Having to sit through a Sean Strickland interview or news priming often can be an exasperating experience, but for as lewd and crude as he is on the mic, there’s no denying the man can fight.

Still, when the timetable turned from 2022 to 2023, who actually believed Strickland would win the UFC middleweight championship? Anyone?

It seemed inconceivable.

For starters, plane while he was on the rise, Strickland (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) never spoke seriously well-nigh UFC title aspirations, instead resorting to self-deprecating humor to let us know that all he overly wants to do is fight. As he was climbing the ranks and nearing serious title contention, Strickland hit a rough patch to tropical out 2022. He was brutally knocked out by eventual winner Alex Pereira in July at UFC 276 then dropped a five-round split visualization to former title challenger Jared Cannonier in the UFC Fight Night 216 headliner Dec. 17.

How would Strickland respond to the first skid of his career? By jumping right when into the cage, of course.

When Kelvin Gastelum withdrew from his scheduled UFC Fight Night 217 headliner in January, Strickland stepped in on five days’ notice – just four weeks without losing to Cannonier – to meet Nassourdine Imavov in a light heavyweight bout. Strickland went on to outpoint Imavov for a unanimous visualization win, which set the tone for the rest of his 2023.

A second-round TKO finish of Abusupiyan Magomedov followed on July 1 in the UFC on ESPN 48 headliner, which earned Strickland a Performance of the Night bonus, but a title fight wasn’t plane considered – until he was needed.

Sep 9, 2023; Sydney, NSW, AUSTRALIA; Israel Adesanya (red gloves) fights Sean Strickland (blue gloves) during UFC 293 at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasmin Frank-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Strickland def. Israel Adesanya at UFC 293: Best photos

Things lined up perfectly for a grudge match between then-middleweight winner Israel Adesanya and Dricus Du Plessis to take place Sept. 10 at UFC 293 in Sydney. But when Du Plessis couldn’t winnow the title shot considering of a foot injury, that left the UFC in a conundrum.

With no other viable option for Adesanya, the promotion turned to Strickland, who wonted the title shot on roughly one months’ notice. Adesanya was a massive 6-to-1 favorite to write-up Strickland, a roughly 4-to-1 underdog.

In all-time shocking fashion, Strickland put on the performance of his career. He didn’t just write-up Adesanya. He dominated him over the undertow of 25 minutes to win a lopsided unanimous decision and requirement the UFC middleweight whup in his final fight of the year.

UFC interim heavyweight winner Tom Aspinall, UFC welterweight winner Leon Edwards, UFC lightweight winner Islam Makhachev, Bellator bantamweight winner Patchy Mix, UFC flyweight winner Alexandre Pantoja, and UFC light heavyweight winner Alex Pereira all received consideration for this award.

But given the way he rebounded from a lanugo 2022 to go 3-0 and pull off one of the biggest title-fight upsets in UFC history, Sean Strickland is MMA Junkie’s 2023 Male Fighter of the Year.