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Nigerian Israel Adesanya Loses UFC Middleweight Title to American Sean Strickland

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

The 32-year-old Strickland (28-5), who made racist and misogynistic comments at a news conference to promote the fight, won by unanimous decision after five rounds. All three judges gave it a score of 49-46.

“Is this a dream? When will I wake up? Someone punched me… “I don’t cry very often, but I’m trying to hold it together right now,” Strickland said after the fight. “I give the MMA gods so many brain cells… I thought I would leave a little hurt and a little bloody. I’m kind of surprised that didn’t happen.

Adesanya (24-3) was the clear favorite to beat his controversial American opponent and keep the title he won from Alex Pereira at UFC 281 in April. He had a lot of loud support at Qudos Bank Arena.

But 32-year-old Strickland’s style of counterattacking was brutally effective. The American landed the most effective shots throughout the fight, and Adesanya had a hard time hurting Strickland.

After a slow start from both fighters, during which Adesanya tried to figure out Strickland’s strange fighting style, it was the American who landed the first knockout blow with a clean straight shot that put Adesanya out of the fight. Strickland pounded the 34-year-old New Zealander’s back with a series of punches to win the first round for the U.S. fighter.

In the second and third rounds, Adesanya was more aggressive. He found his range with his kicks and right hands, but he still left himself open for Strickland to hit him in the head and body.

In the last rounds, Adesanya moved more into his shell, making it harder for the New Zealander to break through the American’s defense. Strickland saw his chance to go after the champion, and a series of punches and kicks in the last minute of the fight helped him win the middleweight title and the decision.

“You don’t fight that guy with that many highlight-reel knockouts,” Strickland said of Adesanya. “Most of my friends are pretty easy for him to beat. I even had times when I didn’t believe in myself.”

“But I have to say that the fans in Australia really pushed me. When I walked in here, you guys were screaming. I heard you guys yelling during that fourth round. It kept me going.”

The UFC fight was talked about in the New South Wales state legislature, where the top government official had to defend the state’s decision to pay about $10 million to bring the UFC event back to Sydney for the first time since 2017 after Strickland made sexist and misogynistic comments about putting women back in the kitchen.

Strickland decided to fight Adesanya at the last minute because his South African opponent, Dricus du Plessis, was hurt and couldn’t fight. After beating Abus Magomedov and Nassourdine Imavov, the fifth-ranked American got a shot at the title.

Alexander Volkov (37-10) beat 30-year-old Tai Tuivasa, who was born in Sydney, by submitting him in the second round of their heavyweight match. This was the co-main event.

The 34-year-old Russian controlled the fight, even though Tuivasa had hurt his front leg earlier in the round. He landed hit after hit on the Australian fighter before putting him in a choke hold that made Tuivasa tap out.

“He was hit so many times, but he was still standing. This guy is tough,” said Volkov, who won by submission for the first time since 2016 and is 34 years old.

Australia’s Tyson Pedro started the main show by knocking out Sweden’s Anton Turkalj in the first round. Then, New Zealand’s Justin Tafa did the same to America’s Austen Lane in a heavyweight match. In an exciting flyweight match, Manel Kape beat Felipe dos Santos by unanimous decision after five rounds.

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