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UFC 297 prognosis — Sean Strickland versus. Dricus du Plessis: Fight card, chances, preview, preliminaries, specialist selections

Headlining Saturday’s UFC 297 event is one of the most contentious fighters in the UFC. In this match, Sean Strickland will defend his middleweight championship for the first time against top challenger Dricus du Plessis.

Strickland has polarized the MMA fanbase with provocative remarks, indicating a change in the UFC’s openness to intertwine politics and sports. Strickland scored a major upset against Israel Adesanya to seize the title in a fight that only occurred due to du Plessis’ unavailability to face Adesanya when the offer was made. Confronting Strickland is yet another individual who ascended to the top of the division through a surprising victory over an elite fighter, having defeated Robert Whittaker in his most recent match.

Looking for more in boxing and MMA? Receive the latest insights in the realm of combat sports from a pair of the premier figures in the industry.  Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for unparalleled analysis and comprehensive news, including a thorough preview of UFC 297 below.

With a lot unfolding on Saturday night, let’s delve into the complete fight card along with the most recent chances before we delve into our staff forecasts and choices for the PPV segment of the event.

CBS Sports will also provide live coverage of the fight with round-by-round scoring and blow-by-blow updates to keep you up to speed throughout the night.

UFC 297 fight card, chances

  • Sean Strickland (c) -110 vs. Dricus du Plessis -110, middleweight championship
  • Mayra Bueno Silva -170 vs. Raquel Pennington +145, women’s bantamweight championship
  • Mike Malott -370 vs. Neil Magny +290, welterweights
  • Chris Curtis -190 vs. Marc-Andre Barriault +160, middleweights
  • Movsar Evloev -200 vs. Arnold Allen +170, featherweights
  • Brad Katona -210 vs. Garrett Armfield +175, bantamweights
  • Charles Jourdain -205 vs. Sean Woodson +170, featherweights
  • Serhiy Sidey -180 vs. Ramon Taveras +155, bantamweights
  • Gillian Robertson -320 vs. Polyana Viana +250, women’s strawweights
  • Yohan Lainesse -150 vs. Sam Patterson +125, welterweights
  • Jasmine Jasudavicius -380 vs. Priscila Cachoeira +300, women’s flyweights
  • Malcolm Gordon -220 vs. Jimmy Flick +180, flyweights

With a colossal main event planned, the CBS Sports team has already made their forecasts and choices for the main card. Here are your forecast makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).

UFC 297 choices, forecasts

Strickland (c) vs. du Plessis du Plessis du Plessis Strickland Strickland du Plessis
Pennington vs. Bueno Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva Silva
Malott vs. Magny Malott Malott Malott Malott Malott
Curtis vs. Barriault Barriault Curtis Curtis Curtis Curtis
Evloev vs. Allen Allen Allen Allen Allen Evloev

Strickland vs. du Plessis

Campbell: When Strickland superbly upset Israel Adesanya in September, the reason styles make fights became apparent. Strickland showcased near-perfection in his striking execution that night, while controlling distance and employing solid defense to frustrate the former champion. However, the absence of takedown threat or physicality from Adesanya was a luxury that Strickland will not enjoy against the towering du Plessis. Despite being considerably raw upon his UFC debut in 2020, the technical facets of his game have rapidly evolved, as demonstrated in his own 2023 upset of former champion Robert Whittaker. Strickland has had difficulties with elite power punchers, suggesting that it wouldn’t be surprising for du Plessis to secure victory via knockout. 

Brookhouse: Strickland’s triumph over Adesanya feels like it was as much about Adesanya having his worst night as it was Strickland executing his gameplan flawlessly. This isn’t to diminish Strickland’s achievement in any way as he dominated one of the best fighters of the current era on the grandest night of his professional career and was almost faultless in doing so. However, he won’t face that same passive strategy from du Plessis. Strickland’s performances are weakest against physically robust adversaries with heavy hands. While du Plessis’ technique has improved in recent years, he remains untamed and aggressive, which works to his advantage and should be adequate to disrupt Strickland’s flow.

