- Sean Strickland will be defending his UFC middleweight title for the first time against No. 2-ranked contender Dricus Du Plessis in the main event of UFC 297.
- Strickland is coming off a championship upset of Israel Adesanya to become the division’s new king, while Du Plessis earned his title shot with a six-fight win streak.
- Strickland is the betting favorite at -130, while Du Plessis is the betting underdog at +110.
UFC 297 will be the first pay-per-view event of the UFC in 2024. The middleweight title showdown between defending champion Sean Strickland and challenger Dricus Du Plessis headlines the event that goes down inside the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2024
Strickland is coming off a massive upset of former champion Israel Adesanya to become the newest king of the 185-pound division. That win has made him the betting -130 favorite in UFC odds heading into this fight.
Meanwhile, Du Plessis rides an undefeated six-fight streak to secure his first world title fight in the Las Vegas-based promotion. Despite this spotless record in the UFC, the challenger is still tagged as the +110 betting favorite.
Sean Strickland Recent Fight Results
Strickland is a UFC veteran who made his promotional debut over a decade ago in March 2014. He first competed in the welterweight division but eventually moved up to the 185-pound division due to weight-cutting problems. He had seven wins and three losses as a 170-pounder.
The 32-year-old American made his middleweight debut in November 2020 and defeated Jack Marshman unanimously. Since then, he won six of his next eight bouts to obtain his first UFC title bout against Adesanya in the main event of UFC 293 in September.
— UFC (@ufc) January 15, 2024
Strickland seized the opportunity and shocked the world by beating “The Last Stylebender” in their five-round battle to produce one of the biggest upsets in UFC title fights, eking out a unanimous decision victory.
Dricus Du Plessis Recent Fight Results
Du Plessis was a household name in the African MMA circuit, where he captured the EFC and KSW titles, before cracking a roster spot in the UFC in October 2020. He made his promotional debut against Markus Perez and immediately made his arrival known by knocking him out in the opening round.
DDP is putting in the extra work ahead of #UFC297 🇿🇦
Ready for his first five round fight, @DricusDuPlessis is for his shot to become the first South African UFC Champion
[ LIVE on ESPN+ PPV | 10pmET/7pmPT ] pic.twitter.com/mJDCk2zHaG
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2024
“Stillknocks” continued to climb up the division’s ranking by adding Trevin Giles, Brad Tavares, Darren Till, and Derek Brunson to his pile of wins. His biggest victory in the UFC so far happened in July, when he beat former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker with a second-round TKO finish to warrant the title shot.
Sean Strickland vs. Dricus Du Plessis: Tale of the Tape
|Dricus Du Plessis
Sean Strickland vs. Dricus Du Plessis: Fight Analysis
The tale of the tape between Strickland and Du Plessis is almost identical, with both standing at 6-foot-1 and having 76 inches of reach. The challenger will enjoy a slight one-and-a-half leg reach advantage against the defending champion. Both are almost the same age, with Strickland at 32 and Du Plessis at 30.
A massive difference among them is the finish rate because Du Plessis has a 95%, and only one fighter (Tavares) has managed to survive with him until the end of the fight. Among his stoppage wins, 10 were via submission, and nine were TKO/KOs.
On the other hand, Strickland only has a 54% finish rate because his style is more of a pressure-forward and relentless offense that breaks his opponents. This is not a knock on his knockout power because when he employs his fighting approach, his opponents aren’t engaging with him, which often leads to decision victories.
With both having an MMA fight style, their significant strikes output and defense are relatively high, with Strickland having 5.82 significant strikes per minute (41% accuracy) and 4.24 significant strikes absorbed per minute (63% rate), while Du Plessis has a 6.95 significant strikes per minute (55%) and 3.79 significant strikes absorbed per minute (53% rate).
Interestingly, their grappling numbers are decent, with Strickland sporting a 0.92 takedown average per 15 minutes, 64% takedown accuracy, 84% takedown defense, and 0.20 submission average per 15 minutes, while Du Plessis has a 2.72 takedown average per 15 minutes, 50% takedown accuracy, 40% takedown defense, and 1.09 submission average per 15 minutes.
The main key for Strickland in this upcoming match is to put Du Plessis on his back foot immediately through front kicks and pressure him against the cage before throwing his signature boxing combinations, much like what he did against Adesanya. This way, he can disrupt the rhythm of the challenger and score points on the judges’ scorecards.
For Du Plessis, though, he needs to mix things up early and give Strickland something to think about by shooting for takedowns because, after all, half of his wins were via submission. Once he secures a few takedowns in the opening phase of the match, he can then start going for punches, as Strickland’s guard is likely lowered due to the threat of a takedown, making his chin more vulnerable.
Official Prediction: Unanimous decision victory for Sean Strickland.
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