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Israel Adesanya rematch ‘worst option’ for UFC champ Sean Strickland — but Jared Cannonier ‘the easiest’

UFC 276 Press Conference Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Sean Strickland captured the middleweight title by defeating Israel Adesanya in the UFC 293 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last weekend in Sydney, a monster upset that shook up the 185-pound division while opening the door for a series of fresh matchups.

Unless the promotion green-lights an immediate rematch.

“I think that is probably the worst option,” No. 2-ranked middleweight contender Dricus Du Plessis told The MMA Hour. “A rematch against (Alex) Pereira [was] totally justified. He was winning a fight, he was how many years as champion? He was chasing GOAT status — 100 percent justified. But right now he’s three and two in his last five, and a title fight, this was his first defense as champion after becoming a two-time champion. Are we giving everybody an instant rematch if they lose their belt on the first try to defend it? Not fair. If he was winning the fight like he was winning the Pereira fight and then got clipped at the end, a rematch may be justified. But if you got dominated for five rounds, that’s not justifiable.”

The winner of Khamzat Chimaev vs. Paulo Costa (UFC 294) is also an option.

“The UFC, they’ve been talking about the problem in the middleweight division is Izzy has run through the whole division, some people twice,” Du Plessis continued. “Now they have the opportunity, the division is open. You gave him the benefit of the doubt, you gave him his ‘Get Out of Jail’ card by giving him the rematch against Pereira. You don’t get two of those. The division is open now, and right now, he needs to, just like the rest, earn his spot to fight for that belt again.”

There is also talk of giving No. 4-ranked middleweight Jared Cannonier the first crack at Strickland’s crown. The power-punching “Kill Gorilla” narrowly defeated “Tarzan” when they headlined the UFC Vegas 66 card back in late 2022. That said, former 185-pound champion and current UFC color commentator Michael Bisping suggests Cannonier may be the “easier” option.

“Sean Strickland’s coach, he wants the next person to be Jared Cannonier,” Bisping said on YouTube. “He says ‘Look, UFC obviously whatever they’re going to do, they’re going to do but I said Jared Cannonier for a number of reasons. Number one, he did beat us, now of course it was a split decision but on that record we got beat and I think there were things that we didn’t do correctly in that fight that caused us to lose.’”

“Don’t take this the wrong way if you hear this Mr. Nicksick, it seems like they’re trying to pick him because, I don’t know, it was a split decision, a lot of people thought Sean Strickland won that fight right and Khamzat Chimaev is an absolute monster,” Bisping continued. “Dricus Du Plessis is an absolute monster and you never know right, that might be the easiest fight and that sounds insulting to Jared Cannonier, I’m not being insulting. What I’m saying is, they know they had a really close fight.”

Expect the promotion to make a decision in the coming weeks, if not sooner.

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