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Sean Strickland drops middleweight title to Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 297

Sean Strickland drops middleweight title to Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 297

Dricus Du Plessis took the middleweight title from Sean Strickland at UFC 297 on Saturday, beating the controversial American via split decision.

Strickland won the belt from Israel Adesanya in September, in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, but his first defence was an unsuccessful one.

Du Plessis entered the main event on the back of a surprise TKO of former champion Robert Whittaker last July, and although the South African failed to replicate that explosive performance, he just did enough to emerge victorious.

After five rounds, the judges’ scorecards read 48-47, 47-48, 48-47 in favour of Du Plessis, though the result could easily have gone the other way.

Many fans expected an intense, scrappy brawl between Strickland, 32, and Du Plessis, 30, but the bout took a while to get going. The champion was fighting well behind his jab and front kick, while the challenger was switching stances and landing sporadic takedowns but failing to maintain control.

After two rounds, Du Plessis’s left eye had swollen almost completely shut, but “Stillknocks” was able to fight through the setback and land a series of lunging overhands, cutting Strickland badly around the champion’s own left eye.

The action set up a seemingly decisive final round, which Strickland appeared to win with further displays of tidy striking. However, the second and third frames were particularly close, and Du Plessis was ultimately named the victor in Toronto.

Both fighters suffered significant facial damage in the main event (Getty Images)
Both fighters suffered significant facial damage in the main event (Getty Images)

He used his post-fight interview in the Octagon to call out Adesanya, whom he was due to challenge in September. Du Plessis suffered an injury ahead of that planned bout, leading Strickland to challenge Adesanya instead. What followed was a historic upset, as Strickland outpointed the two-time to champion. The result also set up UFC 297’s main event, where Du Plessis’s patience was rewarded.

“There’s a man who tried to take my shine, he lost his shine, now I’ve got his shine,” Du Plessis said of Adesanya, after becoming the first South African champion in UFC history. “You didn’t get in the cage tonight, but Israel Adesanya, get your ass back in the UFC so we can settle the score.”

In the co-main event, Raquel Pennington beat Mayra Bueno Silva via unanimous decision to win the vacant women’s bantamweight title. MMA icon Amanda Nunes relinquished the belt upon her retirement from the sport in 2023.

UFC 297 results in full

Main card

Dricus Du Plessis def. Sean Strickland (C) via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)

Raquel Pennington def. Mayra Bueno Silva via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-45)

Neil Magny def. Mike Malott via third-round TKO (ground strikes, 4:45)

Chris Curtis def. Marc-Andre Barriault via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27)

Movsar Evloev def. Arnold Allen via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Arnold Allen (right) came up short against Movsar Evloev on points (Getty Images)
Arnold Allen (right) came up short against Movsar Evloev on points (Getty Images)

Prelims

Garrett Armfield def. Brad Katona via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Sean Woodson def. Charles Jourdain via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Ramon Taveras def. Serhiy Sidey via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Gillian Robertson def. Polyana Viana via second-round TKO (3:12)

Early prelims

Sam Patterson def. Yohan Lainesse via first-round submission (rear naked choke, 2:03)

Jasmine Jasudavicius def. Priscila Cachoeira via third-round submission (anaconda choke, 4:21)

Jimmy Flick def. Malcolm Gordon via second-round submission (arm triangle choke, 1:17)