UFC 293 predictions — Israel Adesanya vs. Sean Strickland: Fight card, odds, preview, prelims, expert picks

Israel Adesanya kicks off his second stint as middleweight champion on Saturday when he faces Sean Strickland in the main event of UFC 293. The event goes down from Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.

After suffering a dramatic late knockout loss to Alex Pereira at UFC 281, Adesanya came back to score his own knockout of Pereira to regain the championship at UFC 287. That win was Adesanya’s first over Pereira after also losing twice to his rival in kickboxing.

It appeared Adesanya would make the first defense of his new reign against Dricus Du Plessis, but Du Plessis was not available for UFC 293, resulting in Strickland getting the call on the strength of two wins in a row.

“He’s talking all this shit, but he should be grateful. I got him his first passport. I got him his first flight out of his country. I got him this big-money fight,” Adesanya said at the final press conference this week. “He tries to act like a tough guy, but there’s no danger with him. He’s that idiot at the back of the class who talks over you and talks loud just to get his point across.”

Strickland enters his first title fight on the back of two straight wins over lesser competition as he was more or less boxed out of facing fighters in the top five by virtue of current matchmaking. Now, he gets his chance at the champ having trained some with his arch rival in Pereira. 

CBS Sports will also have live coverage of the fight with round-by-round scoring and blow-by-blow updates to keep you up to date throughout the night.

“Sometimes you should say no… but at the end of the day, opportunities never f—ing come when you want them to,” Strickland told CBS Sports. “You never wake up and say, ‘Today is a great day! I’m ready for some good shit to happen to me in life.’ 

“Usually, someone you love is f—ing dying or you just got f—ing fired or the IRS is sending you letters. Usually, your life is a complete utter shit show and you’ll have a little glimmer of, ‘Hey, man. You can risk everything and have this opportunity.’ Generally, the people who do that are the people who are successful in life.”

While this card is severely lacking in big names or depth, there are still a few standout matchups that could produce some fun results. Heavyweights collide in the co-main event where Tai Tuivasa takes on Alexander Volkov. After blitzing his way to an interim title shot, Tuivasa came back down to Earth with two straight stoppage losses. Now, he looks to get back on track against Volkov, who is coming off a pair of knockout wins himself.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of UFC 293 below.

Plus, flyweight Manel Kape takes on debutant Felipe dos Santos. Kape was expected to face Kai Kara-France in what was supposed to be a massive fight for the division’s title implications. But Kara-France suffered a knockout in training camp and decided to withdraw from the bout for his own health and safety. Now, Kape needs to take care of business in hopes of continuing to climb the ladder at 125 pounds.

With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.

UFC 293 fight card, odds

  • Israel Adesanya -700 vs. Sean Strickland +500, middleweight title
  • Alexander Volkov -250 vs. Tai Tuivasa +205, heavyweights
  • Manel Kape -420 vs. Felipe Dos Santos +320, flyweights
  • Justin Tafa -220 vs. Austen Lane +180, heavyweights
  • Anton Turkalj -115 vs. Tyson Pedro -105, light heavyweights
  • Carlos Ulberg -300 vs. Da Woon Jung +240, light heavyweights
  • Jack Jenkins -205 vs. Chepe Mariscal +170, featherweights
  • Jamie Mullarkey -270 vs. John Makdessi +220, lightweights
  • Nasrat Haqparast -500 vs. Landon Quinones +380, lightweights
  • Charlie Radtke -325 vs. Mike Diamond +250, welterweights
  • Shane Young -115 vs. Gabriel Miranda -105, featherweights
  • Kevin Jousset -165 vs. Kiefer Crosbie +140, welterweights

With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).

