The difference in the fight really came down to Cannonier’s power versus Strickland’s volume, as the one-time title challenger was constantly seeking to land big, heavy punches. Strickland landed a strong jab throughout the five-round affair but couldn’t match Cannonier’s ability to march forward and find a home with huge hooks and overhand punches that likely helped him edge out the victory.
Judges Derek Cleary and Junichiro Kamijo both scored the fight 49-46 for Cannonier, with judge Sal D’Amato giving it 49-46 for Strickland. Still, that was enough for Cannonier to get the nod as he closes out the year with a win and bounces back from his loss to Israel Adesanya in July.
“I thought I had it 3-2 so I was pretty confident that I won,” Cannonier said afterward. “I thought I did enough. Sean’s got a very good eye for that distance. He was able to read me when I was getting ready to come. He was doing a good job of not just walking forward like a freaking zombie. We had a whole playbook of answers for his jab, but that [leg kick] worked.”
Facing a notorious power puncher, Strickland did his best to stay on the outside and use his jab to try and keep Cannonier on the end of his strikes. In return, Cannonier fired back with a series of kicks to try and take out Strickland’s lead leg as they continued to trade on the feet.
Strickland was methodical with his approach as he continued sticking straight punches in Cannonier’s face and then sliding out of the way before he absorbed much coming back at him. The movement started to frustrate Cannonier, who actually began talking to Strickland and asking him if he wanted a stand-up battle in the middle of the cage.
Strickland responded with another series of jabs and then got a bit more aggressive with some solid hooks as he attempted to force Cannonier to take a back step of his own.
It wasn’t until deep in the third round when Cannonier finally uncorked his best combination of the fight as he marched Strickland down and threw several punches in succession. A big hook connected clean, but Strickland ate the punch effectively and circled away before more damage could be inflicted.
At moments, Cannonier was able to cut off the cage and step into the pocket to exchange with Strickland, which is where he was finally able to unload his biggest punches. Still, Strickland absorbed the shots well enough to escape the position and reset in the center of the cage.
Knowing the fight was close through the first four rounds, Cannonier let his hands go in the final round and he managed to crack Strickland with some well-timed overhand punches that countered the constant jabs coming back at him. By the time the final horn sounded, Strickland showed a bit more wear and tear from the damage inflicted throughout the fight, and that may have been the difference to help Cannonier get the win.
At 38, Cannonier remains a top-ranked middleweight and he hopes this win will propel him back into the title picture as he seeks another shot at good in the near future.
“I would definitely like another shot, sooner rather than later,” Cannonier said. “Anybody above me to get the title fight or the title fight is what we’re shooting for.”