Dricus du Plessis is the contemporary UFC middleweight king. The South African wrecking ball made history for his nation on Saturday at UFC 297, edging out Sean Strickland to take hang of a atomize up choice and became the first-ever South African UFC champion in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. Du Plessis’ victory headlined the first UFC pay-per-opinion of 2024, which additionally saw the crowning of a 2d contemporary champ, the upward push of a recent featherweight contender, plus more.
With so grand to narrate about, let’s dive honest into our seven greatest takeaways from UFC 297.
1. Heading into 2024, Sean Strickland vs. Dricus du Plessis became as soon as my most anticipated fight on the instantaneous MMA calendar for two major causes.
One became as soon as which ability of of the sheer stylistic pleasure it perceived to foretell — two males who are devoted followers of the cult of forward stress, nonetheless via drastically diversified ability. The champ’s bull-love stubbornness and persistence versus the challenger’s rhinoceros-love power and physicality — whose forward march would crush the diversified first?
The 2d cause became as soon as a straightforward quiz that I shiny couldn’t gain out of my head: Who became as soon as for proper? If that sounds unparalleled, shiny hear me out. Take into fable how we viewed Strickland and du Plessis sooner than their closing wins of 2023. Strickland became as soon as a 10-300 and sixty five days UFC dilapidated very most keen identified for getting brutally colded by Alex Pereira. He’d been around perpetually and became as soon as who he became as soon as. Then he wandered right into a possibility to fight Israel Adesanya and the whole lot modified. Same with du Plessis — he became as soon as regarded by many to no doubt be a sloppy meme fighter. Then he mounted his nostril and trucked over Robert Whittaker and the whole lot modified.
So which variations of the two headliners were going to reveal up in Toronto? That became as soon as repeatedly the huge mystery of UFC 297 for me. Would we opinion the Strickland and du Plessis who so clearly leveled up in 2023, or became as soon as all of it an optical illusion — a aggregate of fluke performances and fluke conditions that ended in 2 wildly convincing upsets? Be pleased been Strickland and du Plessis each in point of fact as shiny as their closing fights made them seem, or would one (or each) of them turn aid right into a pumpkin at the first likelihood they got?
In that respect, the first pay-per-opinion headliner of 2024 delivered the whole lot I hoped for, which ability of Strickland and du Plessis are that shiny. Sean Strickland is a respectable elite middleweight. Dricus du Plessis can adapt and succor his bowling ball systems over the long haul. That grand is evident on this Sunday morning — nothing about closing 300 and sixty five days became as soon as a fluke. And shiny as importantly, their 5-round stylistic chess match up lived to all of its pre-fight promise. In a grueling affair that tested the mettle of each males, I scored the bout three rounds to 2 for the contemporary champ, with Strickland claiming Rounds 1 and 5, and du Plessis shooting the sandwich-meat rounds. Nevertheless Rounds 2 and 3 were tight enough that a 48-47 Strickland procure is fully justified. I no doubt received’t begrudge any individual who saw it that blueprint.
Regardless, it became as soon as a stressful and luscious major tournament for a division that’s quietly became one in every of the very most keen in the game. That’s four middleweight title bouts in a row now that possess all resulted in the belt changing fingers, and it’s fully in all probability that pattern continues on to No. 5. The tip of 185 kilos feels more competitive than it has in years. It’s a expansive fun dynamic for the load class and no longer one I became as soon as obvious existed till Saturday evening.
Whether or no longer it’s du Plessis in a grudge match against Adesanya or Khamzat Chimaev, there’s additionally a extraordinarily proper likelihood the next middleweight title bout headlines UFC 300. Each challengers already seem to desire it, and I myself take care of that. If 2023 became as soon as one for the history books at 185 kilos, 2024 is already shaping as a lot as be one hell of a follow-up act.
