Honestly, you have improved, style change or not, and it's the little things, like a more interesting pose, better proportioned hands and feet, and an overall composition that compliments itself with color and lines. A job well done! ^^ b
While there's definitely an improvement in skill I think it rather shows a change in style. You went from a somewhat generic one to a really unique one and I think that's quite a big improvement itself. Sure hope you're gonna win this~
Wow that's a real break from the standard entries in this contest, which seem to be "draw this again, but make it less stylized". I'm very glad to see someone with artistic improvement, not just a better ability to render.