On Saturday, Sean Strickland upset heavy pre-fight favourite Israel Adesanya to win the UFC middleweight title in Sydney, Australia.
The 32-year-old American pressed forward relentlessly over five rounds, out-striking the Nigeria-born New Zealander to win a unanimous decision.
The victory was a significant upset, as Adesanya was the overwhelming favourite to retain his title. The 34-year-old Adesanya had won 11 of his previous 12 fights, including a victory over Robert Whittaker in July to reclaim the middleweight title.
But Strickland nullified Adesanya’s striking advantage by pressing forward and forcing the champion to fight on the back foot. Strickland also landed a knockdown in the first round, which gave him a psychological edge.
“I’m still in shock,” Strickland said after the fight. “Izzy’s had how many highlight knockouts; he’s beaten most of my friends pretty easily. I was even doubting myself at times, but the fans in Australia motivated me.”
The victory is a significant boost for Strickland, the UFC middleweight champion. In the coming months, he will be looking to defend his title against Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori.
The fight was the main event of UFC 293, which took place at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.
The attendance for the fight was 15,000.
Strickland was initially scheduled to fight Dricus du Plessis, but du Plessis was injured and forced to withdraw from the fight.
Strickland is the first American to win the UFC middleweight title since Chris Weidman in 2015.
The fight was scored 49-46, 49-46, and 48-47 for Strickland.