Mahjouri: Strickland faces an offensive powerhouse in front of him, capable of striking and grappling. Firm defensive skills are crucial for Strickland to stifle DDP’s offense. The South African fighter possesses better technique and stamina than he is given credit for, but his unwavering commitment to attacking creates openings and awkward entanglements. Du Plessis may not be flawless but he is formidable. Fortunately, Strickland has some of the finest minds in MMA guiding him. Eric Nicksick, head coach at Xtreme Couture, was rightfully honored as Coach of the Year by numerous pundits. Nicksick is a masterful strategist, and Strickland has immense faith in his team. Another Xtreme Couture regular, Brad Tavares, is the sole UFC fighter to take Du Plessis the distance. Du Plessis won two rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, but this experience will be invaluable in helping Strickland’s team fine-tune their strategy. My prediction is Strickland by decision.

Wise: Setting aside all the trash talk, it does seem like Strickland is uncomfortable with this level of attention on him. While his comments have mostly echoed his previous ones, he has acknowledged that it is different now as champion. His demeanor in speaking, how he handled du Plessis bringing up his past, and media scrutiny, all give the impression that something is amiss. Combine that with his peak performance in his last appearance, it feels like a recipe for something to go awry. While he managed to neutralize Adesanya’s striking, the former champion lacks the kind of one-punch power that DDP brings to the table. If du Plessis manages to get inside early, or even get this to the ground, it feels like it could end swiftly.

Pennington vs. Silva

Campbell: Despite the palpable lack of excitement for this title bout between top contenders, there are high hopes for it to be competitive. But upon comparing each fighter’s skillset, it’s challenging not to favor Silva due to her ground prowess, particularly as a submission threat. Silva even forced former champion Holly Holm to tap in her last fight, only for it to be changed to a no contest after an irregular drug test result. Holm was the same fighter who secured two victories over Pennington, who is durable and steady but far from extraordinary despite holding the current longest win streak in the division. With former champion Julianna Pena likely next for the winner, anticipate Silva to seize her moment as the title remains in Brazil following Amanda Nunes’ retirement in 2023.

align:center”>Malott vs. Magny

Campbell: Given his robust physique and record of six consecutive victories via stoppages, Malott has emerged as an intriguing contender in the 170-pound category. Anticipate the Toronto native to draw strength from the overwhelming crowd support in his hometown as he prepares to square off against the 36-year-old Magny. The latter has alternated between wins and losses in each of his last six bouts and continues to serve as a formidable benchmark for the division. The threat of being submitted by Malott is expected to outmatch Magny, despite the seven-inch reach advantage at his disposal.

Brookhouse: Witnessing an up-and-coming, dynamic fighter go up against a seasoned veteran in a significant capacitation bout is one of the most enthralling spectacles. Malott, a perilous fighter relentless in his pursuit of finishes, is poised to clash with the equally stoppable Magny. However, Magny, known for defying the odds, is not inclined to succumb to Malott’s onslaught. While it is probable that the Canadian fighter possesses too much strength and danger to fall into that trap, the possibility of an upset in this match remains high.

Mahjouri: Malott is about to encounter a substantial upgrade from the likes of Mickey Gall and Adam Fugitt in the form of Magny, the most seasoned combatant in the welterweight division. Although Magny’s aspirations for a title are likely to have dissipated permanently, he has consistently fulfilled the role of a challenging gatekeeper. Initially, I favored Magny’s reach and experience over Malott’s potential. However, Malott’s capacity to secure knockout victories and submissions swayed my opinion. Despite his relative lack of professional experience, Malott approaches fights astutely. He is poised to exert the same pressure that has troubled Magny in the past, without worrying excessively about counterattacks. If Malott falls short of halting Magny, he is at least expected to claim victory in two rounds.

Who will triumph in UFC 297: Strickland vs. du Plessis, and how will each contest conclude? Explore SportsLine now for detailed predictions on UFC 297

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