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American Sean Strickland stunned Nigerian-born New Zealander Israel Adesanya to take the middleweight title by unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 293 in Sydney, the first UFC event in Australia’s largest city in six years.

The 32-year-old Strickland (28-5), who caused a stir in the lead-up to the fight with sexist and misogynistic comments at a press conference promoting the bout, won a five-round decision with all three judges scoring it 49-46.

Backed by strong vocal support at Qudos Bank Arena, Adesanya (24-3) was a clear favorite to subdue his controversial American opponent and retain the title he won from Alex Pereira at UFC 281 in April.

But the 32-year-old Strickland’s defensive, counterattacking style was brutally effective with the American landing the more telling shots throughout the fight with Adesanya struggling to find a way to respond.

After a patient start by both fighters which saw Adesanya probing Strickland’s unusual defensive style, it was the American that found the first telling strike with a clean straight shot that felled Adesanya. Strickland quickly moved in on the 34-year-old New Zealander’s back with a flurry of strikes to close out the first round in the American’s favor.

Adesanya was the more assertive in the second and third rounds, finding his range with his kicks and right-hand shots but continued to leave himself open for Strickland to strike at Adesanya’s body and head.