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UFC 293: Adesanya v Strickland Predictions

Israel Adesanya heads Down Under to defend his middleweight championship against Sean Strickland in the main event of UFC 293 at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld. 

UFC 293 Adesanya Strickland

Israel Adesanya heads Down Under to defend his middleweight championship against Sean Strickland in the main event of UFC 293 at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld. 

Local hero Tai Tuivasa will look to rock the house when he faces Russian giant Alexander Volkov in the co-headlining heavyweight clash as will fellow Australian ace Tyson Pedro, who takes on Anton Turkalj in a light heavyweight contest. 

New Zealand heavyweight Justin Tafa has a score to settle with former NFL star Austen Lane, while flyweight firecracker Manel Kape welcomes Felipe dos Santos to the Octagon. 

MAIN CARD (from 4.00 Sunday morning SA time):

Israel Adesanya (1.14) v Sean Strickland (5.70) (Middleweight Championship)

The show must go on. 

That’s always been Adesanya’s attitude. One of the most active champions in UFC history, the two-time middleweight king likes to stay busy and up until now, that’s been one of the things fight fans appreciate the most about him. 

This weekend’s fight against American veteran Strickland is not what the world wanted, though, and if ever there was a time to pump the breaks, this was it as the table was set for a historic grudge match against Dricus du Plessis. 

The South African star had cemented himself as the number one contender in July with a stunning knockout win over former champion Robert Whittaker and shared a heated stare-down with Adesanya immediately afterwards. 

News soon broke that “Stillknocks” would need time to recover from a foot injury, however, Adesanya remained adamant that he’d headline UFC 293 across the Tasman from his home and training base of New Zealand and granted the title shot to Strickland instead.  

Is it a blockbuster? No. A banger? Also not, but it is intriguing given they are polar opposites. Adesanya is new school, a lover of anime who’s fond of painting his nails, whereas Strickland’s a man’s man. Naturally, this has caused bad blood and trash talk between the two and they get to settle their beef in Sydney. 

One of the most sophisticated strikers to ever grace the Octagon, Adesanya regained the 185-pound belt with a knockout of rival Alex Pereira in April and vows to do the same to Strickland, only this time with painted nails to rub salt in the wounds. 

“The Last Stylebender” boasts an excellent record of 24-2 with 16 knockouts. A kickboxing savant, his accuracy is laser-like, which in unison with his speed and footwork, allows him to use his opponent’s momentum against him, while the vast variety of strikes in his repertoire keeps his adversary guessing at all times. 

Strickland’s a boxer in style and a scrapper in spirit. Even many hard-core fans will be surprised to hear he’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt as he rarely wrestles and grapplers. He loves nothing more than to stand and bang and promises to do just that against Adesanya. 

“Tarzan” is 27-5 with 15 finishes (11 knockouts and four submissions). A mainstay in the middleweight top 10, he’s 8-2 in his last 10 fights. As wild and crass a character as he is outside of the Octagon, he’s controlled and calculated inside of it and won’t take a backward step to the champion. 

His knockout of unranked Abus Magomedov in July was his first finish since 2018. He’s become adept at playing the long game; his style is to stay in his opponent’s face and outpoint him with tireless and technical striking. 

He went the full five rounds in all four of his previous main events and won three of them, which speaks to his tactical acumen and top-notch conditioning. This, though, is his first pay-per-view main event and maiden title shot, whereas Adesanya has fought exclusively in championship bouts since 2019. 

As a creative kickboxer, Adesanya has Strickland outgunned by some stretch. The Nigerian-born, New Zealand-bred phenom did experience a period of point-fighting, which saw him win rematches with Marvin Vettori and Whittaker and a clash against Jarod Cannonier by decision, but the back-to-back battles with Pereira have reawakened the warrior within. 

That, coupled with the fact that he wants to prove a point to Strickland, makes me confident that he’ll have the necessary aggression to get the finish as a cherry on top of setting up the much-anticipated showdown with Du Plessis for 2024. 

Prediction: Adesanya by knockout. 
Best Bet: Adesanya by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.00.

Tai Tuivasa (3.05) v Alexander Volkov (1.40) (Heavyweight)

Two things are certain in the co-main event battle between top-10 heavyweights – the crowd will go crazy when local hero Tuivasa (15-5) makes the walk and the judges won’t be needed. 

