Sean Strickland Beats Israel Adesanya by Unanimous Decision to Win Middleweight Title

Sean Strickland Beats Israel Adesanya by Unanimous Decision to Win Middleweight Title
Alex BallentineSeptember 10, 2023

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Sean Strickland punches Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in the UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 293 event at Qudos Bank Arena on September 10, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Sean Strickland became the latest in a long list of evidence that anything can happen in the UFC. The 32-year-old pulled off a stunner with a unanimous win over Israel Adesanya to become the middleweight champion at UFC 293 from Qudos Bank Arena in Los Angeles.

While Adesanya was expected to walk through Strickland he got a wake up call in the first round. Strickland was competitive throughout the round but really raised eyebrows when he dropped Adesanya with a clean right hand.

ESPN MMA @espnmma

SEAN STRICKLAND APPLIED THE PRESSURE 💥 #UFC293 pic.twitter.com/AJ7lMKqDf2

He went to work trying to get the finish. Adesanya survived the onslaught but it set the tone that the champ’s night might not be as easy as anticipated.

Kevin Iole @KevinI

Holy hell, Strickland nearly won by first-round KO. As it is, he takes first 10-9. Izzy was in big trouble and didn’t look good going to the corner. #UFC293

Strickland didn’t relent, either. Adesanya fired back salvos of his own, but it was Strickland who consistently controlled the pace. The rounds were competitive but Strickland’s pressure and volume carried the fight in the middle rounds.

Strickland’s defense wasn’t to be overlooked either.

Michael Carroll @MJCflipdascript

(Unofficial) head strike accuracy through 3.5 rounds:
44% – Strickland
12% – Adesanya#UFC293

Heading into the fifth round there was a general consensus that Strickland was up on the cards and that Adesanya would need a finish.

Brett Okamoto @bokamotoESPN

3-1 Strickland. If anyone can land a R5 knockout it’s Israel, but he has generated next to zero offense this entire fight. Strickland is just beating him. This will be the biggest upset in UFC 185 pound title fight history if Strickland gets it done.

The knockout blow never came, though. Strickland’s pressure carried the day and fans were left stunned by Strickland’s performance and the fact that he’s now the middleweight champion.

UFC Europe @UFCEurope

DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT WE’VE JUST SEEN?! 🤯

SEAN STRICKLAND IS GOING HOME A CHAMPION. #UFC293 pic.twitter.com/n64GlpYPMB

It’s safe to say that Strickland is one of the most unlikely champions in UFC history. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the main event but was a replacement for Dricus Du Plessis who pulled out of the fight with injury.

Strickland was just 2-2 in his last four fights leading up to the title win. He beat Abusupiyan Magomedov in his return to middleweight after a decision win against Nassourdine Imavov at light heavyweight.

Even Strickland himself acknowledged that he was an underdog going into fight The Last Stylebender.

“Everybody fighting Izzy is an underdog,” Strickland said, per Kevin E. Schuster of UFC.com. “He’s a gigantic, tall kickboxer. I’m ready to embrace my inner [Michael] Bisping and give a little bit to the Gods… Maybe wrestle, maybe not. It’s going to be a good time.”

His ability to keep the fight in perspective and try to take control of the fight turned out to be a successful strategy.

The next step will be whether to see he can elevate his game as a champion or this proves to be a one-off occurrence.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the two fighters run it back although the winner of a November bout between Paulo Costa and Khamzat Chimaev could decide who gets the first crack at the new champion.

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