UFC 293 picks, predictions

Adesanya (c) vs. Strickland Adesanya Adesanya Adesanya Adesanya Adesanya
Volkov vs. Tuivasa Volkov Volkov Volkov Tuivasa Volkov
Kape vs. dos Santos Kape Kape Kape Kape Kape
Tafa vs. Lane Tafa Tafa Tafa Tafa Tafa
Pedro vs. Turkalj Pedro Pedro Pedro Pedro Pedro
Records to date (2023)
31-19 30-20 29-21 30-15 31-19

Adesanya vs. Strickland

Campbell: Strickland talks a good game and appears to have major-league cardio after going the five-round distance in four of his last six fights. But he’s a major underdog here for a reason. Without big-time power, a sturdy chin or a dominant wrestling game, Strickland simply doesn’t have the ammunition or requisite technical skills to be a bother for the champion. Even worse, Adesanya is a terrible style matchup for him and should be able to counter Strickland’s pressure with the same type of precise power shots that “The Last Stylebender” used to reclaim his title in April by knocking out Alex Pereira.  

Brookhouse: The first thing to ask in predicting a fight is “How does this fighter beat this opponent?” For Strickland, the only answer I can come up with is “Strickland beats Adesanya by landing one of the most shocking, out-of-nowhere punches in UFC history.” Strickland doesn’t have any notable power beyond the division average and his face-first approach is tailor-made for someone like Adesanya, who is one of the all-time elite sharpshooters in the sport’s history. Better wrestlers than Strickland have failed to do anything meaningful to Adesanya with takedowns. There’s just no path to victory for Strickland here that doesn’t involve what amounts to a “lucky punch.” 

Mahjouri: I’m not sure what significant threat Strickland presents beyond a lucky punch. Adesanya has defeated better strikers, better grapplers and more well-rounded fighters. Four weeks isn’t ideal for preparation, but it’s certainly enough to put together a winning strategy. I’ve seen people suggest that Strickland could replicate Kelvin Gastelum’s approach of brawling with Adesanya, but that was four years ago. Adesanya has finally dialed in how to convert his world-class kickboxing to MMA and won’t be pulled into a firefight with a lesser foe. The champion will retain via stoppage or a dull decision where he neutralizes Strickland.

Volkov vs. Tuivasa

Campbell: Tuivasa should have plenty of motivation fresh off a two-fight losing skid and an uncharacteristic 10-month layoff. But as long as he continues to operate in an all-or-nothing manner with his brawling style, this is a fight that the bigger and more technical Volkov should be able to win. Volkov also has a distinct wrestling advantage in his back pocket, should he need it. Riding his own two-fight win streak, both by knockout, the time is now for Volkov to survive and advance by any means necessary in order to hold place in the heavyweight title picture. At 6-foot-7, he should be able to do just that as long as he’s careful to not be lured into a war. 

Mahjouri: Tuivasa has refined his skills over the years, but it’s still very much a “live by the sword, die by the sword” approach. That will always cause him problems. Volkov has significant height and reach advantages paired with knockout power and a wealth of experience. Volkov is rather underappreciated, but his four UFC losses were all to fighters who subsequently challenged for a UFC heavyweight title or were on the cusp of contention. Tuivasa’s recent losses fit the same bill but he has struggled more as a UFC heavyweight. This fight will go a long way to showcasing Tuivasa’s true growth. Volkov is a perfect test to that end. For now, I’ll side with Volkov via KO or unanimous decision.

Manel Kape vs. Felipe dos Santos

Campbell: Despite the last-minute withdrawal from fellow flyweight contender Kai Kara-France, Kape did well at Thursday’s press conference to remind fans exactly who he is and why he’s so fired up when he verbally accosted Kara-France, who was seated in the crowd, and nearly got into it physically with Israel Adesanya on the dais. But Kape, who brings a three-fight win streak into his matchup against UFC debutant Felipe dos Santos does have plenty of reason to be this cocky. The former Rizin bantamweight champion has faced top competition around the globe over the past six years and remains an intriguing title prospect to watch for due to his power and aggressive style.

Who wins UFC 293: Adesanya vs. Strickland, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 293, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200 in 2022, and find out.

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