UFC 293 has come and gone and it’s likely that we’ve seen the upset of the year. Despite being given no chance – only Chris’ coin picked correctly in the staff picks – Sean Strickland managed to upstage Israel Adesanya to become the reigning middleweight champion. Given Strickland was only chosen to challenge for the belt when Dricus du Plessis was unavailable in the timeframe the UFC presented, it throws the division into a state of flux.
Though we didn’t know it at the time, it appears the beginning of the end for Adesanya came in the first round when Strickland caught him cleanly, hurting the champion and coming thisclose to finishing him. Adesanya survived, but never looked right from that point of their UFC 293 headliner. Strickland stayed in his face, never allowing Adesanya to find a rhythm. Strickland landed the more impactful shots, taking away the crown from Adesanya in a result no one saw coming.
But who were the real winners and losers of at UFC 293? Sure, 12 UFC fighters officially had their hand raised in victory, but that doesn’t always mean they are the true winners of the night. Same with those who didn’t get their hand raised. Just like not all wins are created equal, not all losses are either. I’ll give you the lowdown on who the biggest winners and losers of UFC 293 were. I’ll limit it to three in each category, and while I typically do my best to avoid having the same combatants of a contest in both categories I had to make an exception this time around. Let’s dig in!
UFC 293 Winners
Could there have been anyone else? No one was excited about Strickland challenging for the title at UFC 293. His most recent wins heading into the contest were Nassourdine Imavov and Abus Magomedov. Imavov is in the rankings, but Magomedov has a single win within the promotion. Plus, he ended 2022 with losses to Alex Pereira and Jared Cannonier. Those are fine fighters, but they are also the last fighters whom Adesanya defeated. Plus, Adesanya appeared to be a nightmare matchup for Strickland. Appeared is the key word there as that proved to be untrue at UFC 293.
Strickland showed Adesanya no respect, staying in his face for the entirety of the UFC 293 fight. Adesanya was unable to let loose his powerful kicks and Strickland managed to cover up and/or dodge Adesanya’s punches. Very little landed cleanly from Adesanya and Strickland didn’t have to worry about takedowns coming his way. Even if Strickland doesn’t end up being a long-reigning champion – I don’t believe he will be – he will forever be a champion in the annals of UFC history. That’s more than just about anyone thought would happen.
In the modern era, there aren’t many fighters who look like they got up off a barstool ala Tank Abbott. Tafa is one of the few that might be mistaken for something other than a high-level professional athlete. Despite that Tafa is proving to be more along the lines of fellow Kiwi Mark Hunt than the original UFC agitator. Tafa may be a man of few words, but says all he needs to say in the cage, having secured all four of his UFC wins via first round knockout.
This UFC 293 win over Austen Lane was particularly sweet. The two originally faced off two-and-a-half months previously, only for the fight to be stopped 29 seconds in due to a bad eye poke suffered by Tafa. There was a bit of déjà vu at UFC 293 as Lane’s fingers again found their way into Tafa’s eye in the opening minute this time around. Fortunately, it wasn’t severe and Tafa was able to maintain his composure and finish the job he began back in June. In the process, it extended his unbeaten streak to four, making him a legit dark horse in the division.
Given the other events at UFC 293, it’s easy to forget how notable this upset was. Mariscal picked up the most gruesome finish of the night when Jack Jenkins dislocated his elbow. Part of the finish can be attributed to circumstance, but Mariscal’s part in it shouldn’t be discounted either. Regardless, that isn’t why Mariscal made it on the Winners list. Even had the freak injury not occurred, Mariscal had swung the momentum of the fight firmly in his favor after falling behind through the first half of the opening round. For someone who is known as a brawler, Mariscal showed a lot of veteran savvy in turning the fight in his favor.
Jenkins found a lot of success early with low kicks at a distance. They were bad enough that Mariscal was clearly feeling their effects. In fact, those kicks were the driving factor for Mariscal changing up his strategy. Nevertheless, Mariscal was finding more success before the end of the first round before completely controlling Jenkins against the fence in the second. With his toughness, Mariscal could end up fighting well beyond his talent level at this pace.
