After losing his title at UFC 297, what’s next for Sean Strickland?

MMA: UFC 297 - Strickland vs Du Plessis
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday night in the main event of UFC 297, the middleweight title was on the line. Promotional star Sean Strickland (28-6) was looking to make his first title defense against South Africa’s Dricus Du Plessis (21-2).

On paper, this fight was very close. Both men had skills that you thought would cancel each other out and that’s exactly what happened on Saturday night. Both of these men showed up and they both put on a great performance in one of the closest title fights you’ll ever see.

Strickland pulled out ahead early really working behind his jab and his boxing. Du Plessis did a good job bouncing back in round two with a ton of volume and mixing in his wrestling. The third round ended up being the deciding round and it was very close with both men having success. Personally, I scored it for the champion.

In the fourth round, DDP did a great job of landing big shots and landing takedowns. As we came to the fifth round at UFC 297, I had it 2-2 and Strickland fought tremendously. DDP was game, but consistently across the board, people gave the final round to Strickland.

It was a razor close fight and the media was split right down the middle. I posted on X that I had it 48-47 Strickland, but I could see it going the other way. Dana White gave the fight to Strickland as did one judge. However, the two deciding judges gave the fight and the UFC middleweight title to Dricus Du Plessis.

What’s next after UFC 297?

Typically, when you have a title fight like that, a rematch is the first thing you think of. The champion lost a razor close fight and many, including the CEO of the promotion, thought Strickland won the fight. That said, early indications are that the UFC is not going to run this one back. Sources say that the preference is to go with the Israel Adesanya fight for DDP and get that one in while they can.

With that, Sean Strickland is left out and will likely need another fight before getting another crack at the title that he held coming into the weekend. So, what options are out there. Khamzat Chimaev is one possibility for Strickland’s next fight.

We know that the UFC loves Chimaev and desperately wants him to fight for a title. Strickland has become a massive star and the two of them fighting would be big business for the promotion. I could see that fight happening even on the undercard of DDP – Adesanya fight.

If the Chimaev fight is not the direction they go, I think the fight to watch is the Paulo Costa – Robert Whittaker fight. Strickland has had some strong words for Whittaker and if Bobby Knuckles gets by Costa, I could see the UFC setting up a title eliminator between the two former middleweight champions.