Israel Adesanya vs. Sean Strickland faceoff before UFC 293

UFC 293 is gearing up to be an exciting event, with the spotlight shining brightly on the main event clash between the reigning middleweight champion, Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya, and the gritty challenger, Sean “Tarzan” Strickland.

The question on everyone’s mind is whether Strickland can defy the odds and dethrone one of the most dominant champions in recent history.

Will Adesanya’s technical prowess and striking acumen prove too much for Strickland, or will the challenger’s relentless pressure and unorthodox style create the perfect storm for an upset?

Dive into our expert analysis, betting odds, and predictions to get a clearer picture of this epic showdown.

Betting Odds

Israel Adesanya’s a heavy favorite in the UFC 293 main event. For those who believe that an upset is on the cards, Strickland can be found at +425 odds.

Otherwise, there are decent odds on method of victory props on this fight, and you’ll find our writers suggesting some of these further below.

  • Israel Adesanya: -650 (BetUS)
  • Sean Strickland: +425 (BetUS)

Read on for our detailed fight breakdowns and predictions for this main event clash.

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Adesanya vs. Strickland predictions

Braeden Arbour

Sean Strickland has one of the most unusual striking styles at the top of the sport. He uses a very straight-legged, tall stance that does not allow much room for use of his rear leg, but it does allow him to constantly raise the front teep to create space and push his opponents backward. His odd use of a tight guard and the occasional switch to a philly like shell means he has to depend heavily on reaction time for defense, parrying punches rather than slipping or weaving inside shots.

He almost exclusively blocks, but this allows his opponents to draw out the guard to wherever they want and attack elsewhere. The best example of this is Alex Periera’s use of the straight body shots, to bring the guard down and set up the left hook, but as to why most fighters are unable to find the same success comes down to Strickland’s ability to bring infinite forward pressure.

His upright stance is very efficient in terms of not having to explode to move. He marches forward and uses his long job and cross as well as his lead leg to keep his opponents moving backwards. This takes off a lot of the sting from their shots, as well as makes it difficult to kick having to move backward. Strickland does a good job of cutting off the cage as his opponents fade trying to keep up with his gas tank, and opens up with nicer boxing combinations when he has them trapped and skirting the fence. In particular he has a nice left hook, right uppercut, left hook to right hook combinations to work around the guard as his opponents circle to Strickland’s left.

However, much of what Strickland does is technically an issue relative to what is textbook in striking arts. His combination of pressure, grit and workrate allow him to do so, as well as an acute comfortable fighting, that allows him to react naturally and make good timing and reads that would otherwise be difficult. Against the next level in guys like Periera and by extension Israel Adesanya, what he does becomes much much more difficult. The biggest key to Adesanya’s success will be space and low kicks. Strickland maintains a relatively balanced stance but because he extends on his jab, he opens himself up to the lead leg. Investing in the legs and body early will set Adesanya up to land cleanly upstairs at some point, and Stylebender is particularly good at landing low for the purpose of the question mark kick to straight right.

Strickland has to take risks to get inside. Against Periera, the octagon presence dissuaded some of this pressure that Adesanya maybe does not have himself, but between constant feints and a superb ability to roll with shots and counter on the cage, few are as dangerous to rush as the champion.

I expect Strickland to take these risks in order to build pressure and control the center of the octagon, but Adesanya makes it very difficult with footwork and long striking, including leg and body kicks. This leads to Strickland making more drastic movement in an attempt to break through which is what opens him up more dramatically to the counter-boxing and head kicks of Adesanya. Strickland does have wrestling and jiu-jitsu in his back pocket, he has a nice slip to double underhooks and outside trip takedown, but tactically, Strickland seems fairly one-dimensional in his approach and will not hunt for the takedown; instead finds it naturally if the opportunity arises.

Adesanya has tremendous takedown defense against the cage, struggles sometimes in space, but generally makes it difficult to close that distance if he can help it, so I do not expect Strickland to shoot unless he finds himself already clinched, probably already against the fence making it difficult. In the end, I think Strickland knows staying on the outside leads to a huge deficit on the scorecards and will take risks as he usually would and as he must, which is what opens him up to being finished. This is a finish-or-be-finished fight for the American and I heavily favor the champion.

Best Bet: Israel Adesanya to win by stoppage (-105 at BetUS)

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Michael Pounders

Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya finally conquered his demons with a highlight reel finish over Alex Pereira back in April. Outside of Pereira, Adesanya has never lost at middleweight and has rarely faced any significant challenge. Whittaker and Gastelum gave him excellent fights but Izzy still won both by unanimous decision. Adesanya is a top 3, if not the #1, striker in the entire UFC. He is an elite kickboxer with unparalleled timing and accuracy.

He is dynamic on the feet and can land seemingly every strike imaginable from seemingly every position. Because he’s primarily a counter puncher who rarely puts himself in harm’s way, Adesanya has been criticized for being “boring” or not bringing the fight forward. But, much like Jon Jones in the past, Adesanya has the luxury of being the champion which puts the pressure and responsibility on the challenger to beat the champ. Izzy uses that circumstance to his advantage, happy to sit at range, evade strikes like he’s in the Matrix and counter with impeccable speed and timing for a full 25 minutes.

Adesanya has excellent cardio, striking, and intelligence; all of which combine to create a future hall of famer. The only situations in which we’ve seen Adesanya struggle are up a weight class against Blachowicz where Blachowicz was able to wrestle Izzy down and grind out minutes on top. The other situation came when Izzy was winning a fight against AP, got stung in the 5th, and then finished by possibly the most powerful middleweight. Outside of those instances, Adesanya has rarely struggled because his striking is levels above his opponents and his defensive grappling, when in his own weight class, is strong enough to keep the fight standing.

Strickland is a basic yet effective boxer. He stands upright with a high and closed guard, protecting his chin well. “Tarzan” has fantastic cardio which he uses to push a pace early and rack up damage late. His typical style is to walk forward, almost plodding with his stiff front leg, pump his jab out, and land with accuracy on his opponent.

Zombie-like in his approach, Strickland rarely lets his opponent breathe, instead being on them and pushing forward from the first to the final second. That constant pressure and defensive awareness- he defends 62% of strikes- makes him a pesky but undeniably effective striker. He regularly lands over 100 significant strikes in a fight and rarely receives much damage in return. When he is hit clean, Strickland, undeterred, absorbs the shot and keeps moving forward.

Also, while we haven’t seen it in a while, Strickland can mix in some wrestling and grappling to his boxing-heavy attack. Even the threat of a takedown or clinch gives his opponents another skillset to consider and opens up their chin for more of his volume. Strickland, though memorable on a microphone, often puts forth unmemorable fights. He fights with such a focus on the jab that he sometimes goes minutes without following it up with any power shots or combinations. He’s technically scoring, which helps him win decisions, but he’s often not dealing out real damage. Nevertheless, his pressure and technical boxing can be a challenge for overeager opponents or those with poor cardio.

Strickland’s personality and microphone skills coupled with Adesanya running out of worthy competitors is what set this fight up; it was not Strickland’s skill or recent fights. Strickland is 3-2 in his last 5 which only include 1 finish win over an unranked fighter.

While I am a fan of chaos and would be truly entertained with a Strickland win, the skill disparity between these two will be clear and evident on Saturday night. Izzy is too fast, too dynamic, too technical, and simply too good for Strickland to find much, if any, success. Strickland’s best attributes are his cardio, his jab, and his perpetual ability to move forward. But, as shown in both his losses, he struggles against creative strikers, speed, and fighters who can move laterally to counter his linear plodding.

I expect Adesanya to piece up Strickland’s lead leg early, counter the jab often, and work in some creative body and head kicks. Because Strickland has phenomenal cardio and Adesanya typically is content piecing opponents up for 25 minutes, I like the champ to take this to a wide and clear decision.

Best Bet: Adesanya to win by decision (+130 at BetUS)

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Joe Pounders

Israel Adesanya is one of the most intelligent, cerebral fighters to have stepped foot in the octagon. His mental tactics and ability to understand fighter tendencies is a significant skill of his and has greatly contributed to him running rampant through the middleweight roster, with only Alex Pereira causing him issues.

Having the mental advantage accompanied by having elite technical ability on the feet affords Adesanya with knowing he will have the striking advantage over most, if not all challengers of his. Because of this, he prioritizes the maintenance of said advantage by maintaining distance and keeping the fight standing. The ability to do so time after time is why he has been so dominant throughout his UFC tenure. Moreover, his elite technical and sniper-like striking with all limbs is further contributory to his dominance. But, in the rare circumstance that his elite footwork, knowledge of distance, and/or ability to implement his vastly underrated grappling defense fails him, there is a demonstrable path to getting him to the mat to secure a victory, which only the former 205 champion, Jan Blachowicz, was able to do.

Implementing the Jan Blachowicz path to victory, which is to trust striking but ultimately wrestle, is the perceived path to success for Sean Strickland. There are two massive issues with this perception: first, Sean Strickland rarely fights the logical path, and second, Strickland’s grappling acumen is far better from a defensive perspective than it is offensive as he too is more of a striker than a true wrestler. So, with both these points at play, it is more logical than not to expect Strickland to implement his rinse-and-repeat style of heavy pressure favoring constant output over power.

This style is perhaps the worst to use against an Adesanya-type fighter, as the champion is his best self when his opponent comes forward and throws first. Moreover, the cardio-depleting tactic Strickland seeks will not work on Adesanya, so his normal advantage is null and void, thus creating a fight that, from a style perspective, is picture-perfect for Adesanya and one that is truly terrible for Strickland.


The UFC has historical fights where a challenger was given zero chance of winning but came out with a win by shocking the world. Because of this, I will not go as far as to say Sean Strickland has no chance in this fight because he is durable, battle-tested, and does have a well-equipped fight game. What I will say is that I have supreme confidence that Israel Adesanya will not only win but will look dominant in doing so. He will have the advantage in nearly all facets of MMA here, and the biggest advantage is his style of long-range counterstriking being perfect against a non-single punch power, pressure-style fighter that is Strickland. Because of this and because Adesanya lands with clean, effective strikes, I am confidently taking him by TKO/KO here.

Best Bet: Israel Adesanya by TKO/KO (+110 at BetUS)

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