Sean Strickland risked a lot by taking on an unranked opponent in UFC Vegas 76’s main event, but he ultimately delivered his first finish in nearly three years with a second-round TKO stoppage of Abus Magomedov.
Things got off to a rough start after Strickland suffered an early eye poke followed by an aggressive onslaught coming from Magomedov. But Strickland weathered the storm and bided his time before coming back guns blazing in the second round as Magomedov started to fade.
Strickland stayed relentless until he finally tagged Magomedov with a combination that dropped Russian to the ground. A barrage of shots followed, and it was clear Magomedov was just covering up with no hope to get back to his feet, which led to referee Mark Smith stopping the fight at 4:20 in the second round.
Afterward, Strickland acknowledged Magomedov got off to a fast start, however the American put an end to that in dramatic fashion.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got five rounds of fun,” Strickland said. “I ain’t slowing down, I ain’t stopping. You want to go have a good first round, you wrestle and throw some little Peter Pan kicks, bring it! We’ve got two, three, four, and five!”
The eye poke just seconds into the bout nearly halted things, however Strickland recovered from the foul and Magomedov was immediately on the attack once the action restarted. While Strickland stuck behind his signature jab, Magomedov threw a variety of strikes including some nasty leg kicks that landed with a sickening thud several times in the opening round.
Magomedov continued with an aggressive offensive onslaught, which Strickland answered by displaying solid defense as he kept trying to find an opening for his own counter punches.
A strong start from Magomedov unfortunately resulted in much less movement to start the second round as he struggled with his conditioning. Strickland took full advantage, marching Magomedov down, stabbing him with that lead left jab, and then following with a powerful right hand behind it.
Strickland constantly backed Magomedov against the cage and just unloaded punches in bunches to look for the finish. He finally connected with a hard left-right combination that dropped Magomedov to the canvas.
From there, Strickland just fired off shots on the ground and Magomedov waited for the referee to rescue him from further harm. It was exactly the statement Strickland needed as he now starts building momentum with back-to-back wins following a pair of losses.
“I want the title,” Strickland said when addressing what’s next for him.
It remains to be seen if the UFC grants his wish, but Strickland did his job to at least get into the conversation as middleweight champion Israel Adesanya awaits his next assignment.