With the title on the line a week from now, middleweight contenders Jack Hermansson and Sean Strickland will meet in a pivotal bout at UFC Vegas 47.
Not even a broken rib was stopping @JackTheJokerMMA from getting the W🃏
[ #UFCVegas47 | Saturday | Prelims 4pmET | Main Card 7pmET | LIVE on ESPN+ ] pic.twitter.com/ZWApZ16fZ6
— UFC (@ufc) February 3, 2022
It’s easy to overlook the hard work of Sweden’s Jack Hermansson going into Saturday’s headliner. “The Joker” enters the bout having alternated wins and losses since 2019, falling short after being on the cusp of title contention and now battling to return to the upper echelon of the middleweight division. It should be noted, his efforts have taken him through a difficult schedule as he has faced fellow title hopefuls such as Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori (the latter in a criminally unsung Fight of the Year candidate) in that span.
That said, the bout with Strickland could be happening at the perfect time. With the title on the line next. week, a glance at the division could create a scenario where Hermansson could be in title contention considering both Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker have dispatched the other foes ahead of him. In a sport where anything could happen in terms of the schedule, being the de facto number two contender behind the winner of the Cannonier vs Derek Brunson winner is a prime position to potentially enter the championship conversation.
🔊 @SStricklandMMA sounded off MID FIGHT!
[ #UFCVegas47 | Feb 5 | LIVE on ESPN+ ] pic.twitter.com/s4d1H9KF7W
— UFC (@ufc) January 27, 2022
To say that Sean Strickland stands out in the crowd would be an understatement. Since returning from a two year absence after being injured in a motorcycle accident, “Tarzan” has become one of the division’s breakout contenders and most unique personalities. While his words may dominate the headlines about him, his performances are what have brought him to the cusp of a breakout year in 2021. Strickland’s returned to middleweight following his accident and reeled off victories over Uriah Hall, Krzysztof Jotko, Brendan Allen, and Jack Marshman.
With a 24-3 record overall, it’s easy to forget that Strickland was also one of the top welterweights prior to moving up in weight. His only career losses have come to current champion Kamaru Usman, perennial contender Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, and then surging contender Santiago Ponzinibbio. Similar to Hermansson, the timing is perfect for Strickland to get a shot at a UFC title in 2021 should he earn a sixth consecutive UFC victory.
Strickland’s shot selection and ability to put on forward pressure has proven a difficult challenge for opponents to overcome and Hermansson will need to meet it with a diverse attack if he is to avoid falling into a similar trap. A multifaceted striking attack and a willingness to pursue takedowns will be paramount to keeping Strickland on his heels and from imposing his offense. Strickland’s best route to victory will be to maintain a steady volume throughout the fight and avoiding staying in close range when Hermansson tries to counter his pressure. Both men are proven in five round fights which means Strickland will need to be efficient with his output should he struggle to do damage early.
A MW main event with 𝑴𝑨𝑺𝑺𝑰𝑽𝑬 implications ⚔️@JackTheJokerMMA takes on @SStricklandMMA TOMORROW NIGHT!
[ #UFCVegas47 | TOMORROW | Prelims 4pmET | Main Card 7pmET | LIVE on @ESPNPlus ] pic.twitter.com/0gnNZv2vvF
— UFC (@ufc) February 4, 2022
No matter the outcome of the key middleweight bouts next week, Saturday’s winner is expected to be no further than one fight away from a title shot if not get the next opportunity altogether. While there are scenarios that could see Marvin Vettori, Derek Brunson, or Jared Cannonier get the next title shot, the schedule could easily see Hermansson or Strickland get the nod with an exciting performance.