UFC 293 was supposed to be another feather in Israel Adesanya’s cap, a fresh title defense after winning the belt back at UFC 287 against his longtime rival Alex Pereira. The politically incorrect, sometimes funny, and generally one-dimensional fighter, Sean Strickland had other plans.
Going into the fight, Sean was an underdog at every betting line, ranging from +450 to +600, not only that, every pundit, ex fighters and anyone who understood MMA who wasn’t personally attached to Strickland had predicted that Adesanya will win this fight easily and might even knock Strickland out.
Fights don’t begin when the two fighters’ step inside the cage, they begin much sooner. Strickland had been harassing Adesanya for weeks now on X (formerly Twitter), he was grasping at any opportunity that presented itself where it was possible to mock the now ex-champ. Topics ranged from Stylebender’s kickboxing career in China, his behavior with his dog, his fashion choices, his very public break up with his girlfriend, etc.
This campaign carried on when Strickland landed in Australia as well, and continued throughout fight week. Strickland and Adesanya had previously sparred at a press conference stage of UFC 276, and everyone expected fireworks from Strickland. He did not disappoint.
Snake Charmer Was Charmed
Sean Strickland’s head coach Erick Nicksick referred to Adesanya as a “snake charmer” at the end of Round 2 in their fight. This is because The Last Stylebender with his flashy moves, quick feet, and irresistible feints, lulls other fighters into his game and his pace. This has been Adesanya’s surest way to victory in his UFC career.
This main event was going to be different. Adesanya had opted not to wear the usual black and gold colors which all champions adorn. Instead, he chose to wear red to get on top of Strickland’s “Chinese” jokes. This was the first, but not the last thing, Strickland would force Adesanya into doing.
Throughout the 25 minutes, Adesanya was the one who was charmed by Strickland. Not only was he knocked down for the first time in his career in the first round, he was controlled and dominated for the entire five.
Sean Strickland’s fighting style has been made fun of quite a lot in the past, his Philly shell defense though was on point against the former champion. Adesanya was able to land only 39% of his shots, which is the lowest ever in his entire combat career.
Adesanya couldn’t get going, he also told his coach Eugene Bareman after the end of the 4th round, that he, “can’t find his jab”. The entire fight happened standing up, which is his domain. But he was forced into backing up and moving laterally with Strickland continuously cutting the cage off and hitting him. By the end of it, Adesanya’s face was dismantled.
Watching the fight, one would have mistaken that it was happening somewhere in America and not closer to Adesanya’s home country. That is because the Australian crowd was cheering with every punch that Strickland landed. The crowd was behind him the entire fight week and many fans claimed him as honorary Australian.
Future Of The Division
In his post-fight presser, Dana White stated that he believes an immediate rematch is warranted. However, many fans and experts alike do not agree with that sentiment.
Israel Adesanya is 1-2 in his last three and was given an immediate rematch earlier this year after he lost his title. Dricus Du Plessis will be difficult to deny after his impressive win against Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 and is waiting in the wings for his title shot. The co-main event of UFC 294, the anticipated fight between Paulo Costa and Khamzat Chimaev, will also have a claim for the title fight.
So many contenders and only one belt. The champion will be hunted down from everywhere, but Sean is not the type to pick and choose his fights, whoever is against him in his first title defense, it’s sure to say that Strickland will bring along tons of fans and excitement into the fight.
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