Strickland shocks Adesanya by decision to win UFC middleweight title

Two months ago, Sean Strickland was fighting an unranked opponent inside the UFC Apex. Now he’s the UFC middleweight champion. Strickland pulled off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history Saturday, defeating Israel Adesanya via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) to capture the middleweight title in the UFC 293 main event in Sydney, Australia.                                                                                                                                                                    Adesanya, a Nigerian-born New Zealander, was making the first title defense of his second 185-pound reign after beating Alex Pereira to regain the belt in April. “Am I f—–g dreaming? Am I going to wake up? Somebody hit me,” Strickland said in his postfight interview. “Oh my God, you guys. Literally, never in a million years would I have thought I’d be here.” Strickland – who was in the neighborhood of a 5-to-1 betting underdog – set the tempo of the fight late in Round 1, knocking down Adesanya with a right hand and nearly forcing a referee stoppage with a barrage of follow-up punches. Strickland became the first fighter credited with a knockdown against Adesanya in the UFC. It was also just Strickland’s second knockdown as a UFC middleweight.

tromoto nv

Adesanya fought back in the second round, staying busier than Strickland with leg kicks and body jabs. But Strickland used his pressure to outwork Adesanya in the last three frames, constantly getting in the former champion’s face and landing the harder punches. “Izzy’s a bad motherf—-r, guys. … He’s beaten the majority of my friends pretty easily,” Strickland said. “Man, I was even doubting myself at times.”                                                              UFC president Dana White said he’s leaning toward booking an immediate rematch between Strickland and Adensanya. “I think you do the rematch, absolutely,” White said at the postfight press conference. “The rematch is interesting.”

With the victory, Strickland has won three fights in a row – all this year. He was coming off a second-round TKO win over Abus Magomedov in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card in July. Strickland last tasted defeat against Jared Cannonier in December 2022 by split decision.Strickland, who entered the matchup against Adesanya as the No. 5-ranked middleweight, received a title shot after No. 1 contender Dricus Du Plessis was unable to take the fight at UFC 293 due to an injury.

Adesanya is now 1-2 in his last three Octagon appearances. After a three-year run as UFC middleweight champ, he lost the title to Pereira by a comeback fifth-round TKO last November. Adesanya knocked Pereira out in the second round of their immediate rematch at UFC 287 in April to become a two-time champion. “The Last Stylebender,” whose only other career decision loss was in a light heavyweight title bout against Jan Blachowicz in 2021, is considered one of the greatest middleweights in UFC history. He has five successful title defenses under his belt. He was No. 5 in the UFC’s men’s pound-for-pound rankings heading into Saturday’s fight.

The Score

Share article

Latest articles