Is Sean Strickland a legitimate title contender?
The streaking “Tarzan” will have to prove it by turning away durable submission fighter Jack Hermansson in the UFC Vegas 47 middleweight main event, which takes place this Sat. night (Feb. 5, 2022) inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, streaming live on the ESPN+ digital network. To date, Strickland has been known more for his eclectic personality and less for his in-cage exploits, but that could change with a highlight-reel performance this weekend in “Sin City.”
A spot in the division Top 5 could await the winner.
Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the middleweight showdown between undefeated up-and-comer Nick Maximov and once-beaten Hawaiian bruiser Punahele Soriano, check out Patrick Stumberg’s circumstantiated UFC Vegas 47 preliminary card breakdowns here and here. In addition, resident MMA hero Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 47 main card right here.
For the latest “Hermansson vs. Strickland” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.
Let’s break it down ...
185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson vs. Sean Strickland
Jack “The Joker” Hermansson
Record: 22-6 | Age: 33 | Betting line: +175
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.86 | Striking accuracy: 45%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.36 | Striking Defense: 54%
Takedown Average: 2.09 (36% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 75%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Edmen Shahbazyan
Sean “Tarzan” Strickland
Record: 24-3 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -210
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 10 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.45 | Striking accuracy: 40%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.73 | Striking Defense: 66%
Takedown Average: 1.32 (61% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 82%
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Uriah Hall
Being batshit crazy is not unlike having unshakeable confidence, particularly in the combat sports arena, allowing a fighter to barrel forward and fight “their fight” with no hesitation. How many times have we heard a corner scream, “Be first! Be first!” It matters. In the buildup to UFC Vegas 47, Sean Strickland said that wrestling was for cowards who are too scared to compete standing up, commonly referred to as “panic wrestling.” The outspoken “Tarzan” also insisted — on multiple occasions — that Jack Hermansson’s ground game was of little consequence and would not change his gameplan for this weekend’s showdown. We’ve seen that sort of brazen approach to offense in the past. In a time when Rousimar Palhares was ripping off feet and hanging them from his Christmas tree, Alan Belcher purposely went to the ground just as a “fuck you” to the narrative that such a move was certain death. The difference between Strickland and Belcher is that “The Talent” was mentally prepared for a scenario that failed to go his way. I’m not sure we can say the same about Strickland. He may not allow himself to feel vulnerable against Hermansson, so what happens if “The Joker” gets him to the ground and “Tarzan” is not mentally (or physically) prepared to respond? I think that’s a legitimate concern for Strickland fans heading into tomorrow night’s fight, which has serious title implications for the winner.
Hermansson has been positioned as a formidable title contender and currently sits at No. 6 in the middleweight rankings. You can argue that his place among the 185-pound elite was grandfathered in — thanks to a victory over Ronaldo Souza back when “Jacare” was ranked No. 3 in the world — but closer examination reveals a weight class bereft of quality contenders. Strickland is seated just below Hermansson at No. 7 and after that comes Darren Till (No. 8) and Uriah Hall (No. 9). “The Gorilla” is just 1-2 at middleweight and “Prime Time” has been going in circles for so long that he may as well be sponsored by Wilford Industries. That’s not to suggest Hermansson can’t hang with his peers, but I do think the loss to Vettori revealed a much shorter ceiling than “The Joker” would have us believe. I think the question in this fight, as it is with most Hermansson fights, is how well the Uddevalla Atletklubb wrestler can control the ground. Strickland doesn’t have the same power as Jared Cannonier and Thiago Santos — two fighters who smoked Hermansson — but he may not need it, considering how easy it has become to land on the the submission-savvy Swede. The good news is that Strickland is only 40-percent accurate with his strikes, one of the lowest percentages in the division. If Hermansson can avoid being reckless, his biggest concern will be volume (as opposed to damage).
Despite his wacky presentation, Strickland is a well-rounded athlete who is both strong and hard to keep down. At the same time, he’s been able to look good against the bottom half of the division. Strickland never had to test his chin against the likes of Cannonier or Santos, or deal with the blood-and-guts offense of Vettori. Hermansson may not have passed every test, but at least he showed up for the exam. I’m expecting a close fight with lots of back-and-forth action and when push comes to shove, I have a feeling Hermansson will steal the last round with a well-timed takedown to escape “Sin City” with a unanimous decision victory.
Prediction: Hermansson def. Strickland by unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Nick Maximov vs. Punahele Soriano
Record: 7-0 | Age: 24 | Betting line: +160
Wins: 2 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 1.70 | Striking accuracy: 49%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 1.10 | Striking Defense: 49%
Takedown Average: 3.00 (30% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Cody Brundage
Punahele “Story Time” Soriano
Record: 8-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -190
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.44 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.20 | Striking Defense: 54%
Takedown Average: 1.58 (66% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Brendan Allen
Punahele Soriano and Nick Maximov will co-headline tomorrow night’s event in “Sin City,” and while they may not be household names, both combatants are graduates of Dana White’s “Contender Series” — Season 3 for Soriano and Season 4 for Maximov — who went on to (eventually) score UFC contracts. Soriano is the more established fighter, having competed three times under the UFC banner sporting a record of 2-1 with both wins coming by way of first-round finish. A subsequent defeat to Brendan Allen took some of the twinkle off his rising star but to be fair, “All In” is a pretty tough out and has more than twice the experience of “Story Time.” Soriano was a state champion wrestler who earned All American honors out of at Wartburg College in Iowa and got his start in MMA after training with fellow Hawaiian and UFC featherweight standout Dan Ige. It’s unfortunate that Soriano fell in love with his hands because it may have cost him the Allen fight — a 15-minute contest that did not produce a single takedown. By comparison, Soriano scored three in his very first UFC fight and was one-for-one in his mauling of Oskar Piechota just a few months later.
Maximov fights out of the Nick Diaz Academy in Stockton and the media likes to paint the undefeated middleweight as some sort of Russian import, but Maximov was born in a sleepy little town off the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon, and doesn’t speak the language. Unlike his “Fight Night” foe, Maximov found his calling by watching Bruce Lee movies and got his start in traditional karate before transitioning to the Bruno Lima Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Chico. In 2017, the former heavyweight joined the Diaz brothers in the 209, which led to his professional debut the following October. Five of his seven wins have come by way of knockout or submission and at just 24 years old, Maximov is one of the future stars of the 185-pound division. Whether or not he stays that way after Saturday night all depends on how well he performs against Soriano and as of this writing, Maximov is the betting underdog at +160. I guess the bookies are more impressed by Soriano’s action-first style and longer tenure, but I think Maximov’s brown belt in jiu-jitsu will neutralize “Story Time’s” wrestling. It’s also worth noting that Soriano gives up four inches in reach, something I believe will come into play when this fight devolves into a brawl-fest. Soriano has been fun to watch, but I think Maximov is getting better each time out and will prove that with a breakout performance in Vegas.
Prediction: Maximov def. Soriano by submission
Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 47 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 47 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 47 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Hermansson vs. Strickland” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.