Israel Adesanya coach Eugene Bareman is too polite to engage in the type of insults that accompany post-fight social media chatter. The furthest he’ll go on the opinion that Robert Whittaker beat his charge, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, is to question the smarts of the UFC 271 scorer.
The vast majority of media outlets scored the bout for Adesanya this past Saturday at Toyota Center. Even more importantly, the three judges octagon-side delivered 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 tallies for a unanimous decision. Yet there was a small, but vocal contingent including Whittaker who questioned if the champ had done enough in the rematch.
“I might have a bias, but I think 4-1’s a good assessment,” Bareman responded Monday on The MMA Hour. “At a stretch, I don’t see it, but 3-2. To give Robert the fight, you’re going into a space where you’re teetering with just not being intelligent.”
Although Whittaker delivered a better performance on Saturday, Bareman stated that Adesanya was left with a mental block. This made Adesanya’s performance less confident than expected and brought the bout closer than they had hoped. Bareman said that Adesanya was less effective in attacking from the right and this reduced his dominance
” There were a few things I wanted him to do,” Bareman stated. You could clearly see that he struggled with Robert, which made Israel anxious about being aggressive. … I asked him to throw what are called false leads. These are not feints. They just pretend to be going in, so you can get a better idea of Robert’s intentions.
“Some right hands, when you throw the right hand, but you don’t really commit to it – something to just draw out what Robert was going to give, so Israel could see it, and when he actually wanted to attack, he could be a lot more confident. Sometimes, it’s not easy to see what is happening in the corner. It was a bit more than he ought .”
One thing Adesanya’s behavior wasn’t, Bareman said, was a tell for an injury to his right hand. During the broadcast, play-by-play commentator Jon Anik revealed a text message from longtime UFC color commentator Joe Rogan – absent from the event due to a reported “schedule conflict” later called “bullsh*t” by UFC President Dana White – that speculated Adesanya’s right hand was broken.
“It wasn’t about a broken hand,” Bareman said, pointing to his head. “It was up here.”
The biggest surprise to Bareman was Whittaker’s late-fight approach. After the challenger was dropped in the first round and hobbled by leg kicks, Adesanya’s coach expected the ex-champ to up his intensity in the final rounds. Instead, the fight proceeded largely at the pace it had for the previous 15 minutes.
“Me, Israel, and the coaching staff predicted that he’d wait much longer,” Bareman stated. “We basically thought it would be a more even mix of him having spurts of aggression and waiting. And it was exactly that, instead of last time, he was maybe all a lot of aggression and pushing forward . … What surprised us more is as we thought the fight was slipping away from Robert, we thought he would risk the biscuit a bit more, but he seemed very content to not come after it as aggressively as we thought he might at the start of each round. Perhaps it’s his corner who advised him .”
Ultimately, Bareman was satisfied with Adesanya’s performance given the circumstances this past Saturday night. Bareman hopes that Adesanya will be back in the Octagon on June 4th as part of the 2022 campaign. He also wants to see four fights. The second challenge will be the most difficult.
” I don’t think that it was his best performance but he did the job convincingly so that’s what I like,” he stated. “I’m not going to say it was a whitewash, because I think Israel could have done better. While he did a good job defensively, I believe he could have done more offensive .