Sean Strickland is the UFC’s new middleweight champion after pulling a shocking upset over Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya this past Saturday night in the UFC 293 headliner at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Strickland won a unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) as a +540 underdog at FanDuel, and there was nothing fluky about it. Bettors backing ‘over’ 4.5 rounds cashed tickets for a +126 payout at FanDuel.
Prop bets on Strickland to win via decision produced +1400 returns at both DraftKings and BetRivers. DraftKings also had Strickland at +1800 odds (!) to win by unanimous decision.
If anything, Strickland made it look easy against Adesanya, who has now lost two of his last three fights and saw his overall record fall to 24-3 and 13-3 in the UFC.
Strickland shocked the raucous crowd Down Under by dropping Adesanya with a straight right that landed right on the button late in the opening round.
Strickland pounced on Adesanya and landed a flurry of strikes that had the champion in a world of trouble. Izzy eventually made it back to his feet with some help from the fence, but not before eating at least 20 punches to the face.
In Round 2, however, Adesanya appeared to be fully recovered and went back to work with his leg kicks. He never hurt Strickland, but he was the busier fighter and won what was a lackluster second frame without a ton of action.
Strickland’s corner told him he got “snake charmed” by Izzy in Round 2 and advised him to get back to work right away.
More than midway through Round 3, the stanza appeared to be anyone’s for the taking. Despite the striking stats indicating a 20-14 advantage for Izzy, he didn’t do much offensively in the final minute of the round, and it was undoubtedly Strickland who connected with more powerful shots, including several good combinations.
MajorWager and all three judges gave Strickland the third round.
From there, Adesanya never really got going again and Strickland continued to push the pace. He controlled the Octagon from start to finish, keeping Adesanya backing up to the fence and constantly circling away.
Although Strickland remained in his face for 25 minutes, he kept enough distance to make Adesanya miss early and often. Adesanya just never seemed to figure out Strickland, who consistently landed his jab and found a home for a slew of powerful right hands.
More than likely down three rounds to one going to the fifth, Adesanya didn’t show any sense of urgency to get a finish in the final round. Not even when Strickland started taunting him in the final 15-20 seconds. He simply had zero answers.
There was no drama when the final bell sounded. Strickland began celebrating immediately, knowing he had clearly won the bout.
According to MMADecisions, all 28 media members scored the scrap in favor of Strickland. Eighteen had it 49-46, five scored it 49-45, four had it 48-47 and one scored it 48-46.
UFC Stats had Strickland with a 137-94 advantage on total strikes.
At his post-fight presser, UFC President Dana White talked about how “flat and slow” Adesanya looked.
“He looked like he couldn’t get off,” White said. “He looked like he was really stiff tonight. He looked very slow. Only Israel knows what’s going on. I’m very curious to see what he says at this press conference tonight.
“There are a million things that could go wrong. Some days you wake up and you’re just not there, man. It’s just not there. He looked bone-dry tonight, standing up really tall. He looked very slow. He looked like he couldn’t get off at all. Even in the fifth round when everybody knew he needed a knockout to win the fight, there was no sense of urgency to try to finish the fight. So I don’t know if he’s hurt or if tonight’s the night.”
But Adesanya bolted out of the arena without doing any media. All he did was release this social-media post to his X account (formerly known as Twitter).
More than three hours later, the now-former champion seemed to be enjoying beverages on a party bus in another post to his X account.
White expressed a desire for these fighters to run it back.
“I think you do the rematch,” White said. “Absolutely. The rematch is interesting.”
If Adesanya elects to take some time off, the other options for Strickland’s first defense of his 185-pound strap include the winner of Paulo Costa vs. Khamzat Chimaev (UFC 294 on Oct. 21) or top-ranked contender Dricus du Plessis.
White loves Chimaev and still isn’t pleased that Du Plessis turned down the chance to face Adesanya at UFC 293. Du Plessis understandably didn’t like the date because he wanted to nurse a few injury and it was going to be a quick turnaround from his win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 on July 8.
Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Chimaev jumped the line ahead of Du Plessis for a title shot if he produces another outstanding performance against Costa.
If we do get a rematch, BetOnline has made Adesanya a slim -115 favorite, with Strickland listed with a -105 price.
In the UFC 293 co-main event, Alexander Volkov collected his third straight win via finish by submitting Tai Tuivasa with an ezekiel choke with 23 seconds remaining in Round 2.