Dricus du Plessis defeats Sean Strickland to become the new UFC Middleweight Champion

Pretoria native Du Plessis won a bloody bout by a split decision to maintain his 7-0 UFC record

Sajid Khan
Published : 22 Jan 2024, 12:59 PM
Updated : 22 Jan 2024, 12:59 PM

The UFC Middleweight title and the UFC Women's Bantamweight title were on the line at UFC 297 on Saturday at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada.

The men's title bout saw Sean Strickland and his 28-5-0 record facing off against Dricus du Plessis, whose record stood at 20-2-0.

There was an air of history about the fight.

Pretoria native Du Plessis beat former champion TKO Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 in July, setting him up to challenge Israel Adesanya for the UFC Middleweight Championship on Sept 10 at UFC 293. But Du Plessis was forced to bow out of the contest due to a leg injury.

His replacement was Strickland, who stepped in and won the title in a major upset by unanimous decision.

On Saturday, the two would settle the matter.

Strickland started strong. His impressive defence, which had shut down Adesanya, proved as strong against du Plessis as he checked multiple leg kicks.

The battle was a bloody affair. Du Plessis turned things around in a major way when he cut Strickland near his left eye and hurt him with a big right hand in the fourth round.

Strickland, known for his striking, hit Du Plessis multiple times, almost blurring his vision from heavy bruises to his eyes early on. The contender tried and succeeded in two takedowns against Strickland, but the ground time was minimal.

The defending champion closed well in the fifth, but Du Plessis proved his mettle in a championship fight, silencing critics of his cardio.

The fight ended in the fifth round with a (47–48, 48–47, 48–47) split decision to the South African. Du Plessis (21-2) has now won nine straight and is a perfect 7-0 in the UFC. The duel also earned him the Fight of the Night bonus.

In the post-fight interview, proudly draped in the South African flag, Du Plessis showed his respect for his rival.

"Thank you for bringing the best out of me," he said, putting the bad blood and the bloodshed in the ring behind them.

Du Plessis also called out his Adesanya for his next fight, paving the way for the showdown fans had previously missed.

The UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship bout for the vacant title also proved highly competitive.

Former champion Amanda Nunes retired after her title defence at UFC 289, leaving challengers Raquel Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva to square off for the crown.

Pennington battled through several submission attempts from Bueno Silva throughout the fight and eventually emerged with a unanimous (49–46, 49–46, 49–45) decision victory in the fifth round after a close contest.

This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.