Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker could only heap praise on Israel Adesanya following his recent performance.
Adesanya enjoyed a dominant second-round TKO victory over Paulo Costa to defend his middleweight title in the UFC 253 headliner late last month.
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Whittaker, of course, lost his middleweight strap to Adesanya last year and has notably made no secrets about not liking Adesanya in recent months.
But even he couldn’t help but give props to “The Last Stylebender” — even if he did always believe he had what it took to defeat Costa.
“Did I expect him to finish him in that fashion? No, I did not,” Whittaker told ESPN in a recent interview. “But everything leading up to the finish I saw as a possibility. He looked good in that fight man, gotta give it to him. I don’t like the guy [laughs] but he’s bloody good.
“… I think Izzy really controlled him. A lot of people are gonna say Paulo Costa didn’t do much, and maybe he didn’t, but Izzy controlled that fight very, very well. It’s very hard for people to speak on Costa, why he didn’t do what he did because he was in there. It’s hard to move forward against a counter striker like that, especially when he’s making you pay every time you go in. Izzy just controlled that fight. Hats off to Izzy, good fight.”
So what do other fighters in the middleweight division have to do to counter Adesanya’s game? “The Reaper” believes one must play Adesanya’s game by looking to counter him.
“You gotta wait for him to come forward,” Whittaker said. “You got to play his game, you can’t move in on him. His counter striking is honestly, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. You have to take that into consideration when preparing for him.”
That’s not to say Whittaker didn’t know how good Adesanya already was. After all, he should know better than most.
However, Adesanya’s recent performances — against Costa especially — have only convinced Whittaker further.
“Certainly [knew Adesanya was good], but it was just reinforced in these last couple of fights,” Whittaker added.
You can watch the full interview below: