The middleweight title is on the line at UFC 297 this weekend, and Dricus du Plessis is out to prove another point to the world. His monumental win against Robert Whittaker turned heads, but winning the belt will truly put the South African on the map like never before. Champion Sean Strickland is another who knows all about being underestimated, and right now this one feels like it could go either way.
Dricus du Plessis One Step Away From History at UFC 297
It has taken just over three years since making his UFC debut for Du Plessis to reach this point. Despite winning all six of his UFC fights with five finishes, it was only his last victory that got people talking. In a middleweight title eliminator, Du Plessis beat former champion Robert Whittaker via TKO; a result which very few saw coming. He had a point to prove that night, and it seems he must do so again on Saturday. He undoubtedly deserves this shot at gold.
‘Stillknocks’ has knockout wins over Whittaker, Derek Brunson, Trevin Giles and Markus Perez. He also submitted Darren Till at UFC 282. His win over Whittaker was a statement he badly needed as questions still surrounded his ceiling and skillset beforehand. MMA fans were preparing for Israel Adesanya vs Whittaker 3, but Du Plessis emphatically shut that idea down. The rivalry between Adesanya and Du Plessis grew, but the two would not end up fighting. Du Plessis had injuries to tend to.
A New Rivalry
Strickland was called upon by the UFC and ripped the title away from the previously dominant Adesanya. A new rivalry was born between the champion and Du Plessis. At the seasonal press conference, things got heated between the two fighters and this would come to a head at UFC 296. Du Plessis and Strickland engaged in a brawl in the crowd at that event which can only mean more eyes on the fight this weekend.
A Du Plessis Breakdown
The South African middleweight is in his prime. A title fight might have materialised quickly, but this is where Du Plessis is meant to be. He is poised and ready, and there aren’t many left who doubt his chances.
‘Stillknocks’ possesses power as demonstrated in his knockout wins. He isn’t the quickest, but he is still accurate and technical. Volume striking isn’t his preferred method, so he will choose his single shots carefully and sometimes double up. In his win over Whittaker, he finished the fight with volume, but he still picked his shots in the moment.
Du Plessis is a strong and persistent grappler. He relies on his strength in wrestling situations and can defend a takedown well. He can be a submission threat too, but only has one on his UFC record so far. Some slick grappling was on display against Whittaker that surprised some viewers.
There is a question of how well Du Plessis will deal with the pressure of Strickland. He hasn’t fought five rounds, and this is something Strickland is used to. Du Plessis is dangerous and does have the tools to win this fight anywhere, but Strickland will not give up the summit of the middleweight division easily.
Will Dricus Du Plessis become the new middleweight champion? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Featured image credits to Embed from Getty Images