After one of the biggest upsets that the UFC has ever seen, Israel Adesanya has shockingly been dethroned as the middleweight king. A 25-minute battle ensued with his foe, Sean Strickland, were Strickland would utterly dominate the fight.
After the initial wave of shock that erupted throughout the MMA community, many fans were left with questions as to Adesanya’s next moves. Chiefly being, will he be granted an immediate rematch? UFC CEO Dana White has addressed these questions in a post fight interview where he affirmed his intention to make an immediate rematch between Adesanya and Strickland. This has drawn much comment from fans and fighters alike with many agreeing and many criticizing the decision to grant Adesanya an immediate rematch with Strickland.
So, does he deserve it?
Should the Last Style Bender Get a Rematch?
— UFC (@ufc) September 10, 2023
Legacy as a Champion
There can be no question that Israel Adesanya will go down in folklore as one of the greats at 185-lbs. Acting as the modern-day Anderson Silva, Adesanya has looked unbeatable during his time at the top of the division and at times, simply leagues ahead of the rest of his opponents. With five defenses of the middleweight belt, an interim title win, and a title unification fight, the City Kickboxer has plenty to show for his true dominance over the 185-lbs division. Even when he lost the belt to Alex Pereira, Adesanya had been winning the fight on the scorecards leading into 5th round before getting caught. He would go on to stop his old rival decisively in the second round in the immediate rematch to become a 2-time middleweight champion. Throw in his attempt to become champion at light-heavyweight and his bout against Strickland and you will see that in his last 11 fights, dating back to 2019, Adesanya has been involved in a title fight on every occasion. That is truly the legacy of a champion.
Yet, when looking at all the title defenses, cleaning out the division, and challenging up a weight class, it is worth noting that they all fall under his first title reign, and as momentous and impressive as this title reign was, Adesanya already received the immediate rematch that was undoubtedly owed to him following his loss of the title to Pereira at UFC 281, which he duly won. This bout against Strickland was his first defense during this second reign. For a champion without even a single defense, getting an immediate rematch is not warranted.
In fact, many champions who were significantly further along in their reigns were not granted immediate rematches following losing the title. For example Tyron Woodley defended the welterweight belt four times and was considered by many fans to be the heir to GSP—he was not granted an immediate rematch following his title loss to Kamaru Usman. Charles Oliveira, who had admittedly been stripped of title for weighing in half a pound over the weight limit against Justin Gaethje, was considered by all fans as the lightweight king before entering his bout with Islam Makhachev. After coming through a murderers’ row that included Tony Ferguson, Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, Oliveira was not granted an immediate rematch with Makhachev following his loss at UFC 280. Instead, Oliveira had to make his way through Beneil Dariush, before getting another chance at gold.
What It Means for the Division
— UFC (@ufc) September 10, 2023
Ultimately while Adesanya will always be remembered for his masterful performances inside the Octagon and the iron like grip that he held over the division, fans and the UFC themselves should not be quick to forget that the 185-lbs. division was constantly plagued with complaints that it was the most boring weight class in the company. With Adesanya seemingly leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the division, the weight class as a whole appeared to stagnate with a wave of excitement the likes of which not seen for years at middleweight when Alex Pereira became champion. Following the vengeance that Adesanya scored when he became a two-time champion, many fans again felt that the division had become repetitive, boring and worst of all uncompetitive.
With the arrival of Sean Strickland as champion, that all has the potential to change. Strickland, a notoriously controversial character, will ensure that entertainment remains at 185-lbs. for the foreseeable future and the arrival of a new champion allows other fighters and contenders to emerge and new matchups to be made.
Conclusion: Adesanya does NOT deserve an Immediate Rematch
In spite of his incredible achievements and legacy at the end of the day, Israel Adesanya has already been rewarded for this by being granted the immediate rematch with Pereira. His second title reign did not even succeed in one defense, and the manner in which he lost was decisive—not a freak knockout or a bad scorecard but he was comprehensively beaten and dominated over the course of 5 rounds. Because of this, he does not deserve to immediately jump back into the title picture and instead should be matched up against a number one contender. Surely a number one contender bout between him and Dricus Du Plessis would intrigue fans around the world.