Israel Adesanya vs. Jan Blachowicz: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IMarch 5, 2021

Israel Adesanya vs. Jan Blachowicz: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

    UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya isn't satisfied with just one title belt. On Saturday, in the main event of the stacked UFC 259 card, he will hike up to light heavyweight to challenge Jan Blachowicz in a bid for a second piece of championship hardware.

    Defeating Blachowicz won't be an easy task. The Pole will be the bigger, stronger man and enters the Octagon with plenty of momentum. If Adesanya can complete this feat, however, he will join Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo on the extremely sparse list of UFC fighters to hold titles in two weight classes concurrently.

    Ahead of UFC 259, Bleacher Report has you covered with a head-to-toe breakdown of this champion vs. champion main event, along with a forecast as to how the fight is likely to end.


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    Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    This one is a no-brainer.

    Blachowicz has solid striking, but Adesanya is arguably the best striker in MMA.

    Long before he was the UFC middleweight champion, he was knocking people senseless as a professional kickboxer. He went 75-5 in that sport, picking up victories over solid opposition in China, New Zealand, Europe and the United States.

    Adesanya then brought his world-class striking to MMA, expertly adjusting his weapons for the nuances of this new sport—namely, the threat of takedowns. He's 20-0 as a mixed martial artist, with 15 of those wins coming via knockout.

    Again, Blachowicz has decent striking in his own right—better than that of many of his light heavyweight peers—but he's grossly outmatched in this component of the game against Adesanya.


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    Josh Hedges/Getty Images

    Neither Adesanya nor Blachowicz is known for his wrestling. Both men prefer to do their fighting on the feet, so there's not a ton of material available with which to compare their wrestling games.

    That being said, the evidence suggests Blachowicz should hold the advantage in this department. The light heavyweight champion attempts roughly one takedown per 15-minute fight, with a takedown success rate of 52 percent. He also denies 65 percent of the takedowns attempted against him.

    While Adesanya has a better takedown defense rate at 86 percent, he has never attempted a takedown of his own in mixed martial arts competition. For all we know, the middleweight champion has NCAA-level takedowns in his back pocket, but we just haven't seen them yet.

    For that reason alone, we have to assume Blachowicz is the superior wrestler.


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    Jan Blachowicz locks up a standing rear-naked choke.
    Jan Blachowicz locks up a standing rear-naked choke.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    As noted in the previous slide, Adesanya and Blachowicz are primarily strikers and therefore rarely need to rely on their grappling. However, Blachowicz clearly has the edge in terms of submissions.

    The Pole has finished nine of his 27 victories by way of submission—surprisingly, more fights than he's won by knockout. Several of those submissions have been impressive too, particularly his standing rear-naked choke against Devin Clark in 2017. That's an unusual submission and showed great positional awareness and killer instinct on his part.

    Then again, while all the stats suggest Blachowicz is the superior submission fighter, Adesanya does have a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Those don't come easy, so we can safely assume he's got some solid submissions of his own, even if his striking skill means he never needs to use them.


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    Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

    Blachowicz's X-Factor: Legendary Polish Power

    Blachowicz recently told ESPN's Ariel Helwani that he expects to weigh somewhere between 215 and 220 pounds in the cage at UFC 259, while Adesanya has repeatedly boasted that he hasn't packed on any extra mass for his light heavyweight debut and will likely weigh around 193 pounds on fight night. That is a substantial weight difference and will translate into some clear physical advantages for Blachowicz.

    He will probably be able to outmuscle Adesanya in any grappling exchanges—including tie-ups against the cage. He will also be the harder hitter, even if he's the slower, less technically proficient striker.

    Blachowicz speaks often about his "legendary Polish power," and that power will be more pronounced than ever in this fight with the significantly smaller middleweight champion.


    Adesanya's X-Factor: Aiming and Firing

    While Adesanya is going to be the smaller, lighter man in the cage at UFC 259, he should simultaneously have significant advantages in terms of speed and accuracy.

    For every bomb Blachowicz throws, Adesanya should be able to throw—and land—several smaller shots. In fact, unless the light heavyweight champion lands something decisive early on, Adesanya's speed and accuracy advantages should become clear quite quickly.

    As he's said several times previously, he doesn't throw and hope; he aims and fires.


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    Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

    As I said in the B/R Staff Predictions for UFC 259, I expect Israel Adesanya to win this fight, but he'll have to work for it.

    My crystal ball shows Blachowicz closing the distance as early as he's able to and instigating grueling, close-quarters tie-ups with his smaller foe. That strategy might work for a round or two, but it will begin to fail as Adesanya's footwork starts to make him an increasingly elusive target.

    It's at that point that things will likely start to go poorly for Blachowicz.

    The light heavyweight has a terrible habit of unleashing wild blitzes in his fights, throwing multiple strikes with his chin hanging out in the open like laundry on a clothesline. On several occasions, those chaotic bull-rushes have served their desired purpose and led Blachowicz to violent, knockout wins, but that will not be the case in this fight.

    The more mobile Adesanya becomes, the more wild Blachowicz's attacks will get. Eventually, the middleweight champion will catch the light heavyweight champion charging in, producing a knockout that looks quite similar to the one in his 2019 defeat of Robert Whittaker.

    Prediction: Adesanya, TKO, Rd. 3


    Unless otherwise noted, all stats in this article are per UFC Stats.