One can train to be stronger, faster or learn new techniques, but youth is an attribute that a mixed martial arts (MMA) can only leverage for a relatively brief period. Sure, some fighters like Vitor Belfort and others tried to turn back time with an artificial Fountain of Youth known as testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), but it has since been outlawed.
And it never compared to actually having a bright future ahead.
One fighter looking to make the most of his young age is Sean Strickland, who will compete this afternoon (Sat., May 31, 2014) against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 alum, Luke Barnattat, at UFC Fight Night 41 in Berlin, Germany. At 23 years of age, Strickland may be looking at a good five or so years before he really hits his prime and he's already moving up in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
He claims to have been training MMA since he was just 13 years old, dreaming of entering the world-famous Octagon. His run before entering UFC was quite impressive, notching 13 straight victories and also winning the King of the Cage 185-pound championship. Finally, 10 years after first taking an interest in MMA, he already has a UFC win on his resume, which is nothing to scoff at.
Following an injury to Swedish fighter Tor Troeng, Strickland was named as a replacement to fight TUF 17 laughing stock Bubba McDaniel just two weeks ahead of UFC 171. Strickland made good on his chance, stunning McDaniel with a solid punch and beating him in all areas until eventually submitting him with a rear-naked choke before the end of the first round.
The win placed Strickland at an impressive 14-0 as a professional. King of the Cage was a good start for this young fighter, giving him fights against some tough, experienced -- albeit not great -- opponents. And that's more than most young fighters get.
Erick Silva, despite his youthful glow, is coming up on 30 years old, and UFC still likes to label him as a legitimate prospect. It's about time it starts recognizing the real prospects before they have to make a name for themselves ... like Strickland.
Fighting Barnatt is no easy task, but it is one that Strickland should be up to. The Englishman is a very tall, lanky Middleweight, which will present some problems, but he lacks in the speed and technicality that can make a truly dangerous fighter. It is important for Strickland to be tested against a fighter like Barnatt just to see where his weaknesses may lie, but as stated before, this is a test he should pass without any great struggle.
Ultimately, Strickland has a lot to gain from winning this fight. It marks his chance to again prove himself on the big stage against an opponent who has a relatively big name thanks to TUF's exposure. In addition, a win puts Strickland in prime position to take more of these "build up" fights, taking on some of the division's fringe top 15 fighters within a year or so if all goes well.
Regardless, lengthening his win streak can't hurt a thing, so where he stands after could only be good for him if he comes out victorious.
Ultimately, Strickland is a fighter who possesses a strong skillset for someone his age and one that he can definitely build on and improve. He's not a complete fighter, but he has time on his side and a very impressive win streak to boot. We'll see where he stands after this fight, but Strickland may have a very bright future inside the Octagon, starting with getting his hand raised in Berlin.