Israel Adesanya possesses the magnetic personality and otherworldly combat skills required to succeed in mixed martial arts.

It's time to consider if the UFC middleweight champion can provide the highlight-reel performances that would make him famous in the larger sports world.

Adesanya's tepid title defense against Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 on Saturday night was another missed opportunity for perhaps the UFC's most impressive overall athlete to reach the next level of stardom.

In fact, Adesanya has won decisions in his last three middleweight title defences, which MMA analysts refer to as technical, tactical performances following his unsuccessful attempt to win the light heavyweight title.

No matter how passionately Adesanya (23-1) disagrees, many others describe them as being dull.

“They don’t know what real fighting is, or real finesse,” Adesanya said afterward when asked about the fans who booed, whistled and left early during his final two rounds in Las Vegas.

“The greats all get to this point," Adesanya added. "Anderson Silva, GSP (Georges St. Pierre), I’d see them and say, ‘That was a fantastic fight,’ and people would boo them. Same with (Muhammad) Ali, (Floyd) Mayweather. You get to this point where you’re so great, people just want to see you fall.”

But as a media-savvy fighter whose love of anime inspired his nickname — The Last Stylebender — Adesanya knows the importance of iconic moments. With his gravity-defying athleticism, he is among the few MMA fighters who can create them solely from his own talent.

He hasn't really done it since he knocked out Robert Whittaker to claim the undisputed UFC 185-pound title in 2019. 

Adesanya has earned one stoppage victory in his five title defenses while doing nothing that would put him in front of everyone on a social network for days.

Before he faced Cannonier, Adesanya promised to do something spectacular — something worthy of the hefty Vegas ticket prices or the stiff $74.99 (not including the required ESPN+ subscription) for pay-per-view shows in the U.S.

He didn't do it, and he didn't take any risks to give himself a better chance to do it — and then the New Zealander called fans “dumb,” “drunks” and “drongos” for expecting him to do what he said he would do.

He pre-emptively shrugged off any criticism by saying he had “an off night.” “But on my worst day, I can kill the best man,” Adesanya said.

It's not all Adesanya's fault, of course. He is a brilliant counterpuncher, and when an opponent like Cannonier is tentative and sparing with his strikes, Adesanya can't do what he does best.

But the split between Adesanya's personal magnetism and his cage strategy in Las Vegas was jarring.

Adesanya performed an imitation of The Undertaker's ring exit, replete with purple smoke, his signature soundtrack, and headgear, while toting an urn bearing Cannonier's name. He battled Cannonier with dazzling toenail lacquer and a French tip manicure.

“I like to put on a show,” Adesanya said of the pageantry. “I like to entertain, and I did just that.”  

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