In an effort to wash the bad taste of a close decision out of his mouth from his previous fight just a few weeks ago, Strickland accepted the opportunity to replace Kelvin Gastelum so he could get back in the win column again. A nasty lead jab followed by power punches while constantly marching forward allowed Strickland to get the better many exchanges to ultimately secure the victory and put an end to Imavov’s three-fight win streak.
The final scorecards read 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 with Strickland getting the nod by unanimous decision.
“It was a close fight with Jared [Cannonier] but I won,” Strickland said. “I’m only here because of bad judging. I can fight 25 minutes. I can fight an hour.
“The only reason this man hit me is because I wanted to finish him. I’m trying to go for those finishes, especially after my last boring fight. I don’t want that to be tagged to my f****** name.
While Strickland got the win, Imavov didn’t seem to show any nerves at the start of the fight as he was headhunting and going after his opponent with big, powerful hooks on the feet. Searching for the knockout gave Imavov an early lead but Strickland’s consistency on the feet and forward pressure started paying dividends with each passing minute.
Strickland’s ability to move forward and just throw punches in bunches seemed to throw off Imavov’s rhythm as he kept stepping backwards and then resetting after many of the exchanges. Sticking to the basics, Strickland was just methodical as he kept sticking the jab in Imavov’s face and then following with a power punch behind it.
Imavov was able to finally counter after timing Strickland’s strikes, which then allowed him to come back over the top with some serious heat in his hands. A late elbow strike on the inside also connected as Imavov sliced down on Strickland just before the second round came to an end.
While he was still being wary of the power coming back at him, Strickland was just constantly peppering away at Imavov and frustrating the Russian born fighter. Strickland’s left jab with the right hand behind it kept finding a home and Imavov didn’t seem to have a great answer in return.
As the fight faded into the fourth and fifth round, Strickland’s pace and volume striking attack were just relentless, although Imavov wasn’t going away. Unfortunately, Imavov just wasn’t able to stay on target and his power was diminished thanks to the grueling strategy he dealt with from Strickland in his face throwing punches all night long.
It was an impressive showing from Strickland, especially considering the extenuating circumstances after he took the fight less than one week ago. As far as what’s next, Strickland seemed ready for whatever the UFC throws at him — especially if they keep paying him so well.
“Whatever the UFC finds me worthy. I’m a company guy,” Strickland said. “You pay me, I’ll fight Francis Ngannou.”