Big news came out of the middleweight division last night as Sean Strickland had his hand raised yet again in the main event. He has huge next moves to make, and this could make or break his path to the title shot.
Sean Strickland Picks Up Another Win
UFC held their 200th non-PPV event this past Saturday, where Sean Strickland (25-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) defeated Jack Hermansson (22-7 MMA, 9-5 UFC) by split decision in their middleweight main event clash. The win continues Strickland’s undefeated career at middleweight, officially being 18-0 in the division.
The main event was more of a technical boxing match, with Strickland sticking behind his jab to slowly pick Hermansson apart. The first round was closely contested, but as the fight progressed the levels started to change.
Hermansson is a tough contender in his own right. He always hangs in there with whoever he is matched against, but he has alternated results since 2019, being 3-3 in his last 6. The fight with Strickland could have set him up for a number one contender’s bout with a win, but unfortunately for “The Joker”, this was not the case.
Contention or Direct Title Shot?
Looking at matchmaking, Strickland’s next bout rides on the results of two fights that take place at UFC 271. The most obvious one would be to fight either current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya or Robert Whittaker following their fight in what would be a title fight, or further cement his status as a contender. That would likely see him fight either Derek Brunson or Jared Cannonier following their fight on the same card.
Strickland finds himself on a 6 fight win streak stretching all the way back to 2018. The possibility of a title fight would not be a far cry from reality should he receive one following his victory over Hermansson. In the case of a Whittaker win, one can imagine that Adesanya would directly call for (and possibly receive) a rematch, meaning Strickland would either wait out his status or fight the winner of the aforementioned Brunson/Cannonier fight to cement number one contender status.
With an Adesanya win, there are two possibilities: Cannonier also wins and stakes his claim for a title shot as a new contender, leaving Strickland and Brunson to battle out for the next rights to the title fight. On the other hand, a Brunson win may set up an Adesanya rematch for the title, but then the possibility of a new contender in Sean Strickland could edge out Brunson’s claim and put him at the front of the line.
When it comes to PPV sales, there are several selling points for every scenario. Strickland has the point to sell that he is undefeated at middleweight (just like the champion) and a new contender in the division after moving up from 170 pounds. This could potentially open more doors than a rematch following a first-round TKO nearly 4 years ago. Time changes fighters and a lot can change in 4 years, but new contenders also sell.
Only the matchmakers can officially decide Sean Strickland’s next bout, though. We will surely see who is next for the middleweight contender soon enough.
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Featured Image credits to Embed from Getty Images