Chris Curtis Explains How Sean Strickland’s Weird Style Baffled Israel Adesanya

Having trained with the UFC’s new middleweight champion Sean Strickland for seven years, fellow UFC fighter Chris Curtis wasn’t completely taken aback hat he was able to shut down the division’s long-time king Israel Adesanya at UFC 293 on Saturday night, because he’s seen it happen many times before.

“If you watch Sean spar anybody, it goes very similar to that,” Curtis said on The MMA Hour show. “I’ve seen him spar a bunch of people. You can get better fighting against Sean, but every time someone has their first rounds with Sean, it goes exactly this way. Where people are like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ So everybody’s like, ‘Izzy looked off.’ I’ve seen this a thousand times. You can get better at fighting him, but when you initially run into him you are just confused.

“Everything he does is, on paper, wrong. It’s not the way you’re supposed to move. He moves weird, he throws weird, he kung fu blocks, he’s really good at shutting down the things you’re supposed to be good at. You hear at one point Izzy say, ‘I can’t find my jab.’ It’s hard to find your jab against Sean because he creates so much random traffic with his jab or when you start jabbing he’s parrying weird, he’s kung fu blocking.

“In most combat sports, especially kickboxing and boxing, everything is predicated off of your jab. Everything sets up with your jab, so when he just takes that away from you, no, it’s not there, you can’t out-jab Sean. He’s going to win that battle. He’s either going to counter you or just make your jab pointless. Look at Izzy, he’s throwing jabs, he’s getting his arm blocked up high, a few times he’d throw and Sean just bats his arm up and away. … So all that bulls*** about Izzy looked different, no, you look confused like I looked confused and everyone else looks confused when they spar Sean because it’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ No, that’s bulls***, I’ve seen this happen for seven years and this is what he does.”

With all that being said, Curtis revealed that their pre-fight gameplan was for Strickland to try to get the better of Adesanya with his wrestling, but on the night the fighter himself had other ideas.

“We really hoped he would wrestle,” Curtis said. “Watching Sean spar, he would shoot, but he was still just kickboxing people, fighting like Sean, so you knew that was going to be a part of it but you’re hoping that he’d mix in wrestling. Make it hard, drag him down, wear him out.

“Everybody’s like, ‘Is he going to wrestle?’ I was like, ‘He’s trained to wrestle, but it’s Sean, so he’s going to get in there and…’ I said he’s probably going to in there and have a kickboxing match. Lo and behold, he went in there and he freaking won a kickboxing match against Izzy. I don’t think anyone saw that coming.”

So, as much as Curtis has witnessed Strickland’s ability to bemuse fighters first-hand many times, he was still taken aback by how he was able to dominate one of the best strikers the UFC has ever seen to win the title.

“It’s crazy because I’ve never seen someone bat a thousand like that, he just did everything right. I don’t think he made a mistake that fight.”

Ross launched MMA Insight (previously in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.