The former two-division UFC champ and commentator weighed in on the future of the middleweight division after a seismic upset in Sydney, and he said the nature of the loss – and potential matchups possible – gave other middleweights a better case for Strickland’s first title defense.
“The last time Izzy lost, all we could speak about was he should be next again,” Cormier said during the post-event wrap-up on ESPN+ pay-per-view. “I don’t think that this time. I don’t think he should fight for a belt next time. I don’t think he should get an automatic rematch. I think the division needs to move on a little bit.”
Cormier referred to Adesanya’s knockout loss to Alex Pereira in the fifth round of their UFC 281 showdown. Up until the ending, Adesanya had been winning the fight and was ahead on all judges’ scorecards before a last-minute surge from Pereira led to the upset.
On Saturday night at UFC 293, all judges were in agreement that Strickland won the fight, awarding him 4-1 against Adesanya, who was attempting the first defense of his second title reign after knocking out Pereira in an immediate rematch at UFC 287.
Strickland was not Adesanya’s intended opponent for the UFC 293 headliner at Qudos Bank Arena. Surging middleweight Dricus Du Plessis was expected to stand across from Adesanya after a fiery clash inside the cage following his win over ex-champ Robert Whittaker at UFC 290.
Cormier said Adesanya’s loss marked a new day for fighters at 185 pounds who’d already lost to Adesanya or hadn’t gotten their shot at gold. One of them sat in the arena in Sydney: Jared Cannonier, who previously was outpointed by Adesanya at UFC 276 and weighed in as a backup for the middleweight title fight at UFC 293. Former welterweight Khamzat Chimaev also takes on one-time title challenger Paulo Costa at UFC 294 in October, offering another new look.
“It’s like a brand new world, right, like The Little Mermaid – a whole new world,” Cormier joked. “Sean Strickland now opens up the possibility for so many fresh matchups. [Jared] Cannonier just weighed in also and has a victory over Sean Strickland.
“But I’ve got to imagine Dricus Du Plessis will be the next guy, especially after being the one that was supposed to be here. I’ll tell you, he’s kicking himself in South Africa right now, because if there was a time to get Adesanya, tonight was the night. There was a lot that goes into this fight, and Sean Strickland did what he was supposed to do. But I figure Du Plessis unless Khamzat Chimaev just completely wipes out Paulo Costa.”