American fighter Sean Strickland claimed the UFC middleweight title by defeating Nigerian-born New Zealander Israel Adesanya in the headline bout of UFC 293. This historic event marked the return of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to Australia’s largest city after a six-year hiatus.
The 32-year-old Strickland, known for his controversial pre-fight comments, secured a unanimous decision victory, with all three judges scoring the contest 49-46 in his favor.
Strickland’s unorthodox counterattacking style proved to be the difference-maker throughout the five-round battle, as he consistently landed decisive blows, leaving Adesanya struggling to mount an effective offense.
The fight began with both fighters cautiously sizing up each other’s unique styles. However, it was Strickland who drew first blood in the opening round, delivering a clean straight shot that sent Adesanya to the canvas. Strickland capitalized on this opportunity, launching a flurry of strikes to finish the round strongly.
Adesanya attempted to regain control in the second and third rounds, finding success with kicks and right-hand shots. Nevertheless, Strickland continued to exploit openings in Adesanya’s defense, targeting both the body and head.
As the contest reached its conclusion, Adesanya appeared to retreat into a defensive shell, unable to penetrate Strickland’s guard effectively. In the final minute of the bout, Strickland unleashed a barrage of punches and kicks, further solidifying his victory and capturing the middleweight championship.
In a post-fight interview, Strickland expressed his disbelief at the outcome, crediting the fans in Australia for motivating him throughout the match. He admitted to doubting himself at times but ultimately triumphed over the highly regarded Adesanya.
The significance of this UFC fight extended beyond the octagon, as it garnered attention in the New South Wales state legislature. The government faced questions regarding its financial support of approximately $10 million to host the event in Sydney, given Strickland’s controversial comments leading up to the fight.
Strickland had taken the fight on short notice after Adesanya’s scheduled opponent, Dricus du Plessis, was sidelined due to injury. Strickland, ranked fifth in the division, earned his title shot with previous victories over Abus Magomedov and Nassourdine Imavov.
In the co-main event, Russian fighter Alexander Volkov secured victory in the heavyweight division, submitting Sydney-born Tai Tuivasa in the second round. Volkov, despite an earlier leg injury targeted by Tuivasa, dominated the fight with a relentless striking barrage, ultimately finishing Tuivasa with a chokehold.
The main card also featured impressive performances from Australian Tyson Pedro, who knocked out Sweden’s Anton Turkalj in the first round, New Zealander Justin Tafa, who achieved a similar knockout against American Austen Lane in a heavyweight bout, and Manel Kape, who won by a unanimous decision over Felipe dos Santos in an entertaining flyweight matchup.
The unexpected triumph of Sean Strickland over Israel Adesanya will undoubtedly be remembered as a historic moment in the world of mixed martial arts, reshaping the landscape of the UFC middleweight division.