Topuria and du Plessis Look to Reach UFC Summit in 2024

December 26, 2023
4 months

There is much anticipation for the UFC 300 card to be finalized in April. Many people are looking forward to the return of Irish superstar Conor McGregor to fight Michael Chandler after a three-year layoff. But McGregor’s bout won’t be the most intriguing among the first few months of 2024.

A new generation of champions and challengers are climbing the ranks in a few weight divisions. Several old guard members will be tasked with proving they haven’t lost a step in early 2024. The UFC has already had several wild press conferences that have led to some real-life issues to promote bouts in the first quarter of the upcoming year. It will be up to the fighters to deliver on that promise.

Topuria Will Challenge One of All-time Greats

No one should ever doubt Alexander Volkanovski’s toughness. There may be questions about his future if he loses against Ilia Topuria at UFC 298 in February. In his determination to become a two-division champion, Volkanovski accepted a rematch against Islam Makhachev for the lightweight championship in October.

Volkanovski, who lost his first meeting with Makhachev in February in a five-decision, didn’t see the bell in the rematch. Makhachev blitzed the featherweight champion early and scored a head-kick knockout. Volkanovski has defended his featherweight title five times and will hope to do so against Georgian prospect Topuria.

Topuria is 14-0 in his MMA career. During Topuria’s last fight, he proved he could handle the rigors of a five-round fight by outlasting former interim title challenge Josh Emmett in June. Topuria has been one of the most intriguing prospects in the sport. 

Volkanovski has made a career out of fending off young challengers. Topuria may be the most dangerous one yet.

The Buildup to du Plessis and Strickland Will be Rough

Sean Strickland could most politely be described as a colorful character. His opponent for the UFC middleweight championship, Driscus du Plessis, could be described the same way. Strickland will defend his middleweight title for the first time against the South African star.

The two nearly settled their differences in the crowd at UFC 296. But the two men must wait until UFC 297 in January to punch each other legally. Stylistically, it’s a fascinating matchup. Strickland is a safe, controlled fighter.

Strickland gets in his opponent’s face and stays there but prefers to work in a defensive shell and utilize jabs to wrap up rounds on the scorecard. It is surprising that du Plessis hasn’t been clipped yet. He will rush at opponents with his chin up and risk getting touched once or twice to inflict heavy punishment on his opponent.

Both men will be eager to get at one another after they traded wild barbs about each other at a recent press conference, according to MMA breaking news.

On the Boardwalk

Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko didn’t do the UFC women’s flyweight division any favors. Grasso and Shevchenko battled to a draw in their last fight. That left a pair of exciting contenders, No. 2 ranked Erin Blanchfield and No. 3 Manon Fiorot, without a clear path moving forward.

But the UFC decided to take all of the drama out of it and schedule the pair to fight each other on March 30 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Blanchfield is a New Jersey native who will be eager to impress the home crowd and earn a shot at the title. Blanchfield has won nine straight fights but is coming off a narrow decision victory over former title challenger Talia Santos.

Fiorot, a French fighter, has won 14 consecutive fights after dropping the first fight of her career. She is a dynamic striker who has shown much power in her hands. Fiorot is coming off a strong run of victories.

Fiorot beat former champion Rose Namajunas comfortably during her last fight.

O’Malley on the Path for Revenge

Bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley is excited to make his first title defense. He’ll be even more stoked if he can find a way to knock off Chito Vera at UFC 299 on March 9. O’Malley’s only loss during his MMA career came during an August 2020 fight with Vera.

The TKO win for Vera is one that many people have dismissed as luck. O’Malley, himself, has downplayed the loss. Vera won the fight by leaning on his leg kicks. One of those leg kicks caused an injury in O’Malley’s legs.

O’Malley had difficulty moving, and he went to the ground in pain. Vera followed up with a few shots to force a stoppage. Since that fight, Vera has taken a few losses while fighting other top contenders. There is some sentiment that Vera is only being given a title shot because of his past history with O’Malley. This first fight of O’Malley’s championship reign will significantly impact his legacy, according to the best MMA news site.

Sterling Will Bump up to Featherweight

Aljamain Sterling’s time pursuing bantamweight glory may be over. The former champion will be bumping up to feather for UFC 300 in a bout against Calvin Kattar. Sterling had won nine straight fights at bantamweight before losing to O’Malley in August.

Sterling had dreamed of a super fight with Volkanovski if he beat O’Malley. But Sterling took the upset loss and will be moving up in weight to fight Calvin Kattar. Kattar is a ranked fighter who is in a bit of a rut. Kattar has only been fighting top competition over his last five fights.

What that has returned for Kattar, who has mostly fought five-round main event wars, is mixed results. Kattar suffered a knee injury in his last fight against Arnold Allen in October 2022. Returning after more than a year off against a former champion will be a good challenge for Kattar.

This is also a good introduction to Sterling for what he can expect in a different weight division, according to MMA news sites.

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