Former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has finally opened up about his frustrating loss to Sean Strickland at UFC 293. On his personal YouTube channel (transcribed by MMA Fighting), the ‘Last Stylebender’ explained what went through his mind during his losing effort earlier this month, as well as what he thinks ‘Tarzan’ did correctly in order to snatch his belt.
Israel Adesanya calls the loss a bad dream, not a nightmare
Though he would not call the fight a nightmare, Israel Adesanya did say the whole experience felt like a bad dream. Especially for the fact that the ‘Last Stylebender‘ could not get his gameplan going due to Sean Strickland’s carefully orchestrated strategy to nullify the former champion’s strong suits.
“How did I feel in there? Like a bad dream,” Israel Adesanya said.
“It wasn’t a nightmare. A nightmare is like, ‘Oh sh-t, f-ck.’ A nightmare is like you’re scared. It was just like, you try and hit the guy and it just feels like noodle arms. Just like, what the f-ck? So yeah, I just felt like that — like a bad dream. The feeling I had watching it was completely different, and I called (coach) Eugene (Bareman) right afterward and we talked — and same thing, I’m quietly confident.”
The former champion thought he had more time
In fact, it seems like not reacting and adapting to Sean Strickland’s strategy in time was the biggest reason behind the unanimous decision loss for Israel Adesanya. Although the former champion does not wish to take credit away from his former opponent, the Nigerian did state he did not realize it was the fifth round of their title fight already, and though he had more time to recover from the losing bout.
“I didn’t realize it was the last round,” Adesanya said. “I was like, ‘Is this the last round?’ Because I saw last round and I was like, ‘F-ck, OK. Vamonos. You need to do something.’ But yeah, it was just the way I felt in that fight wasn’t — bleh. It was just, bleh. But again, it was also just the way he worked. He just never let me get into my rhythm at all.”
Adesanya also praised Sean Strickland’s skills
Israel Adesanya mostly attributes this fact to Sean Strickland’s style of constant pressure, which made the former champion feel uncomfortable and unable to find his timing in the Octagon. Furthermore, the ‘Last Stylebender‘ also mentioned how ‘Tarzan‘’s unorthodox technique and piercing jabs confused him during the match.
“I just wasn’t able to get my rhythm because of his pressure. He was right there constantly, and whenever I was setting him up because he’s right there, then his coach would help him, and I’d be like, ‘F-.’ It was just a good game plan from their end. But also, for me, I wasn’t able to adjust on the fly.
“I said it before the fight, I think his guard is just real unique and unorthodox, so I wasn’t able to find my jab,” Adesanya added. “And I’m able to find my jab (always). I can find the chin. I’m very confident in that, but his guard was just good. It was good. Good defense and good offense, well-rounded game.”
Both men are at very different moments in their careers
The loss to Sean Strickland marks Israel Adesanya’s (24-3) second defeat in his last three outings. In both of his previous bouts, the 34-year-old longtime rival Alex Pereira getting TKO’d in November 2022 and then recovering his title when he KO’d ‘Poatan’ in their following fight, in April 2023.
Meanwhile, Strickland (28-5) scored his third straight win at UFC 293, having TKO Abusupiyan Magomedov and bested Nassourdine Imavov via unanimous decision prior to the Adesanya victory, respectively in July and January of this year.
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