The brashest contender of the middleweight division will face arguably it’s all-time greatest champion when Sean Strickland challenges Israel Adesanya at UFC 293.
— UFC (@ufc) September 4, 2023
It is one of those timeless conversations, are the athletes of today better than those of yesterday? Are they better because simply their level of competition is not only talented but also faster and stronger than the champions of times gone by? Israel Adesanya is in this conversation, competing with a brilliance reminiscent of the great Anderson Silva and in the very same division that “The Spider” once reigned over. “The Last Stylebender” has proven his mettle plenty of times already, beating the likes of Robert Whittaker, Jared Cannonier, Marvin Vettori, Alex Pereira, Paulo Costa, and others en route to forging a Hall of Fame worthy run. Is he better now than Silva was in his prime? We will never know. But the fact that he is so brilliant that it is a serious question tells you all you need to know about his skills.
The spotlight can move targets very quickly in sports. Today, Adesanya is arguably the biggest star in mixed martial arts who is in the midst of promoting a film about his life and gracing the cover of a video game for the second time. Should the spotlight stay on him tomorrow, he has potential fights with the likes of Dricus du Plessis and Khamzat Chimaev and either would be amongst the biggest bouts that could be seen in 2024. There are several things outside of his control to fall into place of course. But the chief among them that he is in charge of is performing to the best of his ability when the world already expects it to be easy for him.
— UFC (@ufc) September 7, 2023
Listen to Sean Strickland for five minutes this week, or even five minutes any other week for the past two years, and you’ll get the gist of who he is to the public. Brash, at times crass, and sometimes not politically correct, Strickland unapologetically walks to the beat of his own drum more differently than any title challenger before him. The UFC knows it is an inescapable part of who he is, with his tirades having made the rounds this fight week across their platforms. With the biggest fight of his career looming, Strickland has downplayed the significance of being a UFC champion and becoming one of the biggest names in the sport. Asked what he’ll do with the world title belt that most spend their careers chasing, and he nonchalantly says he will likely sell it. Whether or not he actually feels that way underneath the bravado, only he knows.
But to dismiss his chances against the champion of the world would be ignoring the place where he speaks the loudest: the cage. Strickland is 7-2 as a middleweight following a respectable run at welterweight. In the past year, he has made the ascension from middle of the pack contender to perennial top-ranked threat behind victories over several veterans likes Abus Magomedov, Nassourdine Imavov, Jack Hermansson, and others. While he has been in the cage with elite foes like Pereira and Cannonier, Adesanya is easily the most elite level opponent that he has taken on in his career. To say a victory would be a seminal moment for Strickland would be an understatement of epic proportions.
— UFC (@ufc) September 8, 2023
An victory for Strickland would set the stage for any number of scenarios, chief among them would be an immediate rematch with Adesanya with the option of at least four other top contenders in the mix were it not to materialize. Should Adesanya retain the title, it would be difficult not to revisit the bout with Dricus du Plessis following their viral face off earlier this summer in what would likely be one of the biggest bouts of 2024. That said, fellow star Khamzat Chimaev appears to be on the cusp of a title shot as well and would need serious consideration as the next title challenger should he get past Paulo Costa next month.