2. Stare, I’m no longer here to crap on any individual of their crowning moment. That’s no longer my vogue. Raquel Pennington is an 11-300 and sixty five days UFC dilapidated who is one in every of the longest tenured women people in the organization. She’s been here since 2013 and paid her dues on the enviornment’s stage — 17 octagon appearances, 12 wins, scalps from the likes of Miesha Tate, Jessica Andrade, Irene Aldana, Roxanne Modafferi, Ketlen Vieira, and now Mayra Bueno Silva. Definite, Pennington fumbled her first shot at gold in 2018, nonetheless she outlasted Amanda Nunes to defend conclude upon her window and became the oldest female champion in UFC history at age 35. She’s as deserving of a titleholder as exists within what’s left of the women people’s bantamweight ranks.
Nevertheless shiny lord, is any individual outdoors of the Pennington family taking into consideration about this?
Ladies people’s 135 has been the worst division in the UFC by a huge margin for the explanation that mirage of girls people’s 145 vanished upon Nunes’ retirement. Nevertheless this? How we’re sitting to launch the contemporary 300 and sixty five days? This is bleak, man. Moreover for Julianna Peña, there isn’t a single female bantamweight alive who could well conceivably drum up passion for any of these adaptations at the high. Silva became as soon as supposed to be that person. The inheritor obvious. The novel blood. The newcomer who’d inject a microscopic existence in a demise division. And now it’s aid to the drawing board.
Pop quiz: What number of female bantamweights below the age of 30 enact you judge exist in the UFC’s high-15 rankings? The retort: One. Precisely one. No. 9 ranked Karol Rosa. That’s it.
Pennington’s title different became as soon as justified and she or he no doubt earned her vegetation, nonetheless no one would ever confuse her with Justin Gaethje. So where is this division heading? The build is the next skills? The build are the contenders to restock the excitement coffers?
I in point of fact enact abominate to be the doom-and-gloom guy, nonetheless Saturday felt love the nadir of a weight class that has been struggling for a whereas now. And I’m no longer obvious the long plod is any brighter.
3. The knees Arnold Allen pummeled Movsar Evloev’s cranium with in the third round couldn’t possess technically been apt, nonetheless the truth that no one in MMA can reputedly come to a consensus on these sequences is cause enough for why the hand-on-the-ground rule is so stupid and appealing to officiate. (And in point of fact admittedly dumber than you’d judge: No decrease than one in every of the knees became as soon as unlawful which ability of Canada hasn’t adopted the identical rule tweaks as diversified commissions over time. The unified principles of MMA dwell one thing nonetheless unified.)
Altogether it’s some traumatic medication for Allen to swallow, which ability of there became as soon as repeatedly a extraordinarily shiny likelihood the winner of Evloev vs. Allen became as soon as going to gain the next featherweight title shot if Alexander Volkanovski dispatches Ilia Topuria at UFC 298. Now Evloev is in pole reveal to cut the line into that title mix, whereas Allen is down 0-2 over his previous two bouts. That’s the game of inches. It shiny sucks the story all over again centers across the grounded knee rule relatively than an otherwise sensational display of excessive-stage martial arts from two of the high young talents build of abode to lift featherweight forward into its subsequent skills. A few of the scrambles we saw from Evloev and Allen were the very most keen action on the total rattling card.
Unlike some divisions (ahem), featherweight’s below-30 class stays loaded with top fee skills — which is why it repeatedly drives me bananas when people proclaim that Volkanovski cleaned out the division — and Evloev and Allen are each young enough to know they’re going to meet again. (Hopefully for five rounds subsequent time.) That being stated, as grand as this stupid and inconsistent rule leaves a beautiful bitter fashion in my mouth, you received’t hear a gape of complaint out of me if we pause up getting Volkanovski vs. Evloev in the summer.
4. Nights love UFC 297 are precisely why Neil Magny is one in every of the GOAT gatekeepers this sport has ever considered. (The GOATkeeper, whereas you happen to will.) The man is tailor-made to let young whippersnappers know whether they’re ready for the 170-pound elite or no longer. Factual bewitch a see at his old few opponents. Shavkat Rakhmonov and Ian Machado Garry? Very clearly ready. Philip Rowe and Daniel Rodriguez? Unfortunately, no longer pretty there yet. And none of here’s intended as a microscopic! The time duration “gatekeeper” could well possess a grimy connotation in fight sports, nonetheless it absolutely’s a deeply crucial job and a pathway for a multi-decade profession whereas you happen to’re shiny at it.
