Du Plessis Rips Title Away from Strickland

February 3, 2024
3 weeks

Sean Strickland and Dricus du Plessis surprised everyone. Following a ferocious fight promotion and rounds of smack talk in December, the two men needed all 25 minutes to decide who would be the UFC’s middleweight champion at UFC 297 on Jan. 20 in Toronto. What happened is that du Plessis showed everyone he has the cardio to go late in fights.

Previously, du Plessis had stopped all of his opponents before the scorecards or appeared to be very tired if the fight went deep into the third round. Beating Strickland opens up a world of opportunities for the UFC to pursue. Before former champion Israel Adesanya was upset by Strickland, there was a lot of heat for du Plessis to fight Adesanya.

Adesanya, who was born in Ghana but raised in New Zealand, took offense at du Plessis’ claim that Adesanya wasn’t African. Du Plessis is from and still lives in South Africa. While UFC 297’s main card was a bit of a snoozer, there were plenty of highlights from the night and other MMA events in January according to MMA news sites.

Knockout of the Month

Magomed Ankalaev finally got some of his frustration out. Two years ago, Ankalaev had an opportunity to fight for a championship at UFC 282 but finished in a split draw with Jan Błachowicz. So little was thought of both men’s performances, that the fight wasn’t rebooked and two other fighters were chosen to fight for the title.

When Ankalaev had his first matchup with Johnny Walker at UFC 294, he didn’t have the opportunity to show he still belonged in the title picture. Instead, Ankalaev got caught up in a circus. After Ankalaev landed an illegal knee, the doctor ordered the fight stopped, and it was ruled a no contest.

The doctor asked Walker a question in English, his second language, and Walker’s answer made the doctor ask for the fight to be stopped. Ankalaev got a second chance to fight Walker in a main event at a fight night in January.

Ankalaev stung Walker in the second round with a stiff punch that sent Walker stumbling to the cage. Ankalaev followed up with another punch that allowed him to earn a knockout win.

Submission of the Month

Jim Miller will never wear a gold UFC championship belt around his waist. He may never get a call from the Hall of Fame either. But Miller’s win over Gabriel Benítez at UFC 297 was a testament to durability and dedication.

Miller, 40, was able to wrap up Benítez with a face crank in the third round and record his 20th submission win as a professional. Miller’s first fight with the UFC came back in 2008 at UFC 89. Miller has a 26-16 record in the UFC with one no contest.

Miller had long been clamoring for a spot on the UFC 300 card. He also competed on the cards for UFC 100 and 200. Winning back-to-back fights, including the submission of Benítez, gave UFC CEO Dana White the confidence to include Miller at UFC 300.

Fight of the Month

Ramon Taveras knew he got stung with a solid straight right during a Dana White Contender’s Series fight last September but was shocked when the referee stopped the bout. Taveras hit the canvas hard but still appeared to be intelligently defending himself. 

Taveras was worried his first professional loss to Serhiy Sidey may keep him out of the UFC. Following another appearance and win on the contender series, Taveras earned his rematch with Sidey last month. This time, Taveras scored the only knockdown of the bout. After Taveras dominated the first round, Sidey came back strong in the next two.

Sidey landed more strikes and held an edge in significant strikes, but Taveras won a split decision. It was an all-action fight that earned a lot of respect for both men. Don’t be surprised to see this matchup again.

Upset of the Month

Neil Magny may not have been the biggest betting underdog to win in January, but he won a major victory for veteran fighters anywhere. Matched up with an up-and-coming prospect in Mike Malott, Magny was down on the cards following two rounds. One thing about Magny, however, is that he is an exceptionally hard fighter to finish.

Magny leaned on his cardio to lean on his younger foe. In the third round, Magny was able to work to top position and reign down strikes. The referee was forced to step in and save Malott from more damage with 15 seconds left in the fight.

Magny, who has long been seen as a gatekeeper to the top in the welterweight division, once again proved young fighters need to be in the right frame of mind to keep picking up wins, according to the MMA news sites.

Surprise of the Month

PFL seemed to be picking up serious steam. The acquisition of Bellator made it possible that the PFL could start to eat into the UFC’s market share if it was promoted properly. However, the UFC announced this month that it had signed former Olympic gold medalist and PFL champion Kayla Harrison.

Harrison, who has never fought below 150 pounds in her career, is going to cut to 135 pounds and fight Holly Holm at bantamweight. The PFL was hoping to arrange a fight between Harrison and women’s MMA legend Cris Cyborg. Cyborg was the champion of Bellator when PFL acquired the promotion and previously held the crown in the UFC.

Cyborg desperately wanted the Harrison fight as a legacy bout but will now have to look elsewhere to find the right opponent to finish her career with. MMA latest updates show most of the top women’s fighters are now signed with the UFC. Harrison was one of the few holdouts who hadn’t jumped ship once they reached a certain level of notoriety.

Find all the latest boxing news and MMA breaking updates on boxingnews.com.

By Dean McHugh