UFC 293 Losers
I generally avoid having fighters on the opposite sides of a contest in both columns, but this was a historic upset at UFC 293. Adesanya has generally been able to walk over everyone at 185, only Alex Pereira offering any real pushback since Adesanya first strapped UFC gold around his waist. Strickland didn’t appear to offer anything Adesanya hadn’t seen before, nor did he have the wrestling credentials to beat him in the manner Jan Blachowicz did. Despite that, Adesanya never got on track at UFC 293 and now finds himself without a crown.
It’s hard to predict where the UFC goes with Adesanya from here. The former two-time middleweight champion has now lost two of his last three and this wasn’t a particularly competitive fight. Adesanya could at least claim he was on his way to a decision victory before Pereira stopped him in the fifth round of their first MMA contest. Plus, even if Adesanya regains the belt — something I wouldn’t discount — It’ll be hard to proclaim him the greatest middleweight ahead of Anderson Silva at this juncture. There’s just been too many interruptions now.
I think it’s official that Tuivasa’s venture into the top five of the division was an aberration. That isn’t to say Tuivasa is a crap fighter; he certainly deserves to have a number next to his name. But it’s clear he’s not an elite fighter, having come up short every fight since blasting Derrick Lewis in the first half of 2022. There’s no shame in losing to the likes of Ciryl Gane, Sergei Pavlovich, and Alexander Volkov, but it also creates a clear delineation between Tuivasa and the rest of those fighters.
I do believe there is reason to be hopeful that Tuivasa might be able to hang with the best in the division as Tuivasa only began training in several aspects of the fight game in recent years. However, given Tuivasa became just the third fighter in UFC history to lose via Ezekiel choke shows how far Tuivasa has to go on his ground game. That it was Volkov who pulled it off – someone not known for their submission prowess – doesn’t help things out for Tuivasa’s outlook. I’m more than happy to watch just about any Tuivasa fight, but after UFC 293, I’ve given up on it being particularly meaningful in the big picture anymore.
I generally try to avoid putting fighters that I believe are going to be on the chopping block on here – they generally don’t need an armchair quarterback like me telling them what’s up – but this is one of the most egregiously bad weeks for a fighter in recent memory. Thus, I’m putting Young on here not to kick him while he’s down, but to encourage him to step away from the sport for a while for his own good as he doesn’t seem like he’s in a good place mentally. I may not have intimate details, but there is something wrong on his end.
Picking up his fourth consecutive loss at UFC 293 was bad enough. Doing so while missing weight badly only piles on top of things. Losing in less than a minute makes things worse. However, having that loss come against Gabriel Miranda, someone who many don’t believe deserves his roster spot, makes thing about as bad as it gets. Watching the fight, Young didn’t look like his head was in the fight. The result speaks for itself.
As for Charlie Radtke…
I’m sure many were expecting Radtke to be on the Losers list. I understand why you would think that given his homophobic comments. However, I can’t label him a loser given he’s getting exactly what he wants. Had he just said the standard things a fighter says in the post-fight interview, we wouldn’t be talking about him. Because he’ll be known for his comments, more people will care about him, even if it’s to watch him get his ass KO’d. Now, if he gets cut, someone will be willing to sign him. Given that, he could get his next contract at a premium.
Perhaps some of my regular readers will point out I put Adesanya on the losers list of UFC 290 after his similarly vulgar tirade against Dricus Du Plessis. Fair point. However, everyone with an inkling of interest in MMA knows who Adesanya is. He gained nothing from his rant but ire. People now know who Radtke is and may even remember him now several years down the road. They wouldn’t otherwise. Given how much his profile raised, an argument could be made Radtke is one of the biggest winners of the night. Obviously, I didn’t do that, but figured I’d make a note of Radtke’s controversial evening.
Manel Kape is in a similar boat. A lot more people know who he is now following his fun fight with Felipe dos Santos and are more likely to remember him for his heated callout of Kai Kara-France. Like with Radtke, I don’t like what he said, but a lot more people are interested in seeing him fight Kara-France after his use of the same slur Radtke uttered. That’s just the world we live in.
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