In his first title defense since regaining his belt, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (24-2) will take on No. 5 middleweight challenger Sean Strickland (27-5) Saturday at the Qudos Arena in Sydney, Australia to headline UFC 293.
Due to an injury, No. 1 contender Dricus du Plessis had to withdraw from the bout with Adesanya but Strickland stepped up to take his place.
Comparing the two fighters, Adesanya has a 3-inch height advantage and 4-inch reach advantage over Strickland, along with a greater striking accuracy of 49% as opposed to Strickland’s 41%.
“I don’t really see anything that he has for me that I haven’t seen before, but he is a dangerous man because he has nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Adesanya.
Being a fresh opponent for the champion, Strickland’s cardio will work in his favor against Adesanya since he tactically directs his energy toward jabs or wrestling when he senses an opportunity to exert control over his opponent. This cardio is needed especially since Adesanya is used to fighting for a longer period of time, with an average fight time of 17:49 compared to Strickland’s average fight time of 14:10. What remains questionable is whether or not his wrestling would be enough to gain control over Adesanya, who has proven himself to thrive in his takedown defense.
Strickland has not changed up his fighting style in recent years, but bringing something new to the table for Adesanya and changing the game would allow for a better chance to control the fight. For instance, Adesanya is a striker that likes to stay on his feet. Although the champion has excellent takedown defense, his takedown accuracy is only at 14% whereas Strickland has a takedown accuracy of 64%. Applying pressure, looking for takedowns and countering his striking with defensive blows will allow Strickland a better chance at controlling the fight.
Strickland describes this bout as an “uphill fight,” but further emphasizes that he is ready to leave it all in the octagon.
As the fighter with a broader skill set, Adesanya excels in his calculated and precise striking which has resulted in countless knockdowns. With 16 knockouts in 24 MMA victories, Adesanya is continuously growing as a fighter and making adjustments as the No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter.
The champion is undoubtedly the favorite to win this fight based on the high caliber of opponents he has defeated in the past, typically securing victories with precise and powerful strikes. The key for a successful title defense would be to stick to his game and win the fight on the feet.
With Adesanya aiming to create an even bigger name for himself in the UFC and Strickland hoping to shock the world, you can expect both fighters to leave it all on the line this Saturday, fighting for the legacies they will leave in the middleweight division.