Is Sean Strickland the next Michael Bisping? – (mma)²

If your greatest fight happened at an Apex prelim, did it help your career? That and Sean Strickland's UFC win tackled on the latest MMA Squared.

By: Chris Rini | 3 months ago

At the UFC Apex center this weekend Sean Strickland continued to deny the UFC’s attempts to book him as a stepping stone for Russian fighters seeking to break into the middleweight title mix.

The win was notable because Sean Strickland’s TKO of Abus Magomedov was his first stoppage win in the UFC as a middleweight (his 2020 TKO of Brendan Allen was a catchweight bout).

Can Sean Strickland be the next Michael Bisping?

Watching Michael Bisping interview Sean Strickland in the Apex after the fight, I wondered if I’m alone in finding a similarity between the two men. Both fighters lack a certain finishing ability due to their style relying more on a cardio heavy, technical approach. On top of that, they both command a room with an extremely antagonistic approach on the mic. Bisping usually fixated on his opponent while Sean Strickland doesn’t seem quite so concerned who he upsets, just so long as someone is upset after he speaks.

Bisping spent most of his career get just close enough to sniff a title shot before falling to either superior (or enhanced) competition and seemed on his was to being relegated to the wrong end of KO highlight reel infamy until a late replacement opportunity versus Luke Rockhold changed everything for him.

Imagine Hendo landed this KO on Bisping at the Apex

Is it so crazy to imagine a similar twist of fate in Sean Strickland’s future? Could winning it all turn his career into a Cinderalla story on par with Matt Serra? Would a UFC title soften the edges of this generation’s trailer-park Bisping? It’s difficult to imagine if you weren’t a fan then, but there was a time when Michael Bisping was one of the most hated fighters on the UFC roster and he seemed to relish that status.

If a Fight of the Year contender falls on the prelims, does it move the needle?

I’d like to take a moment to praise and acknowledge Elves Brenner and Guram Kutateladze’s fight this weekend. They stepped into the Apex cage on the heels of a heavyweight decision and a rather low level flyweight fight.

Side note: I was excited to see the first Norweigian fighter debut in the UFC, as they are my neighbor to the north. A couple of the MMA analysts I follow have been high on Kutateladze so I made sure to watch the fight Sunday morning over breakfast and it was a wild ride.

Kutateladze seemed on his way to wrapping this up in the first round until Brenner was saved by the bell. Then he opened Brenner up with an elbow that had everyone in the building wondering if a doctor stoppage was imminent. However there was a moment in the final round when Kutateladze was pinning Brenner up against the fence and I was struck by how their body language didn’t match the scorecards.

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Brenner is wearing the crimson mask but staring dead ahead, seemingly untroubled by the preious 12 minutes of getting 10-8’d while Kutateladze is more holding on to his opponent than imposing his will and at that moment I realized that this fight was not over by a long shot. Less than a minute later Kutateladze was crumpling to the canvas.

One bittersweet note is that Elves Brenner missed out on a chance to be someone’s new favorite fighter, and the UFC should stop short changing fighters with these Apex shows.

Brenner’s performance made me think back to another come-from-behind victories and how a Fight of the Night performance can alter and elevate a fighter’s career. Darren “The Damage” Elkins versus Mirsad Bektic is a close parellel. That fight marked a turning fight in both of those fighters’ careers.

Bektic was thought to be a future title contender and this first loss took the shine off his name in a way that could never come back. Elkins saw his blood and guts fighting style capture the attention of the MMA media at large and entered the pantheon of “best comebacks” internet discussions for all time. A big reason why Elkins was able to capitalize on his victory because it was in front of 13,000 fans who experienced a catharsis through is triumph and also because of an iconic photo by the great Esther Lin that captured Elkins’ primal scream.

I’ll be writing and illustrating a new column called The Fine Art of Violence for bloodyelbow’s substack newsletter every Thursday, and implore you to subscribe. Take care of yourself and I’ll talk to you Thursday.


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About the author
Chris Rini
Chris Rini

Chris Rini is an artist and BloodyElbow’s editorial cartoonist. He has been an artist since 1996 and publishes an annual book called The Fine Art of Violence. Chris has worked in Mixed Martial arts since 2013 and in his spare time makes terrariums, plays keyboards, and trains BJJ.

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