MMA Junkie’s 2020 ‘Comeback Fighter of the Year’: Sean Strickland wins big after accident

No matter what happens in his career from here on out, Sean Strickland already defied the odds.

In a since-deleted December 2018 Instagram post, Strickland revealed he was in a crash. “I was riding back from Kings (MMA), and I got in an accident,” it read. “It wasn’t my fault, but I’ve been blacked out for a good minute. I just came to after surgery. It’s going to be a long road back, but I love fighting, so I’ll get back on the ball and make it happen. Thanks for the support.”

Perhaps his situation wasn’t in the limelight as he didn’t post much about it on social media beyond an initial blurb or two. A UFC welterweight, Strickland (22-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) didn’t tell the full story until months later.

The “accident” Strickland referred to was a motorcycle crash – and it was serious. He was hit by a van going an estimated 45 miles per hour. Strickland has no recollection of the incident, but woke up dazed and severely injured hours after it occurred.

“I left some of my kneecap on the road,” Strickland told MMA Fighting in an October interview. “… My patella tendon tore, so my knee cap was laying out, pretty much dangling out of my (expletive) skin.”

As he dealt with his knee injury and later-discovered a quadriceps problem, Strickland was out of action from October 2018 to October 2020 as he recovered from injuries and subsequent surgery.

Strickland returned Oct. 31 on the same card as Anderson Silva’s retirement fight, UFC Fight Night 181. His performance was fantastic, well executed, and exciting. His chatter directed at opponent Jack Marshman, whom he defeated by unanimous decision, was popular with those tweeting along during the fight. Strickland looked arguably better than ever at his new weight class of 185 pounds.

“I know I joke about me dropping out of high school and this is all I do, but when I first had my accident, every doctor I spoke to was telling me, ‘Hey, you can fight for sure, but you probably shouldn’t fight,’” Strickland told reporters after the fight. “The hardest thing was telling these doctors to shut up. Like, you don’t know what I can or can’t do.”

“… The accident kind of made me grow as an individual. (During) a lot of my fights I’ve been so afraid of losing that I wasn’t even enjoying it. Now, going through that, I don’t really care about winning so much anymore. I just want to have good fights.”

Two weeks later, Strickland stepped in on short notice against Brendan Allen. He won by devastating second-round TKO – his second win in 15 days. The knockout earned him a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus from the UFC brass.

Perseverance, dedication, overcoming adversity, and the refusal to be denied earned Strickland that and is why he’s MMA Junkie’s 2020 Comeback Fighter of the Year.

Honorable Mention

Kyoji Horiguchi

After a 20-month layoff from a torn ACL, he exacted revenge against Kai Asakura at Rizin FF’s final 2020 event.

Aaron Pico

The Bellator blue-chip featherweight prospect overcame being finished twice in 2019 to rebound with a 3-0 2020 campaign that included two second-round knockouts and a first-round submission.

Glover Teixeira

Glover Teixeira (UFC/Getty Images)

Despite entering 2020 on a winning streak, he showed he still has it at age 41 when he finished Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos to put himself squarely in the light heavyweight title picture.

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