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SOUTH African Dricus du Plessis finally gets his shot at becoming the first African-based fighter to become UFC champion when UFC 297 lands in Toronto, Canada this weekend.

Standing in the way of history is unlikely champion Sean Strickland, who ended the reign of future Hall of Famer Israel Adesanya to become middleweight king in September.

Often MMA championship match-ups promise artistry and aptitude; this one promises blood and brutality.


Du Plessis, 30, has won six straight since joining MMA’s premier organisation in October 2020, climbing his way to #1 spot in the process.

A former two-weight champion back in South Africa and then for premier Polish promotion KSW, du Plessis has had his hand raised on almost every continent.

But his meteoric rise inside the UFC Octagon has been as savage as it has surprising. His six wins include five finishes, and it appears the better the opponent the better the performance.

After pummelling former champion Robert Whittaker inside two rounds in July, Dricus was paired with long-time champ Adesanya Down Under.

But a foot injury forced him to pass on the opportunity and, with a catalogue of the top contenders already on Izzy’s CV, the chance eventually landed at the feet of Strickland.


Against all the odds, the Californian caused one of the biggest upsets in UFC history by beating the breaks of a gun-shy Adesanya and taking the 185lb back to the West Coast.

Strickland, 32, took the fight with just six weeks notice, went down to Sydney, Australia and walked down Adesanya. It was as bizarre as it was incredible and closed a chapter in the sport’s history.

An unlikely champion as there has ever been, a year ago Strickland was ranked #7 at middleweight after back-to-back losses in 2022 against Alex Pereira and Jared Cannonier.

After turning pro as a teenager, Strickland is now 28-5 with 15 finishes, 11 by knockout. Last year he went 3-0, including the title win, and his confidence is at a previously undiscovered level.


However, winning the belt when the stars align is one thing; defending it against the best competition is something very different.

Dricus’ 22-fight career does include two losses, but he’s not been bettered in the last five years and he’s only been to the judges once in his entire career too; with 19 finishes in 20 wins.

Eight of his first 11 career wins came via submission, whilst more recently it’s his fists which have been doing the damage. But whether it’s on the feet or on a canvas, Dricus finds a way to succeed in style.

Expect Sean to have the swagger and confidence afforded to a new champion and start brightly, boxing behind his Philly shell and mixing it up with leg kicks and strong takedown defence.

Likewise, du Plessis is hardly a slow starter and he’ll fancy a boxing match to ease his way into the contest. But soon enough he’ll get his timing and start scoring right hands.

Strickland’s heart and new found celebrity will ensure the fight goes past the first couple of rounds. But Dricus can set a pace and mix up his striking and grappling to the point where Sean’s holes become widely exposed.


UFC returns with an absolute belter as Dricus du Plessis looks to dethrone the newly-crowned middleweight king Sean Strickland in Toronto. Expect fireworks but who’ll reign supreme at UFC 297?

UFC 297

The card is stacked at UFC 297, with TWO title bouts and plenty of ranked fights as well as Toronto hosts its first PPV event for five years.

Such an explosive card deserves a host of knockout offers, including boosted odds – check out our UFC 297 specials, here!

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