Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya is one of the most fascinating and dynamic fighters in the UFC today. Coming up in the UFC with his kickboxing background, fans got to watch his amazing journey and development to where, less than two years later, he captured the Middleweight Champion belt.
With his strike IQ, hilarious trash talk, stunning entrances, and unique fighting style, Stylebender has been gaining fans since his first entrance into the Octagon with his debut against Rob Wilkinson at UFC 221. UFC fans always want more, though, and Adesanya delivers, giving us one of the main contenders for “Fight of the Year” with his 5-round epic with Kelvin Gastelum in April 2019 at UFC 236.
Israel Adesanya is undoubtedly the real thing. But what is it that gives him such a fierce edge over his opponents? In this article, we’ll break down Stylebender’s fighting techniques and take a closer look at his individual skill set.
Stylebender’s Techniques & Skills
Here’s a list of the particular techniques and skills that help set Adesanya apart and that you should learn if you want to fight like The Last Stylebender:
1. Tornado Kick
Adesanya originally learned the tornado kick, or 360 roundhouse kick, from a taekwondo champion.
Adesanya went into depth on this technique on the Joe Rogan podcast, saying how first, he begins with a feint with the right hand and then initiates the spin. That spin generates enough force to knock down everyone including heavyweights.
Assuming you’re right-legged, here’s what you need to do to execute a tornado kick like Adesanya. Start by facing forward. Take a full step forward with your right leg. Your weight should now be on the ball of your right foot. Look over your left shoulder. Lift your left knee. Pivoting on the right leg, crouch, then jump. At the top of your jump, you should be facing your target, use your right leg to hit your target with a roundhouse kick. Land on your left leg.
2. Question Mark Kick
It was an epic question mark kick that originally got Adesanya into the UFC. Since then the left question mark kick has become Stylebender’s trademark. While most fighters tend to aim question mark kicks to the head, Adesanya loves throwing them to the body as well as the head.
To execute a question mark kick like Adesanya, here are some tips. First, and most importantly, make sure you lift your knee nice and high. You also want to pivot a lot. Because a question mark kick is such a high kick, it requires a lot of hip rotation for there to be enough power. To do this, point your base toes straight back.
Last, but not least, try not to slam your foot back onto the ground as it’s brutal on your joints.
3. Front Snap Kick
Chances are Adesanya learned to respect the front snap kick, or just snap kick, from watching his hero Anderson Silva who used it to perfection when he knocked out Vitor Belfort with a front snap kick at UFC 126.
We’ve seen Stylebender throw plenty of snap kicks, though, and they are brutally effective.
To throw a snap kick, first, you lift your knee and snap the lower leg into the opponent. Generate the power from the extension of the leg. Because the front snap kick doesn’t involve as much hip movement like many other kicks, it’s a great kick for not compromising balance.
This gives fighters a chance to quickly step in with a combination or reset by lowering the leg quickly to its original position.
4. Hip Feints
While most MMA fighters feint with punches, not many feint with the hips.
Adesanya has learned to use this technique to his advantage, drawing out a defensive reaction then countering. Once his opponent has tasted a hard kick from Adesanya, they’ll definitely be wary of the hip feint.
Feints are more about deception than a distraction. Try to think of it as throwing a kick without actually throwing it. Feinting involves mimicking the body mechanics of a strike to fool your opponent. If they respond with a block, guard adjustment, or strike attempt, you can potentially create an opening for a counter or just take the opportunity to learn something about your opponent.
5. Low Lead Hand
Along with his hip feints, Adesanya throws in plenty of hand feints.
We’ve seen plenty of times how this technique helps him hide his snappy jab. Plus, Adesanya keeps his lead hand lower than many other fighters.
By keeping his lead hand low, it means his jab rises up from below his opponent’s field of vision. This gives an extra element of concealment to his jab which pays massive dividends. Adesanya goes even further, leaning over his lead hip, which draws his opponent’s attention to his head, and away from his low hands.
Try keeping your lead hand low and see how it affects your jab’s percentage.
6. Hand Trapping
Stylebender employs a beautiful range tactic that’s quite often seen in high-level kickboxers, and that is hand trapping. This is where he reaches out and jams up his opponent’s hands before striking.
We saw Adesanya execute this technique beautifully against Brad Tavares and land some wicked elbows.
A trapping technique consists of pushing or blocking your opponent’s hand to limit their range of motion, close the distance, shoot for a takedown, or attack with strikes. You can slap, pull, press, or push either one hand or both. You can also grab your opponent’s wrist, as Adesanya does here against Tavares.
7. Slipping, Rolling, & Evading
Instead of blocking shots, we often see Adesanya switch his stance and use lateral movements to avoid his opponent’s strikes.
Not only does switching stance help take away an opponent’s angles, but it also makes it harder to shoot for the lead leg as the front foot is constantly moving backward.
Essentially, a slip is when you move your head to one side of your shoulder in order to dodge a strike.
It allows you to take no damage, as well as recover more quickly than from a block. Adesanya often uses a slip, slip or a slip, slip, roll to avoid a punch combo. These are higher-level defense techniques than blocking and you should spend time perfecting them.
Last but not least, Adesanya shows remarkable patience in the Octagon. Instead of rushing into any encounter with his opponent, he is able to keep the fight going on his terms.
We saw his exhibit amazing patience in his Gastelum fight where Kelvin Gastelum, a supremely fast fighter, attempted to draw Adesanya into a messy brawl in the first round.
Adesanya stayed patient and fought in his own style, on his own terms, and we all know what happened in the end.
If you want to fight like Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya, then study this list. It’s not one or two techniques that separate Adesanya from so many other UFC fighters, it’s his supreme balance of high-quality offense and defense.
One of Stylebender’s biggest advantages is his kicking game. If you want to fight like Israel Adesanya, make sure you practice your tornado kicks, question mark kicks, as well as your front snap kicks. Having multiple kicks in your striking arsenal is a great way to keep your opponents guessing.
On the defensive side of things, there is a lot to learn from Stylebender. Try to incorporate what you’ve learned from this list into your defensive game and you’ll see immediate rewards. Work on your feints, especially hip feints to deceive and distract.
Furthermore, try keeping your lead hand lower than normal. This allows you to throw unexpected jabs from unusual angles and will help keep your opponent guessing. Just be aware of exposing your chin with that low lead hand.
If you do go with a low lead hand, make sure you work on switching stances, rolling, and evading strikes. Adesanya is able to throw his unusual, unexpected strikes because he spends so little time blocking. This takes a lot of practice and time honing your reactions.
One of the keys to be successful in your fights is being patient. We can all learn a lot from Stylebender’s ability to wait for the opportune moment instead of wading in and weathering heavy storms. Remember, slow is fast, fast is smooth.
Hopefully, that’s helped you get an idea of why Adesanya is such a high-quality fighter. Start working on his techniques and with time and practice, you’ll be able to fight like Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya.