UFC 293 comes to us live from Sydney, Australia on tonight (sorry locals). With it comes Israel Adesanya, who is putting his UFC middleweight title on the line against a new (though, not terribly exciting) challenger. Sean Strickland has talked and walked himself into the title shot and now he has a chance to dethrone someone many have already drafted onto their list of best MMA middleweights ever.
Can Strickland shock the world and escape Sydney with a shiny piece of hardware tonight or will The Last StyleBender style on Tarzan? Want to know what we think?
Shouldn’t come as a surprise that we at Bloody Elbow are near unanimous in picking Adesanya to win at UFC 293 and retain his title. The only dissenter is Chris, who picks with a coin flip. His coin is either smarter than all of us or it wants to embarrass Chris and push him further down the staff standings.
You can check out the rest of our picks for the UFC 293 card below. Don’t forget to share your picks in the comments!
UFC 293: Adesanya vs. Strickland Staff Picks and Predictions
Israel Adesanya vs. Sean Strickland
Anton Tabuena: I don’t see many paths where Stickland can win at UFC 293. Adesanya is faaar more technical on the feet, and he has good enough takedown defense to keep it there on the few times that Strickland might try to get it to the mat. Strickland is also very predictable on the feet that Adesanya should be able to piece him apart.
His best hope is probably to crowd Adesanya, pressure and clinch on the fence, hoping that he can wear him down and take over late. But Adesanya might just be the more conditioned athlete, and he should be slick enough to get out of spots when Strickland tries to make things ugly. Israel Adesanya by TKO.
Chris: I’ve made all my picks this year via coin flip and while it’s provided a fair bit of fun, this time it’s serious. Sean Strickland’s redemption is upon us. A Meth-Cinderella (Metherella?) storybook career moment that will rival Matta Serra’s upset over GSP is about to happen. Watch him win and turn babyface. Stupid-assed coin making me write this…
Dayne: I don’t expect Strickland to look as poorly as he did against Alex Pereira for two reasons. For one, Adesanya doesn’t have the power and killer instinct Pereira does. Secondly, Strickland has been working with Pereira, so he’s getting a better understanding of how to deal with someone as long and lanky as Adesanya. Besides that though, this is going to be a bad night for Strickland.
Strickland does a few things incredibly well. He has one of the best jabs in the business and has a very deep gas tank. Those two factors have been enough for him to break lesser fighters. That isn’t going to work against Adesanya. The fact that he’s an underrated takedown artist isn’t going to matter that much either as he doesn’t have the type of size to hold Adesanya down that Jan Blachowicz has, the only fighter who has been able to consistently hold Adesanya down.
At UFC 293, given Adesanya’s length and own striking prowess, I don’t see Strickland’s jab having much success. If he can’t establish that, Strickland is going to be absolutely lost. He’s a tough cookie, so there’s a good chance he survives until the end of all five rounds. The guess here is as Strickland loses confidence in his ability to win the fight, Adesanya will go for the kill late and find it. Adesanya via TKO of RD4
Victor: Strickland does have the cardio to keep up and his boxing is very good. He also lacks the versatility in his striking and in his overall game to hang with Adesanya. The taunting will yield no results, and Strickland will get punished for his spotty defense over and over. Israel Adesanya by KO, round 2.
Zane: I get the feeling that we’ll see a particularly dominant Israel Adesanya in this fight. Potentially Sean Strickland’s toughness could give him a few surprising successes to crow about, but my guess is we’ll see him try to come out on the front foot and walk Adesanya down mano-a-mano as he’s said he would.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t really have the footwork to actually stay on Adesanya and the ‘Last Stylebender’ is more than comfortable pulling opponents onto counters as he circles away. I know it was a defining win for Strickland, but his fight with Abus Magomedov saw him get out-struck 3×1 in the first round pushing forward before Magomedov fell apart.
Adesanya almost certainly won’t fall apart. If Strickland does start getting clipped up, as seems likely, I imagine he’ll either start to fell into watching Adesanya’s feints, or Adesanya himself will decide he can push forward on Strickland without paying for it. At that point, things might start getting really rough. Israel Adesanya via TKO round 3. But a Marvin Vettori 2 style decision wouldn’t surprise either.
Tim: I just don’t see a path to victory for Sean Strickland here at UFC 293. Israel Adesanya has fought, and beat, better point fighters (Marvin Vettori), better pressure fighters (Paulo Costa) and better counter-punchers (Robert Whittaker). And Strickland does not have the wrestling game to take this bout out of the striking element if Adesanya wants to keep it there.
I’m just unsure if Izzy with the killer instinct shows up or whether he’ll cruise and want to just soak up five rounds of attention before getting his hand raised. Something tells me he’ll be satisfied with beating Strickland and not beating Strickland. Israel Adesanya via unanimous decision.
Staff picking Adesanya: Lucas, Dayne, Ben, Anton, Kristen, Victor, Tim, Stephie, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Strickland: Chris
Tai Tuivasa vs. Alexander Volkov
Anton: This is very hard to predict. Tai Tuivasa has improved a lot, but his last two losses are to people he can’t overwhelm physically and are a tad more technical on the feet. Volkov should be the more technical striker, so I understand why he’s the favorite, but he too has been overwhelmed when faced with explosive athletes before.
I think this can go either way on the first couple of minutes, when Tuivasa is most dangerous, but Volkov has more than enough skill to pick him apart and really take over late. I can’t shake the feeling that Tuivasa just explodes and cracks him, but the smart pick is Alexander Volkov by late TKO.
Chris: Tai Tuivasa has showed us his ceiling. He’s got the requisite athleticism, power, and chin to be a gatekeeper to the heavyweight top 5. There’s a love of life in his demeanor that I suspect creeps into his training discipline. His love of the firefight and immense self-belief has been his undoing, but Volkov is no longer the durable technician who can keep Tuivasa at the end of his punches and kicks for fifteen minutes. Tai by finish, and minimum 3 shooeys before he hits the locker room.
Dayne: I’m impressed as hell as the progress Tuivasa has made since losing three in a row. However, he also received a series of favorable matchups after that point, being pit with opponents who either favored the type of slugfest Tuivasa prefers or didn’t have the physical tools to avoid it. That hasn’t been the case in his last two fights and Volkov may be the most difficult stylistic matchup for him. Volkov is good at utilizing his range to keep his opponent on the outside. He does struggle at stopping takedowns… but that isn’t Tuivasa’s game.
Tuivasa does have the type of one punch power to swing the momentum of a fight instantly, but Volkov isn’t an easy fighter to put away. In fact, I’d argue Volkov would be easier to put away with a submission as Derrick Lewis is the only fighter to put him away with strikes in his UFC run. Tuivasa is only going to win if he becomes the second as I don’t trust him to do so by outpointing Volkov. That said, I expect their fight at UFC 293 to be fairly similar to Tuivasa’s loss to Ciryl Gane. Volkov via decision
Victor: Nah, man. Volkov has the patience, range, volume and movement to stifle Tai. Lotta things gotta go wrong for him and right for Tuivasa to really draw him in and nail him with a haymaker. That plus Tai’s iffy cardio? No gracias, no quiero shooey. Volkov by TKO, round 3.
Zane: Alexander Volkov is still double tough and Tai Tuivasa still seems to just throw wild haymakers and make huge mistakes. Assuming Tuivasa doesn’t become just the third KO/TKO loss on Volkov’s long record. Alexander Volkov via TKO, round 2.
Tim: Volkov should win this bout. But we’ve seen him lose fights like this before. On home soil, I’m going to go with Tai Tuivasa to soak up some pressure, get deep into the fight and then catch Volkov sleeping. Tai Tuivasa via KO, round 3.
Staff picking Tuivasa: Chris, Kristen, Tim, Eddie
Staff picking Volkov: Lucas, Dayne, Anton, Victor, Stephie, Zane
Manel Kape vs. Felipe dos Santos
Dayne: I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a rematch of this fight years from now when dos Santos has matured. As it is now, he’s an extremely promising prospect who is diving headfirst into the deep end of the pool. Kape isn’t just one of the most talented flyweights on the roster, he’s also smack in the middle of his prime.
The only reason he isn’t ranked higher is poor luck as his fights has been falling through as of late, from Alex Perez to Deiveson Figueiredo to Kai Kara-France. I’m very high on dos Santos, but this is asking too much of him. If there is a rematch, I anticipate it will be far more competitive than this will be. Kape via TKO of RD2
Victor: Feeling bad for Felipe, because this is levels above what he’s used to kicking around on the Brazilian circuit. That’s not a knock on him, it’s just that Kape is just too far ahead in his development. If he doesn’t look good in this, it’s going to be a very sad and unfortunate mismatch. Kape by TKO, round 1.
Zane: Felipe dos Santos has the start of a solid style. He’s working out of Oliveira’s camp and like so many of the fighters we’ve seen come through there, the emulation is clear. He’s a front foot heavy, swarming Brazilian Muay Thai stylist who’s always looking to land and has little mind for defense. In a vacuum that might actually make him kind of competitive with Kape’s low output pressure-counter style.
But this ain’t a vacuum and Kape is one of the fastest, most powerful, most dynamic flyweights in the division. Dos Santos’ biggest problem is that while being not at all defensively aware, he can also get put on the back foot by fighters willing to press him. Going backwards against Kape and offering a lot of offense with little defense seems like a death sentence. Manel Kape via KO, round 2.
Tim: Starboy is ready to go supernova. Kape has had so many aborted chances to impress and get a good run going in the UFC. But he’s been given a gimme here at UFC 293 and I expect him to get a stellar finish and use it to mount a challenge for upper rankings of the division. Manel Kape via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Kape: Lucas, Chris, Dayne, Anton, Ben, Kristen, Victor, Tim, Stephie, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Dos Santos:
Justin Tafa vs. Austen Lane
Dayne: I don’t know why the odds have shifted so heavily towards Tafa since their first fight. Can anyone fill me in why they have? I’m picking him anyway as I like his power and I’m not convinced Lane’s chin can hold up against proven power punchers. That said, Lane is a far superior athlete who might be able to outpoint Tafa if he can manage to keep the power puncher on the outside of his reach, but I don’t trust Lane has that type of discipline in his striking. Tafa via KO of RD1
Victor: See, this is also kind of a mismatch. Tafa’s power and striking can be too much for Lane, who has a habit of exploding and not having his cardio hold up as well. He has more fights than Tafa, but the caliber of opposition wasn’t great. Can’t trust it. Justin Tafa by knockout, round 2.
Zane: We only saw 30 seconds of this fight, but I absolutely did not like any bit of it for Tafa. He seemed seriously shocked by Lane’s speed and size. Those body kicks looks like a problem he did not have a tool to deal with. Could he KO Lane at UFC 293? Sure. But my bet is he gets chewed up by kicks early and then swamped by Lane’s size for two more rounds of heavyweight hugging and chasing. Austen Lane via decision.
Tim: At 35 and with three bad KO losses under his belt, I think Lane is too old and too touched up to find success here. At some point Tafa will catch him and that will be it for him. Tafa via KO, round 2.
Staff picking Tafa: Chris, Dayne, Anton, Ben, Kristen, Victor, Tim, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Lane: Lucas, Zane
Tyson Pedro vs. Anton Turkalj
Dayne: I feel like both these combatants should be better than they are. Pedro is the better athlete with a good all-around skillset, but Turkalj is the classic grinder that tends to break his opponent before the fight it over. Both have flashed those abilities, but not against quality competition.
I’ve seen more of Pedro to know I don’t trust him against an opponent he can’t just physically overwhelm. I’m sure some would disagree with me, but I don’t think Turkalj is one of those he can blow through. Pedro probably wins the opening round of their UFC 293 tilt, but will fade badly as Turkalj wears him down over the course of the fight. Turkalj via decision
Victor: Is “The Pleasure Man” an amazing nickname? Absolutely. I’m just mad it’s not my nickname. Anton’s been struggling and Tyson looks like he can clear this hurdle. Again, very clear what the angle is with the matchmaking. Tyson Pedro by TKO, round 1.
Tim: Can’t trust an Anton T. Tyson Pedro via submission, round 2.
Zane: Pedro is pretty clearly going through it with confidence issues. He’s had lots of injuries and a few devastating losses and his willingness to trust his body in a firefight seems to be gone. But I’m kind of at a loss as to what Turkalj is going to do here at UFC 293.
He doesn’t really strike, he doesn’t really wrestle. His clinch game and even his grappling games are incredibly static. Is he really just going to out-scramble Pedro to a win? If that somersault guard pass Pedro tried on Bukauskas is any sign, he just might. But I can’t pick it in good conscience. Tyson Pedro by decision.
Staff picking Pedro: Lucas, Kristen, Victor, Tim, Stephie, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Turkalj: Chris, Dayne, Ben, Anton
Carlos Ulberg vs. Da Un Jung
Victor: I’m supposed to trust a guy that went to a draw with 2020 Sam Alvey? Man, fuck you. Ulberg by TKO, round 2.
Dayne: Jung’s inconsistency is maddening. He looked like a million bucks in blowing through Kennedy Nzechukwu, only to look like a shell of that fighter when he fought to a draw with Sam Alvey or in falling to Devin Clark. Thus, I’m never sure what to expect from him. …
To read the rest of our UFC 293: Israel Adesanya vs. Sean Strickland staff picks head on over to Substack. Now that Bloody Elbow is a fully independent site the best way to support us, so that we can continue fearless coverage of combat sports, is to pick up a paid subscription. Paid subscribers help fund other exclusive content like editorials from Karim Zidan and Jonathan Snowden and investigations by John S. Nash.
No change at the top, with Dayne, Anton, Eddie and Zane all getting 9-2 records at UFC Paris last week. Kristen and I did better than those chumps, though, going 10-1. I missed on Benoit Saint-Denis vs. Thiago Moises and Kristen faded Volkan Oezdemir. With how tight it is at the top here, we could see a new leader after UFC 293 is all said and done.
|Position||Staffer||Correct||Incorrect||Total Picks||%||Picks Back||Week 30 Record|
|1 (-)||Dayne 🇺🇸||228||146||374||0.610||9-2|
|2 (-)||Anton 🇵🇭||227||147||374||0.607||1||9-2|
|– (▲)||Eddie 🏴☠️||227||147||374||0.607||1||9-2|
|4 (-)||Zane 🇺🇸||225||149||374||0.602||3||9-2|
|5 (-)||Kristen 🇺🇸||221||153||374||0.591||7||10-1|
|6 (-)||Stephie 🇫🇯||217||143||360||0.603||11||9-2|
|7 (-)||Tim 🇨🇦||210||164||374||0.561||18||10-1|
|8 (-)||Lucas 🇧🇷||205||157||362||0.566||23||7-4|
|9 (-)||Chris 🇺🇸||173||189||362||0.478||55||7-4|
|10 (-)||BE Community 🌎||165||141||306||0.539||63||9-2|
|11 (-)||Jack 🇨🇦||144||109||253||0.569||84||7-4|
|12 (-)||Victor 🇺🇸||143||118||261||0.548||85||7-4|
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