Dana White took to social media to drop some breaking UFC news regarding the new year that we're creeping up on. Sean Strickland, Sean O'Malley, and Alexander Volkanovski are targeted to defend their titles as we jump into 2024.
UFC 297, 298 and 299 now all title fights tied to them.
The latter portion of 2023 was riddled with cards falling apart, forcing the UFC to show off its adaptability.
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Luckily, we were granted title fights and main events that still served us well in terms of entertainment value while keeping the divisions moving along well. Hopefully, the UFC won't need to lean on that as much in 2024.
These recently announced fights are incredible. Let's look into them.
Breaking UFC News – UFC 297: Sean Strickland vs Dricus du Plessis
One of the biggest upsets in UFC history happened in 2023 when Sean Strickland was able to out-strike Israel Adesanya en route to securing the middleweight title.
Originally, it was looking like Dricus du Plessis would be fighting against ‘Stylebender', but an injury from his dominant bout against Robert Whittaker had him sidelined.
In came Strickland, and against the odds, the UFC middleweight title found a new shoulder to rest on. Adesanya has been one of the busiest champion in the promotion's history; he announced that he'll be taking a much-deserved break, but he's not done.
With the immediate rematch out of the question, it only makes sense that Strickland and du Plessis scrap it out for the 185lb throne.
It's worth mentioning that Khamzat Chimaev may have been done a little dirty here. It seemed that the winner between ‘Borz' and Kamaru Usman would be next for a crack at the middleweight title, but as we can see, that's not the case.
Either way, somebody would've been snubbed here.
UFC 298: Alexander Volkanovski vs Ilia Topuria
The UFC is obliging and we've got Volk back at featherweight come February, 2024. Though he fell a bit short in his previous bout, Alex really didn't lose much stock.
His opponent is a tough one and is as game as they come. Next to Max Holloway, there aren't a lot of featherweights that seem to be a threat to Volk. Enter Ilia Topuria; on the better side of his thirties, undefeated and a prolific finisher, Topuria has the tools to be a champion, but is it his time?
Volkanovski would like to close the door on Ilia, and he'll be given the chance to do so in a few months. We should also mention that this fight has some tension to it. Topuria has talked a bit and Volkanovski seems eager to get in there to try and humble the up-and-comer.
This is a very interesting match, and really, a much closer one than many are giving it credit for.
UFC 299: Sean O'Malley vs Marlon ‘Chito' Vera II
With both Marlon Vera and Sean O'Malley on the UFC 292 card, it felt like if both of those fighters won, this rematch would write itself. Sure enough, O'Malley finished Sterling in two rounds and Chito got the nod in what was a very close fight against Pedro Munhoz.
If you ask O'Malley, he's undefeated; his official record does have a blemish, though. That one notch in the loss column has Marlon Vera's name on it.
Vera was able to defeat O'Malley back in 2020. The fight was competitive but Vera was able to land a leg kick that got the bullseye on the peroneal nerve, resulting in ‘Suga' dealing with drop-foot.
It's rare, but we've seen it a few times in MMA. Since then, O'Malley has gone 5-0, not counting his no-contest against Munhoz.
Vera has been on a tear himself. Since the Sean fight, he's knocked out two former champion, picked up 5 wins and, obviously, has built a strong case as to why he should fight for gold next.
Of course, there are others that can claim that they deserve the next title shot, but this fight has the drama, the styles, the appeal — really, anything you want in a title fight, O'Malley vs Vera II brings to the table. March can't come soon enough.