As potent as he is popular, Tuivasa is one of the funnest fighters to watch in all of MMA. From his comical walk-out songs, including once coming out to a Spice Girls tune, to his wild brawling and trademark shoey celebration, he’s a violent entertainer unlike any other.

Sixth-ranked “Bam Bam” is a knockout artist who lives and dies by the sword. As a throwback slugger in modern MMA, his climb into the top 10, which saw him score five knockouts in a row, was mightily impressive. 

However, his back-to-back stoppage losses to Ciryl Gane and Sergei Pavlovich since showed his brawling ways leave something to be desired against the division’s elite.

Volkov (36-10), in contrast, is a complete fighter and has momentum on his side in the form of successive first-round knockout wins over Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alexander Romanov.

Standing 6’7″, the seventh-ranked Russian is a towering titan and a former Bellator champion with invaluable experience and a massive 80-inch reach. 

Tuivasa will fearlessly try to close the five-inch reach disadvantage and has good value as he’s always one haymaker away from winning a fight. 

However, the crisper striking of the more tactical and technical “Drago” should see him play spoiler. 

Prediction: Volkov by knockout. 

Best Bet: Volkov by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.95.

Manel Kape (1.25) v Felipe dos Santos (4.10) (Flyweight)

An impressive three-fight win streak has Kape (18-6) looking like a future title contender and earned him a marquee match-up against former interim title challenger Kai Kara-France. The Kiwi, however, was forced out of the fight due to injury, leaving Kape to face a UFC debutant in Dos Santos instead. 

Ultra-dynamic and a hard-hitting flyweight, tenth-ranked Kape fights with controlled aggression. “Starboy” showed his immense promise upon arrival when he pushed current champion Alexandre Pantoja to the limit in his UFC debut, succumbing to a debated split decision, and is levels above his new opponent.

Coming in on short notice, Dos Santos has little to lose aside from his unbeaten record, which stands at 7-0, and everything to gain. Just 22, he fights out of Chute Boxe Diego Lima alongside former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira and looks capable on the feet and the ground.

However, he’ll be put down by a better, more polished and experienced fighter whose hunger to put his name back in the headlines after a spell of inactivity will see him make a statement. 

Prediction: Kape by knockout. 

Best Bet: Kape by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.74.

Alternative Bet: Under 1.5 rounds at 2.00.

Austen Lane (2.80) v Justin Tafa (1.45) (Heavyweight)

Former Jacksonville Jaguars star Lane (12-3) transitioned from American football to mixed martial arts in 2017 and six straight stoppage wins earned him his shot in the UFC debut at the age of 35. 

Taking on Tafa (6-3) in his promotional debut, the fight ended in a no-contest after a nasty accidental eye poke in the opening round left the New Zealander unable to continue. Both behemoths boast a 100% finish rate and they get to conclude their unfinished business Down Under.

Though past his athletic prime, Lane is still a significantly better pure athlete than his opponent and has a six-inch advantage in both height and reach.

Tafa, who scored back-to-back wins before the no-contest, is a plodding brawler by comparison but much like Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis, he makes up for his lack of athleticism with unbridled power and supreme composure in the heat of battle.

While Lane has more fights, competing in the Octagon is a completely different ball game. At home in combat sport’s ultimate proving ground, “Bad Man” is set to for a big win. 

Prediction: Tafa by knockout.

Best Bet: Tafa by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.62.

Alternative Bet: Tafa in round one at 2.00. 

Tyson Pedro (1.90) v Anton Turkalj (1.90) (Light Heavyweight)

Australia’s own Pedro (9-4) has the party-starting duties in the main card opener between light heavyweight finishers. An excellent athlete and natural-born killer, all of his wins are by stoppage (four knockouts and five submissions).

Whereas he holds notable wins over Khalil Rowntree and former top-10 contender Paul Craig, Turkalj (8-2) is winless after two trips to the Octagon. The Swede favours striking and is lethal in his own right with all but one of his wins coming by finish (five knockouts and two submissions).

“The Pleasure Man” is rather laboured in his movement and against a fast, fleet-footed athlete like Pedro, he’ll be the first to fall on a night full of finishes. 

Prediction: Pedro by knockout.

Best Bet: Pedro at 1.90.

Alternative Bet: Pedro by KO/TKO/DQ at 3.50.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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