UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland will make the first defence of his title this weekend against Dricus Du Plessis in Toronto, Canada.
A genuine rivalry has developed throughout the build-up to this fight which adds to the intrigue and the main event is backed by some stellar contests on the preliminary card.
Strickland is the most controversial athlete in the UFC and regularly lands himself in hot water with his outbursts on the mic or on social media but he is a world class martial artist when he puts it all together.
The American produced one of the biggest upsets in recent history when he beat Israel Adesanya to claim the belt last September and that has catapulted his career and profile into the limelight. However, Strickland is now newcomer, he has been in the UFC for almost a decade now and he is one of the most experienced fighters on the roster.
With a record of 15-5, Strickland has been far from perfect in the UFC but he is yet another reminder of how persistence is key in the world of MMA. Despite the setbacks, Strickland has continued to move forward and he has built a mindset that compliments his ability and that makes him a difficult night for anybody.
Since entering the UFC in 2020, Du Plessis has been outstanding. He is undefeated in six fights and has already beaten the likes of Darren Till, Derek Brunson, and former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. The South African’s style isn’t easy on the eye but it is highly effective and his destruction of Whittaker inside two rounds last year was a statement victory.
At 30 years old, the challenger is entering his prime and he is a fighter with genuine momentum. He is yet to taste defeat in the UFC octagon and he will be confident that his style matches up well with Strickland’s. Another positive for Du Plessis is that he has faced adversity during his previous fights, he has been put under pressure by Till and Whittaker and he found a way to survive before finishing the fight on his terms.
This is a close contest and Strickland has an experience advantage, especially over the five-round distance, but it’s hard to deny the rise of Dricus Du Plessis. The victory over Whittaker was a big statement and if he can replicate that performance, he will give Strickland problems here.
Whichever way this goes, it’s hard to envision a bad fight but at underdog odds, Dricus Du Plessis to win is a bet worth consideration.
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On the preliminary card, local favourite Mike Malott takes the biggest step up of his career as he takes on veteran Neil Magny at welterweight. Magny is a veteran who has fought a who’s who of welterweight names and he has taken the shine from many prospects in the past. Malott will be confident of a win but will know he cannot underestimate the ability of Neil Magny.
Canadian MMA hasn’t had much to shout about since the retirement of Georges St Pierre but Malott could be the man to bring MMA back to the country. He is riding a 3-fight win streak since entering the promotion and to add further credit, he has finished all three opponents inside two rounds.
Despite looking so good in his first three fights, this is a big step up for Malott and he will need to show another level to his game against a veteran like Magny. The long-time UFC athlete may not be the force of old but he has enough experience to ask some questions here and take the fight into the latter stages.
At (2/1) the fight to go the distance makes some appeal.
For British interest, highly ranked featherweight Arnold Allen will look to get back to winning ways after losing a decision to Max Holloway last year. However, in typical UFC fashion, they haven’t given Allen an easy road back as they have matched with fellow prospect Movsar Evloev.
Evloev has quietly built up a 7-0 UFC record and has shown improvements with each passing fight and he looks ready for a step up like this. Allen isn’t an easy night for anyone but Evloev looks a special talent and it will take a career best performance for the Brit to halt his progress.
Movsar Evoloev to win by decision is the bet here.
BACK Dricus Du Plessis to win 2pts at 21/20 (⭐
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BACK Malott vs Magny to go the distance 1pt at 2/1 (⭐
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BACK Movsar Evloev to win by decision 1pt at 5/6 (⭐
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PROFIT/LOSS (JAN 2024): PROFIT -17.43 points