For 14 minutes on Saturday, Mike Malott perceived to pass that test. He went to the Garry and Rakhmonov neatly and picked Magny apart with a staunch diet of kicks and high management. Nevertheless the GOATkeeper isn’t going to shiny reward his stepping stone to you. You wish to bewitch it by power. And so we came to search out out that the most modern huge Canadian hope couldn’t be pretty as ready for a welterweight ranking as many believed — no longer decrease than no longer yet. Magny’s gutsy come-from-in the aid of take hang of in the closing seconds presently joins Demian Maia’s fend-off of Gunnar Nelson in the welterweight pantheon of huge No longer-As of late-Young-Fella performances.
The feeble warhorse aloof has a large selection of fight left in him. You are taking care of to see it.
And speaking of that…
5. I’m repeatedly blown away by woodwork figures love Neil Magny who quietly work their blueprint onto the listing books via sheer power of will. (If you’re puzzled about what I mean, here’s Magny’s contemporary series of UFC records: Most wins in welterweight history, most bouts in welterweight history, longest fight time in welterweight history, major strikes landed in welterweight history, and the most choice wins in UFC history. No longer spoiled for a fringe contender who in no blueprint as soon as sniffed a proper shot at the UFC welterweight belt.)
On that prove, Gillian Robertson is quietly becoming one thing to witness. With her 2d-round knockout of Polyana Viana at UFC 297, Robertson continues to amass a Magny-esque trophy case to her include title: The most finishes in women people’s flyweight history (7), the most submissions in UFC women people’s flyweight history (6), tied for most bouts in women people’s flyweight division history (13), and the most submissions in total UFC women people’s history (7). Nevertheless most impressive of all is this one: Robertson has now moved right into a tie with Jessica Andrade for the 2d-most finishes in UFC women people’s history (9). She’s shiny one in the aid of the women people’s GOAT, Amanda Nunes (10), for first-build of abode on that list. And she’s aloof simplest 28 years feeble.
At this trot, Robertson could well defend sole possession of that finishes listing by 300 and sixty five days’s pause and launch riding it into the stratosphere love the female Charles Oliveira. She couldn’t gain the identical acclaim as about a of the more ballyhooed contenders at 125 kilos, nonetheless the pleasure of Niagara Falls is forging her include avenue in the astronomical reveal, and it’s a rattling impressive one.
I do know the fight game is rotten for its highs and lows, nonetheless c’mon blood gods. This became as soon as shiny cruel.
7. The UFC could well survive one more 200 years and we could well in no blueprint opinion a plod pretty as majestic as the six-300 and sixty five days legacy slapped collectively by Priscila Cachoeira.
Severely, shiny succor in tips this. There’s the scrutinize gouges. The disrobing of opponents. The omnipresent cheating. The sure drug tests. The controversial wins. A whole lot of weight misses. After which you see at how this all began and how it’s likely to whole. Cachoeira made her UFC debut in 2018 on the receiving pause of a ancient beatdown against Valentina Shevchenko. The strike differential in that fight: 230-3 in desire of Shevchenko. No longer huge. Nevertheless then Cachoeira by some means went out and blew her include note out of the water at UFC 297. Moreover for botching the scale so badly that her fight had to be contested at a fully diversified weight class, Cachoeira shambled her blueprint into the listing books again with a 326-26 masterpiece of putting futility against Jasmine Jasudavicius. If Cachoeira’s UFC plod ends tomorrow (and how on Earth could well it no longer?), she’ll fade the promotion as the proud owner of the greatest (-300) and third-very most keen (-227) strike differential in women people’s UFC history.
I in point of fact fight to fathom how so grand absurdity will be confined to a single résumé. We’re speaking about a fighter with a lifetime region locked up on the All-Nonsense First Workers. Nevertheless if Saturday evening became as soon as additionally the closing time we opinion her, there couldn’t had been a more most keen bookend to one in every of the UFC’s most strange and most unrepeatable careers.
Right here’s to you, Priscila. Six months ago I proclaimed you to be this skills’s Rousimar Palhares. Nevertheless you were more than that. You were a living guarantee that even the most ho-hum of undercards could well in no blueprint be lifeless. That’s a reward few on this sport possess.