Expat Whanganui fighter Israel Adesanya keeps stacking them up in the UFC after he knocked out American Derek Brunson in Round 1 at the UFC 230 per per view at New York's Madison Square Garden this afternoon.
Adesanya's fourth straight victory in the top MMA promotion in the world moved up to a 15-0 record after he stuffed the takedown attempts of the veteran Brunson (18-7) who has fought most of the the top names in the middleweight division, and then caught him coming in with a perfect knee lift to set up a barrage that ended the fight.
As advertised, Brunson went to his amateur wrestling background from the get-go, being unwilling to trade blows with the experienced Auckland-based kickboxer, getting underhooks to press Adesanya to the cage when he couldn't take him down.
The 29-year-old Nigerian-born Kiwi was then furious that Brunson illegally grabbed his shorts twice, which resulted in a separation by referee Herb Dean and a warning to the American.
Brunson kept looking to shoot, with Adesanya getting the escapes and landing a high head kick, before the American again pushed him back into the cage.
But Adesanya now had the read on Brunson's timing and when the veteran again ducked low to try his ninth attempted take down after previous failures, the Kiwi blasted with a knee strike right on the button and immediately skirted off the cage looking to follow up.
Brunson was smiling but a head kick brought him down to a knee and although he staggered back up, a pinpoint right hand by Adesanya had his legs going out from under him and referee Dean had seen enough and waved it off.
In his post fight interview, Adesanya said he gave himself a B- pass grade for his performance, which was under rating according to the television commentators who marvelled at the fight.
Adesanya said he expected Brunson to get over anxious and charge at him as he had done in previous losses to top MMA fighters like Anderson Silva, who Adesanya has been compared too, and the current UFC middleweight champion, Kiwi-born Australian Robert Whittaker.
"He came out patient, so I forced him to be clumsy."
Adesanya had practiced his knee strikes as a counter to takedowns before the match, but said he and his wrestling coach had not gone full contact with it.
"I said, 'tonight, when I throw it, I'm going 100 per cent.
"I don't just throw and hope, I aim and fire."
Adesanya said his next goal is to be matched against somebody in the Top 5 of the UFC's middleweight division, although in pre-fight interviews he expressed his desire to meet Whittaker sometime in 2019 in a UFC show in Auckland.
Auckland has previously hosted UFC shows in 2014 and 2017.