What’s Next for Sean Strickland?

UFC 293 in Australia ended with one of the most surprising title victories in Mixed Martial Arts history. Betting underdog (+650) Sean Strickland defeated Middleweight great Isreal Adesanya over five rounds. After dropping Adesanya in the first round, Strickland cruised to a unanimous decision victory on all three judges scorecards (49-46, 49-46, 49-46).

As the 5th-ranked Middleweight contender, many experts believed that Strickland was outmatched coming into this contest. Strickland proved all doubters wrong and beat Adesanya at his own game, outstriking the former professional kickboxer 137-94 throughout the fight.

Sean Strickland (28-5) Def. Israel Adesanya (24-3)

California’s Sean Strickland put on the performance of his life in UFC 293’s Main Event. Training at Extreme Couture under the tutelage of respected head coach Erick Nicksick, Strickland showed up in tremendous shape for this title fight.

During his training camp, Strickland went to Connecticut to spar with former opponent Alex Pereira. In my opinion, being humble enough to train with someone who previously beat you may have helped Strickland in the long run. Adesanya came out flat in round one and Strickland immediately put pressure on the champ. Strickland was able to get inside the length of Adesanya and landed multiple combinations early.

With under a minute left in round one, Strickland landed a massive right hand behind his jab that floored Adesanya. This was the first official knockdown Adesanya had suffered in his career. As Adesanya scrambled back to his feet, Strickland landed 15 unanswered punches against the cage that had the champion in serious trouble. That early explosion from Strickland set the tone for the rest of the fight.

To everyone’s surprise, Adesanya looked sluggish for the remainder of the fight and struggled to get offense going. In round two, Adesanya outpointed Strickland to even the fight at one round a piece. After the second round, Strickland took over the fight with cardio and volume beating the kickboxing great at his own game.

Strickland made Adesanya fight off his back foot all night pressuring the champion to the cage. It was an unbelievable and historic performance that saw Strickland rise to the occasion capturing the title in his 20th UFC fight.

Possible Title Challangers:

UFC President Dana White stated in the post-fight press conference that Adesanya could receive an immediate title rematch. In my opinion, this would be unwarranted as Adesanya is now 4-3 in his last seven fights and already got an immediate rematch after he was knocked out by Alex Perreria.If Adesanya does need time off to regroup with his team, there is a litany of contenders ready to fight for the title. Currently ranked as the number two fighter at 185 pounds, Dricus Du Plessis is recovering from his win over Robert Whittaker. Du Plessis may fight Strickland next if he can return before the end of the year.

Other options for the UFC include Jared Cannonier and waiting for the winner of Khamzat Chimaev vs. Paulo Costa. Cannonier defeated Strickland in a highly competitive fight night main event last December. Many thought Strickland actually won that fight which would set up a rematch for the title. The most talented prospect of all of these options is undefeated Russian phenom Khamzat Chimaev. If Chimaev can get past Brazilian knockout artist Paulo Costa he will more than likely be on the fast track to a title opportunity.

Chimaev matches up favorably against many of the division’s elite. Strickland as well as other top-five challengers are all predominantly strikers. If Chimaev implements his wrestling at 185 pounds like he did at 170 he may become champion in short order.

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