SYDNEY, Australia — American Sean Strickland defeated Israel Adesanya at UFC 293 to claim the middleweight title on Saturday, September 9, 2023.
The 32-year-old Strickland showcased a formidable combination of constant forward movement, ironclad defense, and clinical striking to dethrone Adesanya, who had long been considered one of the sport’s best.
The unanimous decision, 49-46 on all three scorecards, came after a thrilling contest that had both fighters showcasing their skills to the fullest.
However, Strickland proved to be the more tactical and strategic fighter in the Octagon.
From the opening round, it was clear that Strickland was in fine form.
He landed a picture-perfect right cross that sent the Nigerian-New Zealander Adesanya spinning to the canvas.
“It was one of those punches you train for but never really expect to land. When it did, it felt like a dream,” Strickland later told reporters.
Although Strickland couldn’t find the knockout blow to finish the job, Adesanya survived to the buzzer, setting the stage for a closely contested battle through the ensuing rounds.
Despite the intense competition, Strickland appeared to maintain an edge, consistently staying a step ahead of Adesanya.
When the final buzzer sounded, a tearful Strickland was seen embracing Adesanya, who graciously congratulated his conqueror.
“He was the better man tonight,” said Adesanya. “This is what this sport is all about—may the best fighter win, and tonight that was Sean.”
The win marks a significant milestone for Strickland, whose stock in the MMA world will undoubtedly skyrocket following this major upset.
“As fighters, we train our whole lives for moments like this. To do it against someone as great as Israel Adesanya makes it all the more special,” Strickland said, clutching the middleweight title belt. “This is a career-defining win for me, but it’s just the beginning.”
It’s back to the drawing board for Adesanya as he figures out his next steps.
But for Strickland, this is a crowning achievement that shakes up the middleweight division and signals the arrival of a new kingpin in one of MMA’s most competitive categories.