It was a close, hard-fought fight in which both men bled, but following the UFC 297 main event, Dricus Du Plessis is now your middleweight champion. What’s next for the South African and other successful fighters on the Toronto card? Read on!
Dricus du Plessis
After a close, hard-fought decision, Dricus du Plessis left the arena with the undisputed UFC middleweight title on Saturday at UFC 297. One judge’s dissent means there is potential for a rematch, especially because the title fight won ‘Fight of the Night,’ largely for it’s particularly exciting fifth round. Either way, the South African is still undefeated in the promotion and gets to go home with a belt over his shoulder to parade in front of thousands as the first UFC champ from his home country.
The next fight for Dricus may come sooner than people expect. Despite his battered face after a war with Sean Strickland, du Plessis stated his desire to fight at UFC 300 in three months’ time. Potential challengers are few, mainly just Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier.
Adesanya and du Plessis faced off once before, before Israel lost his title, which produced a heated exchange that dipped into racial tensions centered around who is a “real African.” Dricus’ claim that he is the first African champ because he still trains and lived on the continent has caused fierce debate among fans, and gives the potential fight extra drama, especially if it headlines the first UFC event in Africa, as Dana White alluded to the possibility of.
Israel has already said he may take quite some time off, and hinted at moving up to fight his rival Alex Pereira. If that’s the case, Jared Cannonier is the obviously deserving contender. After losing to Adesanya in the past, he reeled off a win over now-champ Sean Strickland and a brutal beatdown of top contender Marvin Vettori, which showed Jared’s evolution as a fighter. He may just be the best middleweight in the division now, and deserves a chance to prove it.
du Plessis’ Next Fight: Jared Cannonier
Pennington’s long road to a UFC title is extremely heart-warming. It’s always a good feeling to see perseverance, grit, and determination pay off for a fighter. Now, as the sixth woman to be UFC bantamweight champion, her next contender is already penciled in.
Juliana Pena secured one of the greatest upsets in MMA history in 2021 when she dethroned GWOAT Amanda Nunes. She lost in the rematch and has not fought since, but in a division which is now lacking high-profile talent, Pena’s name stands out. Dana White and Raquel Pennington have both already stated she will be the next challenger.
Pennington’s Next Fight: Juliana Pena
Magny showed why he has the most wins in UFC welterweight history and added to that tally by coming back from losing the entire fight to finish Mike Malott in enemy territory in the final minute of the final round. Even at thirty-six years of age he proved he still has something left in the tank. Yet the way he lost the fight up to that point is concerning, and if Malott had a better gas tank or had not gone for a guillotine, Magny would likely have lost.
Neil still should be forced to fight another fringe-ranked contender in his next fight, as his recent results have been subpar, losing dominantly in every recent fight against a fellow top-15 welterweight. He would be a perfect opponent for someone like Nicolas Dalby or Michael Morales. Since he just beat one talented young prospect, Magny should not have to fight another. Dalby is closer to his age but has earned a shot at the rankings through his results, especially the recent victories over the undefeated Gabriel Bonfim and veteran Muslim Salikhov, who was recently top-15 himself.
Magny’s Next Fight: Nicolas Dalby
Chris Curtis let another close fight almost slip through his hands at UFC 297, but in the end did just enough to edge out the split decision over Marc-Andre Barriault in Canada on Saturday. Chris has proven he is down to fight anyone, and that will come in handy since the UFC middleweight division is almost completely booked at present. If he wants to wait then he can fight the winner or loser of one of those fights.
However, if Chris Curtis wants to stay active there is only one man available: Ikram Aliskerov. Aliskerov is one of the major dark horses in the UFC at present and was booked to fight top-15 middleweight Anthony Hernandez recently, but withdrew. His wrestling and striking are both to be feared, and Curtis has not faced a Dagestani wrestler in MMA since 2019, so it would be interesting to see what he learned from the loss to Magomed Magomedkerimov back then. He has been known for his excellent takedown defense in the UFC, would that hold up against the boogeyman from Dagestan?
Curtis’ Next Fight: Ikram Aliskerov
Movsar Evloev vs Arnold Allen at UFC 297 was the hardest test for Evloev thus far in his career, but in the end he earned the decision despite a dicey final round. At 18-0 he has one of the best records in MMA at present, but is held back by his complete lack of finishes in the UFC. Beating fourth-ranked Arnold Allen will have him in the top five at featherweight, but will it be enough for a title shot?
Evloev vs Emmett would make sense after Emmett’s highlight reel knockout of Bryce Mitchell last month, but Alex Volkanovski may want to stay active, something he is insistent on, and ask for the fight with Evloev. If Ilia Topuria dethrones Alex then he may also want to do so, as he has some bad blood with Evloev from when they were previously booked to fight. Fans may not get excited for it, but Movsar is clearly one of the best featherweights in the world, and an eight-fight winning streak is usually enough to earn a title shot.
Evloev’s Next Fight: Winner of Volkanovski/Topuria