Strickland Favored to Defend Title Against Rising Contender
Sean Strickland will make his first defense of the UFC middleweight championship tonight against number one contender Dricus Du Plessis in the main event of UFC 297 in Toronto. Strickland captured the belt with a dominant decision win over Alex Pereira last November, while Du Plessis has rocketed up the rankings with five straight UFC victories.
As championship fights often are, this is an intriguing stylistic matchup. Strickland likes to pressure opponents and break them down with volume striking over the course of a fight. Du Plessis offers more explosive striking and threatening submission skills if the fight hits the mat.
Most oddsmakers and analysts are favoring the incumbent Strickland, but Du Plessis’ blend of skills could pose a threat:
“Du Plessis is as dangerous as they come,” said analyst Michael Bisping. “He’s got fight-ending power on the feet and a wicked guillotine choke he can slap on in a flash. Strickland better not take him lightly.”
Still, Strickland has more high-level experience against top competition. His pressure and pace also tend to overwhelm opponents as fights wear on.
“I think Strickland chop him down over the course of five rounds,” Bisping predicted. “He might lose one or two early, but he’ll take over in the championship rounds.”
Both Fighters On Weight After Intense Weigh-In Faceoff
The intense rivalry between Strickland and Du Plessis was on full display at yesterday’s weigh-in ceremony. Both men stepped on the scale inside the championship limit of 185 pounds, but the faceoff is what had people talking.
Strickland unleashed a furious profanity-laced tirade against his upcoming opponent, at one point threatening to “f***ing stab” Du Plessis during their fight. UFC president Dana White had to restrain Strickland as the two fighters traded shoves.
While certainly an ugly scene, Strickland’s outrageous comments are mostly just him promoting the fight. Du Plessis seemed non-plussed by the over-the-top trash talk.
“I don’t know what Sean hopes to achieve with such comments,” said Coach Llewelyn Shillington. “Dricus knows it’s simply bluster and it does not affect his preparation or focus at all.”
|Dricus Du Plessis
So despite Strickland’s antics, this pivotal championship fight remains on tap for tonight. The UFC will be hoping to start 2024 with a bang.
A Clash of Styles and Personalities
The stylistic matchup here is quite fascinating. Strickland is the pressure fighter, looking to break opponents with his high-volume striking approach. He targets the body frequently, setting up thudding power shots upstairs behind a stiff jab. Strickland also has an iron chin, having never been stopped by strikes in his career.
Du Plessis offers a more versatile attack. On the feet he has legitimate one-punch knockout power, especially in his left hand. The ground is where he’s most dangerous though, as 11 of his 15 career wins have come via submission. If Du Plessis gets Strickland to the mat, he has a very real chance of finishing the fight.
|Strickland’s Paths to Victory
|Du Plessis’ Paths to Victory
|Use pressure wrestling to sap Du Plessis’ gas tank
|Land a big power punch on Strickland’s chin
|Break down Du Plessis to the body with punishing shots
|Take Strickland’s back and lock in a rear naked choke
|Drag Du Plessis into deep waters and drown him late
|Use explosive takedowns to bring the fight to the mat
Adding further intrigue is the genuine animosity between both men. Strickland has lobbed personal insults at Du Plessis for weeks, dismissing the contender’s skills and accomplishment. Du Plessis has largely remained above the fray, but you know he’d relish the chance to make Strickland eat his words.
The Road to UFC Gold
Strickland earned this title shot on the strength of six straight UFC victories, the last two of which came against top 5 contenders in Jack Hermansson and Alex Pereira. The win over Pereira, an undefeated kickboxing champion, cemented Strickland as the true middleweight king.
For Du Plessis, his rise into title contention has been swift and shocking. The South African fighter debuted in the UFC just over a year ago but has racked up five consecutive wins. His last two came via first round stoppage, proving he has the skills to finish elite competition.
|Strickland’s Last Two Fights
|Du Plessis’ Last Two Fights
|UD win over Jack Hermansson
|KO win over Bradley Scott
|UD win over Alex Pereira
|Sub win over Darren Till
Now these red hot fighters collide for the chance to leave as undisputed champion. It’s a true 50/50 matchup that could see either man leaving the cage with the belt around his waist.
Title Fight Sets Up Intriguing Divisional Landscape
The winner of this championship clash will have no shortage of intriguing contenders lining up to challenge him next.
If Strickland defends his belt, surging knockout artist Paulo Costa seems destined to be next in line after another spectacular finish last month. A fight between Strickland and bitter rival Israel Adesanya would also do big business.
Should Du Plessis capture UFC gold, foreign stars like Costa and Italian striker Marvin Vettori could build their case for a championship opportunity in the coming months. A rematch with Strickland also can’t be counted out.
And this is all without factoring in established top contenders like Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier. The UFC middleweight division remains one of the deepest in the promotion, with the Strickland vs Du Plessis winner poised to rule over an exciting landscape in 2024.
The MMA World Awaits a New Champion
Sean Strickland shocked many observers by dethroning Alex Pereira last year. Now “Tarzan” will look to legitimize his reign by turning away dangerous challenger Dricus Du Plessis tonight at UFC 297.
For Du Plessis, he’s risen from obscurity to the cusp of undisputed glory in extremely short order. A win would cap off an unprecedented ascent to the pinnacle of MMA.
The tension is palpable heading into this championship grudge match. Strickland talks a big game, but Du Plessis has the skills tocash in and realize his dream. Will we see the cocky Strickland humbled tonight? Or will his relentless pressure prove too much for the game South African?
All will be revealed when the octagon door closes for UFC 297’s pivotal main event. The MMA world awaits to see who will leave Toronto as the undisputed king of the middleweights.
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