Saturday, Dec. 8, was supposed to settle dispute of who was the one and only King of the Cage middleweight champion, but in the end, it left more questions than it might have answered.
Originally scheduled to be a five-round bout between interim champion Josh Bryant and reigning champion Sean Strickland, the bout was reduced to three rounds due to weight issues.
“Josh came in six pounds overweight, and honestly, it didn’t bother me (in the slightest),” said Strickland. “I knew I was going to win, so it was just another fight for me.
“I look at it from a fighter a standpoint: the longer that you’re in the cage, the more chance you could get injured or something bad can happen. It just increases your odds of possibly being out a couple months, so I was fine with it becoming a three-round fight.”
Things were further complicated when it was announced that there was a split-decision, won by Strickland.
“I think I was busier,” said Strickland when asked what he felt gave him the edge in the fight.
“He definitely won the first round, there’s no doubt, but in the second round I started feeling more in a rhythm and getting my punches off – even though I really wasn’t pulling the trigger – and was busier in the second and in the third and I think that’s made my case.”
As far as Strickland is concerned, he is the undisputed champion and is moving on, though he can’t help but feel he could have done better in the fight.
“People don’t know that this was my first real stand-up fight,” he said. “Before the fight, I told my coaches I wasn’t going to take it to the ground, I was going to keep it standing, and honestly, I don’t feel like I performed up to my ability.
“I was actually kind of disappointed with my performance, but it was a learning experience.”
Strickland says that at 10-0 and four years into his career, experience is the biggest thing he wants to work on as he continues to take steps forward.
“I look at the top fighters out there and realistically picture how I would do if I fought them,” he said. “I feel I’d do well, skillfully, in the gym, but under the lights (of a big stage), I don’t think I have the experience yet.
“My next few fights, I want to gain as much experience as I can and stay in there as long as I can. I want to feel it out and become more comfortable inside the cage.”
Strickland is looking to gain that comfort sooner rather than later, as he has big plans for himself in 2013.
“I’m fighting in February, and while it’s not set in stone (who my opponent will be) yet, it should be a pretty good match-up,” he said. “If I win that fight I have some tough guys lined up like past UFC fighters, and seeing how I do against them, it will give me a realistic view of how good I am.
“If I do well, I’d like to move on from there and take it to the next level.”
(Photo courtesy of King of the Cage and Monstro Photos)