Sean Strickland stuns Israel Adesanya to win UFC middleweight title

Sean Strickland pulled off the biggest upset in a middleweight title match in UFC history. On Saturday, Strickland (28-5) shocked the mixed martial arts community by winning the 185-pound title in a five-round decision against Israel Adesanya, who is widely regarded as the greatest middleweight of all time. The main event of UFC 293 at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena was the middleweight title bout.

Going into Saturday, Michael Bisping, who famously defeated Luke Rockhold in a battle on short notice in 2016, held the record for the biggest upset in middleweight title fight ever. The betting odds indicated that Strickland’s triumph was much less likely to occur: He was a +500 underdog vs Adesanya, making it the biggest betting upset in a UFC middleweight title match (Bisping was a +400 favorite against Rockhold).

Sean Strickland stuns Israel Adesanya to win UFC middleweight title
Sean Strickland stuns Israel Adesanya to win UFC middleweight title

It was made much more improbable by the way he accomplished it—convincingly, over the course of five rounds.

Strickland, who received scores of 49-46 from all three judges, said, “Am I f—ing dreaming?” When will I wake up? Someone struck me. I never in a million years imagined that I would be in this situation.

Izzy is a terrible mother f***er. A man with that many highlight-reel KOs is not someone you challenge. He beats most of my buddies rather easily. At times, I was even beginning to doubt myself.

Adesanya was defending his middleweight title for the first time in his second reign. In April, he defeated Alex Pereira by knockout to win back the 185-pound title.

Before leaving his coach, Eugene Bareman, to field questions from the media at the postfight news conference on Saturday, Adesanya offered no excuses for his defeat.

Sean Strickland stuns Israel Adesanya to win UFC middleweight title

Adesanya stated, “I had a different plan for this, but life throws curveballs at you. “Win or lose, I wasn’t going to say much anyhow, but right now, I just want to be with people that care about me, my team, so I’m going to do that.” “I lost tonight to the better man on the night.

Dana White, president of the UFC, declared that a rematch between Strickland and Adesanya is “absolutely” necessary.

The rematch is intriguing, according to White. “That might also be the issue. You enter the Pereira match, which is a significant match, but you neglect Strickland? Israel is the one who has the answers to these questions, and I am eager to hear them.

UFC Stats show that Strickland outlanded Adesanya 137-94 overall. He became the first fighter in UFC history to submit Adesanya with a right hand in the opening round. Pereira never put Adesanya down, even though Adesanya (24-3) lost to Pereira via TKO in their debut UFC match in 2022.

Strickland, a 32-year-old ex-welterweight, wasn’t even meant to take on Adesanya on Saturday. Adesanya and Dricus du Plessis of South Africa were first considered for a championship matchup by the UFC, but du Plessis was unable to accept the matchup due to an injury. Adesanya pushed for du Plessis to be replaced by Strickland.

Sean Strickland stuns Israel Adesanya to win UFC middleweight title

That turned out to be a mistake since Strickland effectively shut off the offense of the defending champion. Even though the battle never reached the floor, Adesanya appeared uneasy and unsure of his weapons throughout the majority of the second round. After 25 minutes, Strickland showed very little fatigue and the most of his hits were glancing.

Strickland’s method wasn’t really novel stylistically. His sluggish, upright boxing style is well known. Though he did come into the fight with the strongest striking defense of any active UFC middleweight, his defense may have been a little underrated. He blocked 65% of Adesanya’s unofficial strike attempts on Saturday.

Before UFC 293 began, ESPN ranked Adesanya as the fourth-best fighter overall, pound for pound. Strickland had a 2-2 record over his previous four fights and was the No. 5 middleweight in the UFC rankings.

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