“You know what I said? I said maybe, just maybe, crazy like a fox,” Atlas said on the post-show for Sunday’s pay-per-view event.
Strickland upended the UFC middleweight division with a unanimous decision over Israel Adesanya. He was as high as a +600 underdog to defeat the two-time middleweight champion. But the shocking thing about it was that he didn’t struggle much to wrest the belt from “The Last Stylebender,” who was soundly outstruck en route to 49-46 scorecards for the challenger.
As loud as Strickland was outside the cage, inside it he was methodical and effective.
“We all knew that obviously Izzy was the more dynamic talent here, and a different kind of striker, almost one in a millennium,” Atlas said. “Almost makes you think about Anderson Silva, guys like that, that kind of pure ability to make his own music, as I was saying yesterday. But this guy kinda pulled the plug out of the music, and really cut off the music, and he did it in a simple way, in a conventional way, in a basic way.
“Basic is good sometimes. He did it with a jab — he set the table with the jab, and he ate with the right hand all night long. And as far as defense, he didn’t forget about that. That was his offense, very simple, not complex, but efficient, effective.
“But his defense? Just stepping out of range, just controlling range, being calm in an un-calm environment, and just getting a little out of range, a little bit back in — not too much out, just enough to make him miss, and then close enough where he could come back with that jab and control and dictate. The greatest thing about him tonight, he was steady. Sometimes steady is better than flashy, better than fast, better than electric, you know? No music tonight. It was quiet.”
Adesanya suffered his second loss as a middleweight and ceded the UFC title for the second time in one year. Strickland dropped the champion cleanly in the first round, coming seconds away from stopping the fight. Adesanya recovered, but he was never able to get back into the fight.
UFC President Dana White called for an immediate rematch between the middleweights and was at a loss at what happened to Adesanya. For Atlas, it was simply a matter of missing fundamentals.
“In boxing and in my world, we would have been saying [Adesanya] needs to put the left behind the right hand,” Atlas said. “Because you can block so many, but then if you put enough together while the guy’s handcuffed, you can get to him, because when the guy’s blocking too many, he’s handcuffed too long, he can’t do nothing, [and] eventually, you get through.
“He didn’t put that extra punch together, and I’m taking nothing away, obviously, from Strickland, but that helped a little bit. And one other thing about Strickland, he doesn’t beat himself. There’s something to be said [for that]. He’s changed. I was even saying in my podcast, and I was even tweeting it out during the week where he’s changed. He’s made a transition, where he’s not the caveman no more. He’s got that club, but he don’t got the torch no more. He’s got a flashlight now.”
And with that simple tool, Strickland pulled off the biggest title upset in middleweight history, according to the post-show broadcast.