UFC on ESPN+ 58: Strickland vs Hermansson - Prediction & Analysis - 02/05/22
Sean Strickland vs Jack Hermansson
Sean Strickland (24-3-0) enters this one on a 5 fight win streak and will look to make the most out of his second straight headlining slot. His last fight saw the former King of the Cage champion soundly defeat Urijah Hall over 5 rounds back in July. This will be “Tarzan's” 15th fight in the UFC (11-3).
Jack Hermansson (22-6) made his UFC debut back in 2016 and quickly became a tough out for anyone in the middleweight division. “The Joker” employs a potent mix of striking and grappling which has helped him crack the top ten of the rankings with a 9-4 UFC record. The Swede could be last seen exploiting his grappling edge over divisional prospect, Edmen Shahbazyan, en route to a decision victory.
He will hold a 1 inch reach advantage over Strickland with height being identical.
How They Match Up
As bat-shit crazy as Strickland is, he’s an incredibly consistent opponent with top notch fight IQ inside the octagon. He beats guys down with attrition, working behind one of the best jabs in the division. I don’t want to necessarily say he walks guys down in a bullrushing sense, but he constantly, slowly pushes forward to the point where you are almost always in boxing range. Once inside that range he’ll challenge his opponent to best him on a technical level and very few have been able to overcome it. He has a fantastic ability to see shots coming and although he doesn’t slip them in a conventional sense, he mainly pulls back enough to take the zip off of them. Once an opponent decides to back away and reset, well too bad, he’s back in your face almost immediately. It really seems to be quite mentally taxing as he’s suffocating his foe without really suffocating them. It can’t help that when you’re on the stool in between rounds trying to get it together, Strickland is pacing back and forth across from you, ready to get right back into range. This was on full display against Urijah Hall last time out, who didn’t get anything going at all over 25 minutes.
He generally scores his finishes by TKO’s through attrition via the strategy outlined above. He doesn’t really have one-shot kill power but he has turned the lights out on guys who have been peppered up already. And if he does eat some shots in exchanges, he’s tough enough to not let it deter him at all.
He also has a solid takedown game that he brings out from time to time, either through opportunistic trips that present themselves, or when his attrition finally gets his opponent to rest against the cage. We haven’t seen his takedown defense tested too thoroughly at the middleweight division, but back in his welterweight days he was pretty solid in this department. With the Court McGee fight being a standout showcasing his takedown defensive strength, and the Kamaru Usman fight showing him pretty badly outgrappled.
Jack Hermansson typically has a very high guard, almost peeking through binoculars style, before blitzing forward with strikes or pressing his opponents to the cage where he can grind them to the mat. It’s here where he does his best work as “The Joker” is excellent at prioritizing position over submission, often racking up large amounts of control time. That’s not to say he doesn’t know when to go in for the kill, as evidenced by his 3 UFC submission victories. And although he’s been finished a few times, he’s far from fragile. He absorbed 164 significant strikes from Marvin Vettori without much issue. One sleight on the Norwegian is he can start a bit slow in these 5 rounders at times. He does get better as the fight goes on but letting Strickland find his rhythm early would be a mistake.
So, what this boils down to really is if Hermansson can impose his grappling will on Strickland. Because honestly he’s quite a bit behind in the standup striking realm. He gave away the first round to Shahbazyan and the second was really close to be honest. I’m going to lean towards Strickland being able to fend off Hermansson enough to get his striking going to secure rounds. There could be very long stretches against the cage where Hermansson tries to grind him to the floor, but it’s not going to tire Strickland at all if he’s unsuccessful. But if he keeps sticking to him like stink on a monkey for 25 minutes, he could very well win an ugly decision. I just like Strickland's chances slightly more so I will pick him to best “The Joker” on this one.