Strickland Stuns Adesanya To Become UFC Middleweight Champion

Polarising After a grueling bout in Sydney on Sunday, Sean Strickland defeated champion Israel Adesanya and claimed the UFC middleweight title with a barrage of hard punches.

In the main event of UFC 293, American Strickland defeated hot favourite Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) in a five-round slugfest.

Strickland landed several stinging blows to the head in the sold-out Qudos Bank Arena, keeping Adesanya on the back foot the entire time.

“Never in a million years did I think I would be here,” said Strickland, who inflicted New Zealander Adesanya’s third defeat from 27 fights.

“I thought I would be walking away a little broken up. I’m a little shocked that didn’t happen.

“This is the first time I’m lost for words.”

Strickland, who sparked outrage prior of the fight with chauvinist comments about reintroducing women into the kitchen, decided to fight on short notice after Adesanya’s South African opponent Dricus du Plessis was unable to compete.

Strickland, rated fifth, earned his title shot with victories over Abus Magomedov and Nassourdine Imavov.

In the first UFC fight hosted in Sydney since 2017, both fighters first felt each other out in a frenetic atmosphere.

In order to pull off a massive upset, the 32-year-old attempted to play to his strengths of wrestling and close-range punching.

He made his move late in the first round, knocking out Adesanya with a tremendous right-hand blow.

After surviving Strickland’s barrage, Adesanya regrouped in the second round and used his trademark kicks to devastating effect.

In round three, Adesanya threatened to take control before Strickland hit a left hook to end the bout.

Strickland (28-5) was unyielding and trash-talked a bloodied Adesanya, a former kickboxer regarded as the top fighter in MMA, in the closing seconds with a shock title secured.

On the main card, Alexander Volkov, a two-metre (six foot seven inch) tall Russian, quiet the raucous audience by defeating Australian Tai Tuivasa by submission in the heavyweight division.

With a five-inch height advantage, Russian Volkov submitted Tuivasa in the second round with an Ezekiel choke, putting his opponent to the mat with his right arm around the neck.

“(He took) so many punches and he was still on his legs, this guy is very tough,” said 34-year-old Volkov, who won by submission for the first time since 2016.

In the other heavyweight match, Justin Tafa of New Zealand knocked out American Austen Lane in the first round with a left hook flush on the jaw.

It was the second UFC event in Australia this year, following the victory of lightweight champion Islam Makhachev against local Alexander Volkanovski in February at Perth Arena.

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