Bubba McDaniel is 1-1 in the UFC, but he could be considered 1-3. He lost twice on The Ultimate Fighter and while his losses were to the two eventual finalists in Kelvin Gastelum and Uriah Hall, McDaniel has yet to prove he can beat truly UFC-level competition. He made his last fight against Brad Tavares closer than expected, but ended up losing by decision, leaving Gilbert Smith as the only opponent he’s defeated in the octagon. In this fight, McDaniel will battle the debuting Sean Strickland, who enters the UFC with a perfect 13-0 record. When I look at the way McDaniel and Strickland match up, I’m left believing that it’s a fight Strickland really should win.
The biggest strength of McDaniel’s game is his submission grappling. He’s very aggressive at going for sweeps and submissions, to the point that he is prone to making mistakes while doing so. Against an unpolished opponent like Smith, McDaniel’s style worked for him as he earned a third-round submission victory by triangle/armbar. McDaniel’s success against Tavares also came on the ground as he was able to land a takedown and control Tavares in the third round of their fight.
Besides that, it’s hard to see where McDaniel is good enough to compete with UFC-level competition. He’s not a talented striker and isn’t particularly durable either – McDaniel has a history of losing due to strikes to the body. McDaniel also has almost no takedown defense; Gastelum took him down at will and Smith landed three takedowns as well. It’s awfully hard for a fighter to win consistently with limited striking and poor takedown defense, and that’s what McDaniel is working with.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find much tape of Strickland in action – the only clear video I was able to find was from his fourth professional bout against George Interiano. In that fight Strickland seems to be a wrestler first as takedowns were easily the most impressive part of his game. He was very active with strikes from top position, and definitely preferred to strike as opposed to looking for a submission hold. He was also an aggressive striker who hit hard, but was often wild with his strikes, leaving openings for Interiano to land cleanly. It was a wild and fun fight, and worth watching:
The biggest key here is Strickland’s willingness and ability to land takedowns. He should be successful taking McDaniel to the ground, but even if Strickland somehow decides to stand and bang instead, I could see him having the advantage there as well. I’m just not high on McDaniel’s game outside of the submission world. If McDaniel wants to win this fight, his best chance is probably to weather an early storm, make Strickland waste too much energy, and if he can get Strickland gassed out, capitalize with submission attacks and possibly force a tap out.
Overall, I have to favor Strickland to win this fight. He should have nearly total control of the takedown game, and with his knockout power, I have to favor him in a striking match as well. It’s possible that the fight I saw is not a good representation of the skills Strickland brings to the table. It’s also possible that Strickland’s overall grappling could turn out to be worse than I thought. However, I can only judge these fighters by what I’ve seen, and that means Strickland should have what it takes to win this fight.
Pick: Sean Strickland by TKO
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
I will probably stay away from this one just because of the relative lack of information on Strickland. However, from looking at Strickland’s record as well as limited footage, I like him as a prospect and think he could be very successful in the UFC. If Strickland is offered at a substantial underdog price on the betting markets, then I’ll be very tempted to put down a bet.