Dricus Du Plessis is the new middleweight champion after a rather controversial decision at UFC 297. While his triumph is fresh, we have to delve into the possible opponents for his first title defense as several names have already been mentioned.
Dricus Du Plessis Next Fight – Israel Adesanya, Alex Pereira or Sean Strickland?
These are the three main options with some credence and which we have already heard rumors about. We can also mention Khamzat Chimaev, only because according to his words, Dana White promised him a title shot if he beats Kamaru Usman. Even if that were true, Chimaev is only 9th in the division, and there are many more deserving fighters ahead of him.
Robert Whittaker is definitely out of the reckoning because, in his last bout, he lost exactly to the new champion. Jared Cannonier is nursing a serious injury and even if he recovers on time, he's unlikely to get that title shot.
With this said, which one of Adesanya, Strickland, and Pereira will Du Plessis face in his next fight?
Du Plessis Next Fight: Will Strickland Get His Rematch?
Several divisions in the UFC have been at a standstill in recent years because everyone has been getting a rematch immediately after losing the title.
In most cases, we can say that the former champions deserved it, but we definitely can't say the same for Strickland. It was only his first defense of the belt and he fell short.
However, now is the time to discuss whether he really deserved to lose this match. You must have seen the stats after the bout – Strickland landed more significant strikes in four out of five rounds. You can see the complete stats sheet below.
Sean Strickland outlanded Dricus Du Plessis 173 to 137 on significant strikes, and he had an edge in four of the five rounds. Rounds two, three and four were all extremely close numerically, but this seems to be a fight decided by impact of strikes not simply the count #UFC297 pic.twitter.com/TpoB76G9s5
— Richard Mann (@RichardAMann) January 21, 2024
Not to mention that Du Plessis looked like he was hit by a train after that match. That cut that Strickland suffered was simply at an unlucky spot and it bled a lot but apart from that, he was mostly untouched after five rounds.
We at NYFights definitely believed that Strickland had won that match before we heard the decision. Especially after Strickland obliterated Du Plessis in the fifth round – 53 significant strikes to 35.
Fact – Strickland was not versatile enough and primarily relied on jabs. However, he deserved to win or at least get a draw. In all honesty, he probably does not deserve a direct rematch after failing to defend his belt but we would give it to him after this controversial decision. To end this section, here are the official scorecards.
#UFC297 Official Scorecard: Sean Strickland vs Dricus Du Plessis 👇
— UFC News (@UFCNews) January 21, 2024
Du Plessis Next Fight: Will He Bring Adesanya Back From Vacation?
Israel Adesanya may return earlier than expected. If you skipped the latest development of his lore, he said that he is taking a break from fighting and will probably return in 2027. After all, he was the most active champion in the entire promotion and beat all contenders in his division multiple times before losing the belt to Pereira and then Strickland.
Returning in 2027 always sounded impossible to us. He would be 37 or 38 then and although there are rare cases of successful returns, we do not see how he would be relevant in this evolving division.
We expect an earlier return and he already made it clear that he intends to fight Dricus Du Plessis. You can check out the video above from Adesanya himself and see his commentary on the title match. More importantly, he later posted on X and said that their paths are destined to cross again. While this confirms nothing, it is clear that he wants to fight for the belt again in the future.
✨IS~RA~EL 🐉 ADÉSÀNYÀ‼️
This arc in my story was written long ago. Our paths are destined to cross again. Stay tuned for the next episode, thanks for watching.
We Write History ✨✍🏾 pic.twitter.com/c5EHGWBjlL
— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) January 21, 2024
Du Plessis Next Fight: Double Champ Ambitions
Last but not least, we have to entertain the possibility of Dricus fighting Alex Pereira for his Light-Heavyweight title this year. Even if it does not happen in 2024, the Du Plessis vs Pereira match is guaranteed in the future.
If you missed the UFC 297 press conference, click the link below and skip until the final questions. One reporter asked Du Plessis if he intends to fight Alex Pereira in the future. While Dricus did not clarify when, he confirmed that he wants to move up to light-heavyweight and face the champion.
We genuinely hope that Dana White decides to put this bout on hold. It is a proper money fight and we all want to see it happen but it is too early. It is becoming annoying how every champion decides to fight for a second title.
Back in the day, it was a privilege to get this opportunity. Nowadays, it is becoming a bit too common. Both Du Plessis and Pereira have to defend their titles a couple of times in their respective divisions before the UFC organizes this huge fight.