This weekend’s UFC Fight Night 200 main event is a middleweight bout between Jack Hermansson and Sean Strickland.
It’s an intriguing clash of styles between two mid-ranked fighters in the division and sets up the winner perfectly just before four middleweight contenders are set to battle at UFC 271 next weekend.
With Israel Adesanya set to face Robert Whittaker in the UFC 271 main event and Jared Cannonier ready to clash with Derek Brunson, this middleweight clash could prove to be pivotal for the winner.
Hermansson vs. Strickland and the entire UFC Fight Night 200 card will stream live on ESPN+.
Strickland will enter this weekend’s main event as a significant betting favorite at -225 against Hermansson (+185). The odds were originally much tighter with Hermansson opening at +150 and Strickland at -175.
- Hermansson: +185
- Strickland: -225
Both men come into this fight with very obvious strengths and weaknesses relative to one another. While Strickland is relatively fundamental and relentless, Hermansson is creative and unpredictable. In general, one would think that Strickland likely should hold the striking advantage on paper while Hermanson should have the same in the grappling department. Sean Strickland’s style is based on his ability to pepper his opponents with semi-committed shots until they are eventually broken down. He stands extremely tall and straight in his stance, which makes it difficult to slip and roll like most fighters, which is why he relies so much on the rear hand parry and lean back. He works almost exclusively behind his jab, which he flicks out with his shoulder rather than hip, minimizing its telegraph. However because of this most of his punches don’t have the same weight behind them, meaning they may be easier to take. This suits him fine because he seemingly enjoys himself in the cage and is evidently there for the long ride should it be needed, which is why he doesnt gas out and typically wears down fighters after they’ve taken cumulative punishment.
For Hermansson, the closest thing he has felt to this was against Marvin Vettori, whom he lost to. This is not a good sign looking towards this matchup, however, a major factor will be the power, I do not think that Strickland will be able to garner the same respect from Hermansson who may be more confident entering with big risk high reward techniques, especially rolling for submissions without overly fearing ending up on the bottom. Hermansson uses awkward striking which is hard to read but the movements are large which means should Strickland anticipate an odd attack correctly there will be time to slip his jabs inside Hermanssons big swings.
Hermassons best bet though is to use his striking as a means to an end on the mat. His takedown accuracy isn’t anything special and Strickland has good defense but he often creates scrambles and positional battles off of failed attempts, such as attacking the neck or rolling underneath. His top game and ground n’ pound are lethal, but he needs to have the unpredictability and confidence to mix things up in a way that allows him to wrestle Strickland to the ground. At the very least, even if he finds himself stuck in striking exchanges with Strickland, being able to force Strickland to grapple intermittently to offset the slow energy-sapping pressure of Strickland in the grand scheme of things and lessen the gradual build-up of damage that most of Strickland’s opponents have to deal with.
Hermansson has to avoid getting stuck in a long, drawn-out striking contest with Strickland, and his educated pace and jab, by using his unorthodox movement to open up takedowns, and then be ready to chain that into clinch fighting. From there, I think Hermansson can take Strickland off his game and get the victory.
Prediction: Jack Hermansson to win
Not only does Saturday’s Main Event pit #6 vs #7 in the middleweight division, and not only does the main event have the classic striker vs grappler matchup, but the Main Event also places two polar opposite personalities against each other. Hermansson, #6 in the division, is the calm, cool, and collected grappler in this matchup. Strickland, #7, is the chaotic, talkative, and dedicated striker.
Hermansson is a strong wrestler who technically but relentlessly forces his opponent against the cage or smothers them on the mat. He is adept at holding position while methodically looking for a submission opening or ground and pound finish. He often looks to pressure forward, back up his opponent, and force them to fight backing up. As with many wrestlers, Hermansson has excellent cardio, is able to continue to push the pace, and keep his pressure up for 5 rounds. Further, and most importantly, Hermansson has been a ranked fighter for a long time and has fought a variety of competitors. When he’s faced high-end strikers, both in terms of the power of Shahbazyan and the volume heavy technique of Gastelum, Hermansson has been able to withstand the storm on the feet and take the fight to his world. He’ll look to do the same against Strickland.
