Shawn Strickland defeats Israel Adesanya to win UFC middleweight title | sports news

The 32-year-old Strickland, who caused a stir with controversial comments before the fight, won by unanimous decision over five rounds.

American Sean Strickland stunned Nigerian-born New Zealander Israel Adesanya to claim the middleweight title by unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 293, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship event in Australia’s biggest city in six years.

Strickland (28-5), 32, caused a stir in the lead-up to the fight with sexist and misogynistic comments at news conferences promoting the bout, winning a five-round decision with all three judges scoring it. 49-46.

“Am I dreaming? Am I going to wake up? Somebody hit me … I’m not crying much but I’m trying to hold it together right now,” Strickland said immediately after the bout. “I’m giving up a lot of brain cells to the MMA gods … I thought I was going to be a little bloody, a little broken. I was a little shocked that it didn’t happen.

With strong vocal support at the Qudos Bank Arena, Adesanya (24-3) was a clear favorite to hold off his controversial American opponent and retain the title he won from Alex Pereira at UFC 281 in April.

But the 32-year-old Strickland’s style of counter-attacking proved brutally effective with the American landing the fight, with Adesanya struggling to find a way to hurt Strickland throughout the fight.

Both fighters started patiently as Adesanya probed Strickland’s unusual style, with the American landing the first strike with a clean straight shot that dropped Adesanya. Strickland quickly moved onto the 34-year-old New Zealander’s back.

Adesanya was more assertive in the second and third rounds, finding his range with his kicks and right-hand shots, but leaving himself open for Strickland to attack his body and head.

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Adesanya moved more into his shell in the closing rounds as the New Zealander struggled to make a mark on the American’s defence. Strickland sensed an opportunity to go after the champion and a flurry of punches and kicks in the final minute helped seal the decision and the middleweight title.

“You don’t fight that guy with that many highlight-reel knockouts,” Strickland said of Adesanya. “Most of my friends, he is very easily defeated. Sometimes I doubted myself.

“But I have to say, the fans in Australia, you inspired me. I heard you yelling when I was walking here. In that fourth round, I heard you scream. It inspired me.”

The UFC fight made news in the New South Wales state legislature, where a leading government politician was forced to defend his state’s $10m to help ensure a UFC event would come to Sydney, for the first time since 2017, over Strickland’s misrepresentations about sexism and putting women back in the kitchen.

Strickland agreed to fight at late notice after Adesanya’s South African rival, Driggs du Plessis, was unavailable due to injury. The fifth-ranked American claimed his title after defeating Abus Magomedov and Nasordin Imavov.

In the co-main event, Alexander Volkov (37-10) earned a second-round submission victory over 30-year-old Sydney-born Tai Tuasa in his heavyweight bout.

The 34-year-old Russian dominated the fight despite an injury to his front leg, with a slanting strike count that Tuivasa had targeted earlier in the round before leaving Tuivasa in a choke hold after striking the Australian. Tap out.

“[He took] Several punches and he was still on his feet. This guy is tough,” said the 34-year-old Volkov, who won by submission for the first time since 2016.

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Australian Tyson Pedro opened the main card with a first-round knockout of Sweden’s Anton Turkalj, before New Zealander Justin Dafa did the same to American Aston Lane in the heavyweight bout and Manel Gabe defeated Filip dos Santos by unanimous decision over five rounds. match

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