Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker believes Israel Adesanya was made to look bad by Sean Strickland.
Strickland shocked the world when he not only defeated Adesanya to become the new middleweight king at UFC 293 this past weekend, but outclassed him over five rounds on his way to a comprehensive unanimous decision win.
Whittaker — who is winless in two attempts against Adesanya — was among those who were shocked as he was left impressed by how Strickland was able to nullify the now former champion.
“Strickland had an answer for every one of Izzy’s techniques,” Whittaker said on his MMArcade Podcast (via MMA Junkie). “For every one of Izzy’s strengths, Strickland had an answer. He was cutting off the cage perfectly, he was in that threat space where Izzy’s leg kicks were taken out of concern. Strickland, his defensive game was on point.
“With Izzy throwing those looping shots as he kind of rope-a-dopes on the fence there, Strickland was patient, just always keeping Izzy on the backfoot, which was taking out of his gas. And, mate, he just kept it consistent from the very first second of the fight to the 25th. It was honestly a great performance from Strickland.”
While Strickland has received plenty of plaudits for his performance and overall game plan, many, including UFC president Dana White, believe Adesanya looked slow and had an off night.
That is partly a big reason why White is seemingly looking to book an immediate rematch between the pair.
However, Whittaker believes it had nothing to do with Adesanya having an off night and everything to do with Strickland simply shutting him down right from the very first second.
“I see a lot of things popping up saying that Izzy looked off,” Whittaker added. “I don’t think he had an off night. He looked off because Sean shut him down. Izzy wasn’t given any space in the open floor to do any of his tricky kicks.
“He wasn’t given any space to work any of his flinch games with his punches. He wasn’t given the chance. Sean was in his face from the first bell ring.”