Strickland, a high-end striker himself, keeps a high boxing guard, stands tall, moves forward, and throws in combination with precision. He is patient as he moves, warry of the leg kick that often immobilizes fighters with boxing heavy stances like him. Further, Strickland rarely moves without a purpose and protects his chin and his lead leg by moving behind his own combinations. His style, while effective, is similar to the old adage: “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Strickland doesn’t have one punch power, doesn’t push an absurd pace, and doesn’t mix up his shots with variety. Instead, Strickland boxes with intelligence, precision, and consistency. That style has him pile up the damage on his opponent methodically. Eventually, as that damage accumulates and Strickland is winning rounds, his opponents are forced to press. Then, he can capitalize on their reckless forward movement and land that big shot later in the fight.
Both men have a clear path to victory. If Hermansson can get the fight down, he should be able to grind out a decision or find a submission. Strickland cannot match the ground skill or experience of Hermansson. If Strickland can keep the fight standing, he’ll have the advantage in speed, technique, and volume. I think this fight should be much closer in odds which has me seeing value in Hermansson as the underdog. Also, Hermansson has shown the ability to beat strikers of Strickland’s caliber while Strickland has not faced a wrestler of Hermansson’s skill. Lastly, Hermansson has proven he can succeed under the brightest lights, consistently. Ultimately, I see Strickland winning round 1 and stuffing early takedowns; but, eventually, Hermansson gets the fight to his world and secures the win.
Prediction: Hermansson to win
Strickland is perhaps top of the list when it comes to fighters who truly love to fight. He has quotes stating how he would love to kill his opponent in a fight and how he desires to spar the most dangerous fighter on the planet – Francis Ngannou – because he wants to feel as close to death as possible. Although he has a clear crazy gene, Strickland fights very technically and pragmatically when he is inside the octagon. In his fights, he enjoys staying at boxing range, given this allows him throw in combinations with frequency and speed, contrary to throwing with all-out power. This style of putting on constant pressure in a boxing-style stance would presumably lead one to believe he would be susceptible to a takedown, but in fact, Strickland maintains a takedown defense percentage of 82%. Lastly, he himself will shoot a takedown and he lands at an above-average rate – 61%. The issue, as with many who maintain an impressive win streak and have climbed the rankings, is that he has not faced the top echelon of fighters that the UFC has to offer. This concern should not be scoffed at, particularly for fighters who maintain an output-forward style contrary to having a dangerous, finishing style – think Chris Daukaus stepping up in competition to fight Derrick Lewis. The question that will need to be answered, and one that the entire MMA community will find out come Saturday night, is if Strickland is truly a top-5 caliber of fighter in the middleweight division.
The concern of having a lack of top-tier competition is not a problem for the crafty veteran, Jack Hermansson. At this point in his career, Hermansson is likely viewed to be a top-5 gatekeeper contrary to one who has serious title-contending capabilities. With that said, there are an increasing amount of title runs from crafty veterans within the UFC – Glover Teixeira being one – and Hermansson certainly fits the mold to make said run. His fighting style is a grapple-heavy approach with dangerous finishing abilities once on the mat – 6 of his 9 wins inside the UFC coming from ground and pound or submission. Similar to other high-ranked grapplers inside the promotion, Hermansson does well utilizing striking to set up his grappling. On the feet, Hermansson does a solid job using his impressive cardio as a method of attack, whereby he uses frequent movement to stay at a safe range, and once an opportunity arises, he enters striking range to land a combination that will either allow him to secure a takedown or simply elect to hop back to a safe distance. The question for him will be if he can do enough work on the feet to land a takedown against the strong grappling defense of Strickland.
Prior to seeing the odds of the fight, I anticipated the odds to be relatively close, as such, I was eager to back Strickland in this matchup. His strong takedown defense accompanied by relentless pressure on the feet with impressive boxing resulted in my belief that he should win a very close decision over Hermansson. Given the odds are what they are, I have since flipped my prediction for two fundamental reasons: first, the bout should be extremely close with each man having success throughout the 5-round affair, and second, Hermansson is a battle-tested fighter who has had success combating the rise of surging middleweight contenders. All in all, this fight should be a close affair, as such, I am electing to back the more experienced fighter who has a very advantageous price tag.