UFC 297: Strickland defends middleweight title vs Du Plessis

Reigning champion Sean Strickland is set to headline the middleweight fight of the UFC 297 in a clash against former KSW Welterweight Champion Dricus Du Plessis.

The main card fight, scheduled for Saturday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, will kick off at 10 PM ET. It will be broadcast on ESPN+ and PPV.

Despite his rising career being halted by a knockout in July 2022, Strickland swiftly rebounded with an upset against former dominant champion Israel Adesanya a year later. Strickland struck a unanimous decision victory over Adesanya on September 2023, where he outlanded Adesanya 137-94 in total strikes.

Meanwhile, Du Plessis, having secured victories in his initial six UFC bouts, arrives with a reputation for finishing fights. His surge was momentarily stalled due to an unspecified foot injury, but now his paths cross in a highly anticipated main event with Strickland.

‘Biggest upsets of 2023’

Du Plessis has previously sent Strickland a string of praises and expressed his desire to fight the American MMA fighter after his triumph over Adesanya.

“Well, what an upset!” Du Plessis wrote in a social media post right after Adesanya’s defeat. “I’m impressed in any way but congratulations on becoming champion and beating the Kiwi/Chinese/Nigerian.”

“Myself and had the biggest upsets of 2023,” Du Plessis continued, referencing his recent win over Robert Whittaker on July 2023. “I am undoubtedly the contender so let’s settle this like men whenever wherever.”

Du Plessis then tagged Adesanya and told him he would give him a title shot and a “well-deserved hiding on my home soil, South Africa.”

Back in the outset of July 2023, Strickland solidified his top-10 standing in the 185-pound division with a decisive win over Abus Magomedov, marking his second consecutive victory.

Simultaneously, Du Plessis extended his UFC win streak to six and overall win streak to eight by overpowering Whittaker in a manner rarely witnessed since Whittaker’s initial encounter with Adesanya.

Initially slated for a clash with Adesanya, injuries from the Whittaker bout prevented Du Plessis from the quick turnaround required for the Sydney event in September. Stepping in, Strickland faced Adesanya, securing a monumental upset with a dominant performance and claiming the title.

Despite their paths seeming unconventional, both fighters deserve recognition. Strickland, amid polarizing remarks and a distinctive persona, boasts an 8-2 record since returning from a career-threatening motorcycle accident. His victories include a perplexing display against Adesanya, debunking notions of his inadequacy.

Du Plessis, with an unconventional cage style, has proven highly effective since entering the UFC. Boasting a 14-2 record, including championships in EFC and KSW, he secured five finishes in six UFC wins, with Brad Tavares being the sole opponent to avoid being stopped.

Having fought four times in 12 months leading up to his drubbing of Whittaker, Du Plessis, now 30, stands on the cusp of a historic moment and the dawn of a new era in the 185-pound weight class at UFC 297.

Ahead of the fight, Strickland holds the favored position at -130 (risk $130 to win $100). This contrasts with du Plessis at +110 in the latest UFC 297: Strickland vs. Du Plessis odds, as per SportsLine’s Daniel Vithlani picks.

The promotion will make its seventh appearance in Toronto, marking the first visit since UFC 231 in December 2018.