By NICK KARDIS
Avatar: The Last Airbender was a smashing success for Nickelodeon, cementing itself as a staple for late millennials and generation Z-ers. One such fan caught in the Avatar storm, Israel Adesanya, also happens to be a rising star in the UFC. Adesanya, who is appropriately nicknamed the Style Bender, cited Avatar as his inspiration for his name; Adesanya has even gone so far as to introduce traditional kung-fu fighting to the octagon. Thanks to his quick and accurate striking style, calmness, and an arsenal of kicks, elbows, knees, and fists Adesanya boasts a 15-0 UFC record.
In 2006, at about the same time Avatar premiered, legendary fighter Anderson Silva embarked on his six-year middleweight title reign, which spanned from 2006 to 2012. Much like how Avatar the Last Airbender helped bring Asian animation into the limelight, Anderson Silva’s style — consisting of high-level strikes and calm precision — did the same for the UFC. In fact, his historic run is what attracted Adesanya the sport. And this past weekend during UFC 234, Adesanya won a unanimous decision against the trailblazer and former champion
In the pre-fight conference, Adesanya commented on how Anderson Silva “showed me a skinny black kid can beat anyone up.” Although Adesanya is not one to mince words, he has a lot of respect for his opponent. After the bout, there was a heartfelt moment when the two competitors embraced. The camera picked up a few words between the fighters: Adesanya told Silva that he understands the game and the risk of fighting. Silva said during the pre-fight interviews that he wants to be a role model for young fighters, and at the age of 43, he seems to be doing just that. He has lasted so long in no small part to his fighting style, which utilizes expert footwork and distancing to reduce the amount of damage sustained.
The fight was a proverbial passing of the torch. Silva lost but held his own against someone who is essentially a younger version of himself, and the new breed of fighter in the UFC. Adesanya posts memes on Instagram of other fighters and does not shy away from trash talk. But, he brings some of the old guard with him. His style is built around genuine skill in striking, and he has shown respect for the sport. If he can use that high-level striking without getting himself hurt, we might have another Anderson Silva on our hands.