3 possible next opponents for Sean Strickland

Sean Strickland may need to sit out for a bit and wait for these three middleweight fights to happen before he fights again.
Jun 1, 2024; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Sean Strickland (red gloves)celebrates defeating Paulo Costa (blue gloves) during UFC 302 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 1, 2024; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Sean Strickland (red gloves)celebrates defeating Paulo Costa (blue gloves) during UFC 302 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Strickland defeated Paulo Costa via a controversial split decision in the co-main event of UFC 302 at Newark, New Jersey. With Donald Trump in attendance, Costa and Strickland failed to produce an exciting fight. Nevertheless, Strickland won the fight via scorecards that read 50-45, 49-46, and 46-49. The 46-49 scorecard was absurd to say the least, particularly as Costa had nothing to offer Strickland except for a few leg kicks. Even Dana White called the scorecard one of the worst.

With the victory, Strickland got back into the win column, positioning him well within a title shot or a potential number-one contender fight. Strickland called for a rematch with Dricus du Plessis, criticizing the matchmaking of du Plessis fighting Israel Adesanya whose last fight was a loss against Strickland. Nonetheless, the UFC seems to move in the direction of du Plessis vs. Israel Adesanya headliner for UFC 305 in Perth. Therefore, let’s look at three potential opponents for Sean Strickland in his next fight.

1. Winner of Jared Cannonier vs. Nassourdine Imavov

Sean Strickland has a history with Nassourdine Imavov and Jared Cannonier. Interestingly, Strickland fought Cannonier and Imavov in back-to-back Apex events. Strickland lost to Cannonier via split decision at UFC Vegas 66 in a middleweight bout while he won against Imavov at UFC Vegas 67 in a light heavyweight bout. Imavov and Cannonier headlined the upcoming UFC event, UFC Louisville.

Imavov has been clamoring for a rematch but Strickland has been hesitant to do it. On the other hand, Strickland has always stated he was robbed by the judges in the fight against Cannonier. Moreover, Cannonier had weighed in as the backup when Strickland fought Adesanya at UFC 293. Cannonier is the No. 4 middleweight in the UFC while Imavov is No. 8. The winner of the fight will likely be a top-five contender.

The UFC has already booked a number one contender fight between Robert Whittaker and Khamzat Chimaev with the winner poised to fight the winner of Dricus du Plessis vs Israel Adesanya. Therefore, Strickland will likely have to fight the winner of Imavov vs. Cannonier in what will likely be a number one contender fight. It will either be a PPV event co-main event, potentially five rounds, or a Fight Night main event.

2. Winner of Khamzat Chimaev vs. Robert Whittaker

Dricus du Plessis and Israel Adesanya will likely fight at UFC 305. The fight will likely be an all-out banger. Therefore, it’s unlikely the winner of du Plessis vs Adesanya will fight again this year. In such a scenario, the UFC will likely have to make an interim middleweight title fight by the end of this year, particularly if Chimaev beats Whittaker. The UFC annually does a PPV event in Abu Dhabi in October. Islam Makhachev will likely headline the card and the promotion will look to stack the card with Muslim fighters.

Therefore, the UFC will look to book an interim middleweight title fight between Strickland and the winner of Chimaev vs. Whittaker at the upcoming UFC Riyadh, more likely Chimaev. If Whittaker is the victor, a co-main event spot at UFC 309, headlined by Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, is also an option for Strickland. Stylistically, Whittaker vs. Strickland will be worth a watch. Unlike Paulo Costa who backpedaled on his bicycle against Strickland, Whittaker offers much more dynamic striking against the pressure style of Strickland.

Strickland has trained with Chimaev in the past and has been critical of the Chechen’s prospects at middleweight. When Chimaev was at welterweight, Strickland had sung Chimaev’s praises. Moreover, Chimaev has also called out Strickland recently. The backstory and the trash-talks of both fighters will make the fight one to watch out for. The fight even has the potential to be a PPV headliner, despite not being for an undisputed title.

3. Winner of Dricus du Plessis vs. Israel Adesanya

Khamzat Chimaev has close ties with Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov. Rumors are that it prohibits him from entering the US. Therefore, the UAE is the location where Chimaev has to fight. If Chimaev beats Whittaker, he has to fight in October. However, if the winner of du Plessis vs Adesanya can’t fight at the time, the UFC will have a conundrum. If the Dricus du Plessis vs. Adesanya winner needs extended time, then they will book an interim title fight between Chimaev and Strickland.

If the winner is okay fighting in November or December, Strickland will get the call. Since he has a history with the two, either will be an exciting fight, from the buildup to the fight itself. Strickland had beaten Adesanya handily but lost to du Plessis via a controversial split decision. Strickland was able to get into the head of Adesanya while it was the other way around with du Plessis.

The chances of Strickland fighting for the title next have the least chance, particularly as a lot of things have to happen. First, Chimaev should win. Second, Du Plessis and Adesanya should clamor for a fight in late 2024. Nevertheless, a possibility is a possibility. A rematch against the South African or his New Zealand counterpart will likely be a main-event fight. Adesanya is a big star and du Plessis is the first South African UFC champion. Nevertheless, the fight has to happen in the USA where the crowd will be on Strickland’s side.


Next. How much do MMA fighters make?. dark