Sean Strickland (proper) defeats Israel Adesanya by unanimous choice at UFC 293.Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC through Getty Photographs
By the point Saturday’s UFC 293 concluded, Sean Strickland felt like he was dreaming—and never as most followers anticipated — as a result of he had been knocked out by middleweight legend Israel Adesanya.
As a substitute, the American pulled off one of many greatest upsets in trendy UFC historical past, out-striking the previous kickboxer Adesanya for 5 rounds to win a unanimous choice and the promotion’s coveted middleweight belt.
“Am I [expletive] dreaming?” a teary-eyed Strickland mentioned in his post-fight interview with commentator Daniel Cormier. “Am I going to get up?”
“By no means in one million years did I feel I’d be right here.”
Strickland could have loads of time to return to grips along with his surprising championship win on the lengthy flight residence from Sydney, Australia. Adesanya, in the meantime, will quickly board a flight south to his adopted residence of Auckland, New Zealand, and can absolutely be doing loads of his personal pondering at cruising altitude.
The previous champion, who is taken into account one of many biggest fighters in MMA historical past, merely did not appear to be himself within the Octagon and he, like the remainder of us, is probably going questioning why.
The primary catalyst for Adesanya’s loss, after all, was Strickland’s incredible but remarkably easy recreation plan. The American, who was thought to have a stable grappling benefit within the matchup, didn’t shoot for a single takedown and as a substitute beat the champion up with a rudimentary boxing assault for 25 grueling minutes.
But it is very potential there was one other issue at play.
Adesanya’s flamboyant persona and flashy preventing type make it straightforward to neglect that he’s already 34. That is across the age that many fighters start to point out indicators of decline—oftentimes very abruptly—and Adesanya could possibly be at better danger of a fast fall from the mountaintop than nearly all of his friends.
The previous champion has now fought 27 occasions in MMA, with 23 victories and three losses. He has solely been knocked out in a kind of bouts—a 2022 loss to Alex Pereira—however has taken some punishment in others, most notably his 2019 interim title win over Kelvin Gastelum, which noticed him take in 91 strikes over their five-round warfare.
Not solely has Adesanya had his share of powerful fights in MMA, however he has additionally stored an absurdly busy schedule for the majority of his profession. Since becoming a member of the UFC in February 2018, he has fought 16 occasions. That works out to a battle roughly each 4 months, which is so much for any fighter, not to mention one like Adesanya, who has been battling world-class expertise the whole time he is been within the Octagon.
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC through Getty Photographs
And naturally, Adesanya’s MMA profession did not start within the UFC. He had 11 fights, all wins earlier than he even stepped foot within the Octagon. These victories occurred over a way more cheap interval of six years, however that is as a result of he was additionally competing as a kickboxer and boxer in that span.
By the point he had dedicated to MMA full-time, he had competed 80 occasions within the kickboxing ring, and 6 occasions as a boxer. That brings his complete variety of professional fights to 113—and that is ignoring the numerous hours he has spent sparring with the likes of Carlos Ulberg, Dan Hooker and Brad Riddell at Metropolis Kickboxing in Auckland
Adesanya has merely had a far longer profession than your common 34-year-old fighter, and it was fairly potential he lastly began exhibiting indicators of his mileage at UFC 293, when he regarded far slower and fewer coordinated than we’re used to. He was badly damage by a first-round punch from Strickland, who has by no means been identified for his stopping energy.
Sean Strickland is the brand new UFC middleweight champion.Dan Himbrechts/AAP Picture through AP
In fact, there are different explanations for Adesanya’s UFC 293 loss. Maybe Strickland merely has his quantity, the way in which Frankie Edgar had BJ Penn’s or TJ Dillashaw had Renan Barao’s. Or possibly the previous champ took his challenger flippantly—he did discuss so much about being ranges above Strickland within the lead-up to their battle.
For higher or for worse, we must always get a a lot clearer image of his future in his subsequent few fights, which is able to make it very attention-grabbing to see what the UFC decides to do with him. A rematch with Strickland is feasible and one thing Dana White hinted at in his post-card press conference. He is also booked for a rematch with a fellow former champ Robert Whittaker, whom he has crushed twice, or for a battle with Dricus Du Plessis, who’s probably the most heated rival within the division for the time being.
Whomever he’s matched up with subsequent, nonetheless, his followers can be clever to get used to the unfamiliar feeling of seeing him outclassed by fighters he probably would have dominated a couple of years in the past. Sadly, it will not be lengthy earlier than it occurs once more.