Du Plessis triumphs to become UFC middleweight champion

mma21 January 2024 07:00| © Backpage TXT

South Africa’s Dricus du Plessis has become the UFC middleweight world champion after defeating Sean Strickland in a fierce main event at UFC 297 at the Scotiabank Arena in Ontario, Canada, on Sunday morning.

‘Stillknocks’ took the fight on split decision (47-48 48-47 48-47), with his resilience and offensive variety proving just enough to unseat the champion, who put up a superb boxing display but was unable to prevent the challenger from relentlessly pressing forward.

Strickland controlled the first round with his jab and ability to check Du Plessis’ leg kicks, though the challenger did score a takedown. Rounds two through four saw Du Plessis continue to press forward, landing takedowns and opening a nasty cut over Strickland’s left eye.

The champion upped his offence in the fifth round and the fight ended with the competitors throwing a flurry of strikes to close out an outstanding match which went all the way to the judges’ score cards.

When “and new” rang out to confirm DDP’s triumph, he embraced his coaches, team and loved ones in the Octagon before speaking with UFC great Daniel Cormier.

“I honestly thought, with the takedowns I made sure every round... I could feel it was a close fight, I definitely gave him the first round,” said du Plessis. “I tried to get that takedown in the first to level the playing field and I felt that he gets up really well, but I can get under him and get him down because I’m stronger.

"I felt the first three rounds was give and take, but the last two rounds I know... everybody said when it goes past halfway and I had a point to prove... how’s that for round four and five. Who says this guy’s not a five-round fighter, what did I tell you?”

In the co-main event ‘Rocky’ Raquel Pennington outlasted Mayra Bueno Silva over five rounds to claim the women’s bantamweight championship via unanimous decision.

“I have climbed mountains to get back here,” said Pennington, who fought for the title back in May 2018 but was beaten by all-time great Amanda Nunes.

The remainder of the main card saw Neil Magny stop Mike Malott in the third round of their welterweight clash; Chris Curtis picked up a split decision win over Marc-Andre Barriault in the middleweight division; and Movsar Evloev outpointed Arnold Allen over three rounds of their featherweight fight.

The next UFC event is a Fight Night at the APEX Facility in Las Vegas on the morning of Sunday 4 February, headlined by a middleweight match between Roman Dolidze and Nassourdine Imavov.

UFC 297 – Main card results

- Main event: Middleweight championship: Dricus du Plessis def. Sean Strickland via split decision (47-48 48-47 48-47), R5, 5:00

- Co-main: Women’s bantamweight championship: Raquel Pennington def. Mayra Bueno Silva via unanimous decision (49-46 49-46 49-45), R5, 5:00

- Welterweight: Neil Magny def. Mike Malott via TKO (punches), R3, 4:45

- Middleweight: Chris Curtis def. Marc-Andre Barriault via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27), R3, 5:00

- Featherweight: Movsar Evloev def. Arnold Allen via unanimous decision (29-28 29-28 29-28), R3, 5:00