This past Saturday on the main card of UFC 276, we saw a title eliminator in the middleweight division. The entertaining Sean Strickland (25-4) was taking a gamble as he was taking on unranked Alex Pereira (6-1).
The Glory Kickboxing champion has previous history with Israel Adesanya so the UFC has been putting him on the fast track. Strickland did the promotion a favor by accepting a fight with him despite being ranked fourth and Pereira being unranked.
Strickland entered the contest unbeaten at middleweight. After returning from a motorcycle accident, Strickland moved to the middleweight division. Since that move, he had gone 5-0 in the UFC on his way to that fourth ranking.
He fights with solid striking and incredible pressure. However, he’s very well-rounded and I expected to see some grappling on Saturday. However, leading up to the fight, he said he would have no trouble standing and trading with the superstar kickboxer.
If I was a fan of Strickland’s I went into UFC 276 hoping he was kidding. Well, he wasn’t kidding and he did stand and trade with arguably the best pure striker in the promotion. Unfortunately for Strickland, it proved to be a horrific mistake and he was knocked out in the first round.
What’s next after UFC 276?
I’ll say this, I have so much respect for Sean Strickland and he really did exactly what he said he was going to do. How many times do we see UFC fights where one guy promises to do one thing then does the other.
Strickland said he would strike with Pereira and that’s what he did. Unfortunately, he saw the result that most expected if he went that route. Now, he’s suffered his first middleweight loss and has dropped to sixth in the rankings.
What’s next for him? Well, I think there are a few options for him. If Darren Till can defeat Jack Hermansson later this month at UFC London 2, I would think that a matchup between Strickland and Till would make sense and be a ton of fun.
If that’s not an option, perhaps pairing him with Derek Brunson next could work. Brunson is looking for one more fight before he retires, and you have to imagine Strickland would love that fight considering where Brunson is ranked.
An outside looking in option could be Jared Cannonier who lost in the title match on Saturday night. Would be a fight that could re-establish both men near the top of the UFC title picture.