"Tarzan" became only the second Middleweight to defeat the now-former two-time champion, Adesanya, defending and out-striking his way to a clear-cut unanimous decision (watch highlights). Throughout the five-round affair, Adesanya only managed to land 22 of 154 head strikes.
The win for Strickland was particularly impressive because of its consistent striking nature. While Adesanya lost to Alex Pereira via fifth round technical knockout (watch highlights) in late 2022, he was winning the fight until the finish. In his other loss as a Light Heavyweight to the then-champion, Jan Blachowicz, Adesanya found himself outwrestled late, resulting in a unanimous decision defeat. The confident "Last Stylebender" predicted a finish going into the encounter, but in the end, had to credit Strickland's head coach at Xtreme Couture, Eric Nicksick, for his brilliant corner work.
“There’s some things that I saw that Sean was doing that I felt ‘Izzy’ was setting him up for,” Nicksick told Morning Kombat. “It was actually kind of a cool moment. I had a good talk with ‘Izzy’ after the fight was over in the back and ‘Izzy’ came up to me and he’s like, ‘You saved that man’s life.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah? How so?’ And he goes, ‘You kept calling out my reads.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I saw what you were setting up’ and one of the things was the southpaw drop step. ‘Izzy’ orthodox, ‘Izzy’ drops back into southpaw, drop step into southpaw. He would throw his southpaw cross at Sean’s right hand and Sean was parrying it like this (swats).
“I yell at Sean, I go, ‘Bro, he’s gonna same side head kick you. It’s gonna come right behind it,’” he concluded. “I yelled it out and ‘Izzy’ heard me yell it and is like holy s—t, you called out my read.”
In Strickland's 33-fight career (28-5), only twice has he suffered defeat via a knockout (once at Middleweight, once at Welterweight). The new champion is already being slated to fight in a potential rematch with Adesanya, according to UFC President, Dana White.
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