Sean Strickland (28-5) stunned Israel Adesanya (24-3) in a decision victory to claim the UFC Middleweight title at UFC 293 from Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Adesanya was the aggressor out of the gate. While Strickland stood his ground and continued moving forward, it was Adesanya who looked for his range, mixing in kicks, strikes, and feints. With less than a minute remaining in the first round, Strickland hurt Adesanya bad with a straight right hand that sent the champion to the mat. Strickland jumped on him with a slew of shots, but Adesanya was able to escape the onslaught and survive for the second round.
In the second, Strickland brought his confidence with a measured attack on the champ. He walked down Adesanya, but the champ was much more active in the round in what was ultimately a strong round for Adesanya.
Between rounds, Strickland’s corner demanded more, including grappling and encouraged him to stop standing and watching Adesanya move. The third saw Strickland fall into the same pattern from the prior round as Adesanya opened up his combinations. Strickland caught Adesanya midway through the round with a counter left, but Adesanya wasn’t in any real danger. Strickland caught Adesanya with another counter left hook as the champ missed wildly, but again was able to pivot out of any danger.
After a handful of power shots from Strickland in the third, he came back out in the fourth and found his way into a sew of combinations. Adesanya went body-head-body over and again throughout the round, chipping away with body kicks and following with slight combinations to the head.
Heading into the fifth and final round, the margins were razor thin, with it being conceivable that Strickland had won three of the four. Adesanya operated with urgency in the final round, but Strickland kept moving forward, refusing to allow time for the champ to find any consistency in his shots.
Strickland stepped in after Dricus Du Plessis skipped out on the UFC’s offer for a title shot. Strickland came into Saturday night’s main event with consecutive wins in 2023 after losing both fights in 2022 at the hands of Alex Pereira and Jared Cannoneir.
Adesanya reclaimed his belt in a knockout of Pereira in April in their trilogy bout after dropping the title in November last year.