing a more in depth art series on the comain and main events of UFC 236 on my profile & youtube pages in a year long series called The Year in Fighting: 2019. Join me.

UFC 236, Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Jon Jones Chris Rini