UFC 230: Israel Adesanya earns first-round knock-out of Derek Brunson in New York City

Kiwi MMA phenomenon Israel Adesanya has taken a gigantic stride towards championship contention, with a devastating first-round finish of Derek Brunson at UFC 230 in New York City.

Adesanya negotiated the early grappling salvos from the American, before catching him on a takedown attempt with a pin-point knee to signal the beginning of the end.

Patiently awaiting the killer blow, 'The Last Stylebender' stalked his prey, sending his wobbled opponent to the canvas twice, before a final flurry drove the nail into Brunson's coffin, and forced referee Herb Dean to step in and end the contest.

After a flamboyant celebratory dance, Adesanya took to the top of the cage to soak up the cheers, tucked an afro pick into his hair, had his hand raised, then wrapped his arm around commentator Joe Rogan.

"They always say, 'he's got no wrestling', but this was like a walk in the park," Adesanya said post-fight, in a nod to the iconic Madison Square Garden venue.

"No, this was a walk in the garden." 

Hard-hitting wrestler Brunson represented Adeanya's sternest test to date, but the Kiwi's proficient stand-up game, combined with his ever-improving takedown defence, was ultimately far too difiicult a puzzle for the veteran to solve and he quickly looked bereft of ideas.

Brunson resorted to illegally grabbing Adesanya's shorts early in the round to keep him in the clinch. That lead an incensed Adesanya to scream at referee Dean, then turn his vitriol towards Brunson, flipping him a middle finger and unleashing a barrage of expletives in his direction.

"I expected him to come at me like he did against Robert Whittaker, when he was all clumsy, or the way he did against Anderson Silva and stay patient.

"But he came out patient and I forced him to be clumsy, I forced him to shoot. 

"I start the game at level two, they're still loading. I got in his head.

"I keep saying, I don't throw and hope, I aim and fire - down the barrel."

The victory maintains Adesanya's flawless professional record, taking him to 16-0 and pushing him to the front of contenders to challenge Robert Whittaker for the promotion's middleweight belt.

Currently sitting ninth in the official rankings, his fourth-straight triumph will likely see him shoot into, at least, the top five.

Jacare Souza's third-round KO against Chris Weidman in the card's co-main event also bodes well for Adesanya's chances of being awarded the next title shot.

Former champion Weidman has now suffered four losses in his past five fights, while Souza's decisive loss to Whittaker in 2017 means it's unlikely the Brazilian will be afforded a rematch.

That outlook depends on Whittaker beating Kelvin Gastelum in their February bout at UFC 234 in Melbourne.

In the event's head-line act, Dan Cormier lived up to his enormous odds with a clinical second-round submission win over Derrick Lewis, becoming the first fighter to defend both light heavyweight and heavyweight belts.