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Dricus Du Plessis’ shadow rightfully looms over UFC 293, even as Dana White and Israel Adesanya deny ‘Stillknocks’

Sean Strickland has no business getting into the cage with Israel Adesanya at UFC 293 this weekend (Sat., Sept. 9, 2023) in Sydney, Australia.

It’s one of those fights that fails to make sense on multiple levels. Is Strickland some kind of massive fan favorite that justifies a random title shot? No, he’s popular on Twitter with those who are somehow not yet bored of his cringy schtick. Does his stand-up-straight-throw-arm-punches-and-parry striking style threaten arguably the best kickboxer in mixed martial arts (MMA) history?

Not at all.

With four stoppages via strikes in his near-decade on the roster, Strickland isn’t a knockout artist. Lastly, did Strickland earn this title shot by building an impressive win streak? Nope. Despite what he thinks, his current run comprises Abus Magomedov and Nassourdine Imavov, a pair of non-Top 10 Middleweights.

LIVE! Watch UFC 293 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

MASSIVE MIDDLEWEIGHT MATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its highly anticipated return to Sydney, Australia, for the first time in five years on Sat., Sept. 9, 2023, with a 185-pound world title fight inside Qudos Bank Arena. In the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight roost-ruler, Israel Adesanya, plans to silence No. 5-seeded contender, Sean Strickland. In UFC 293’s hard-hitting Heavyweight co-main event, No-6-ranked fan favorite, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with towering Russian, Alexander Volkov (No. 8).

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

It’s a frustrating main event to cap off an overall disappointing pay-per-view (PPV) card. Barring Adesanya ripping off his toe like Jon Jones or getting stuck in the fence like Jake Ellenberger, there’s no reason to believe that Strickland has anything to offer “The Stylebender.”

There’s no angle to make it interesting.

Sometimes, that’s a consequence of dominant champions. Remember when Georges St-Pierre defended his belt against Dan Hardy, or Anderson Silva screwing around until Patrick Cote’s knee imploded? Not the most thrilling of championship match ups, but at least they were pretty much the most reasonable options at the time.

That’s just not the case here.

The Middleweight division has a clear-cut title contender: Dricus Du Plessis is very obviously deserving of a title shot. That’s the next step when a fighter caps off an excellent win streak by KNOCKING OUT the undisputed top contender in the division, Robert Whittaker (watch it).

Seriously, this talk of walking back a “Stillknocks” title shot is ridiculous. It’s disrespectful to Robert Whittaker. The Australian has done nothing but stomp top contenders for years, proving himself the second best Middleweight on the planet by a wide margin ... until “DDP” game-planned masterfully, rose to the challenge and knocked out “The Reaper.”

Imagine if Ilia Topuria knocked out Max Holloway then didn’t get a shot at Volkanovski? Absurd!

Equally absurd is UFC President, Dana White, and Adesanya himself trying to play off like Du Plessis is giving away his title shot. UFC screwed up booking the South African vs. Whittaker less than eight weeks ago. A high-level fight should be expected to produce some injury, and it’s not reasonable to ask Du Plessis to try to tackle Adesanya on a shortened camp with a broken foot.

So, Du Plessis has earned the shot far more than Strickland, but he’s also a more viable threat. While Strickland declares Brazilian jiu-jitsu useless ahead of his fight with a striking master, Du Plessis threatens to batter Adesanya from top position. If he can manhandle Whittaker — a legendary defensive wrestler — it’s not an empty threat, either.

Adding more venom to his grappling threat is the simple fact that Du Plessis is an actual knockout artist, and he proved against Whittaker he knows how to game plan against an elite striking talent to make use of his physical gifts.

Finally, there’s the whole narrative of the match. Strickland and Adesanya have no interesting history, no actual bad blood. It’s all just nonsense and weird Strickland quotes. Adesanya vs. Du Plessis, meanwhile, is a genuine grudge match so spicy it leaves even Jon Jones uncomfortable in its wake.

White himself admitted very recently he won’t censor or sanction the trash talk — he knew he had a sure-fire blockbuster on his hands. But, that was before Du Plessis did what’s best for his health ... and UFC fans.

More deserving, more threatening, more interesting — Du Plessis vs. Adesanya was the fight to make. And it still is. So, let’s stop screwing around and pretending it won’t still be the fight to make come Sunday morning.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 293 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPNN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 293: “Adesanya vs. Strickalnd” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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