UFC 297 Recap: Dricus Du Plessis gets split decision win over Sean Strickland to become middleweight champion

MMA: UFC 290 - Whittaker vs Du Plessis
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In the main event of UFC 297, the middleweight title was on the line. Middleweight champion and budding superstar Sean Strickland (28-5) was looking to defend his middleweight title for the first time when he took on South Africa’s Dricus Du Plessis (20-2).

Last July, Du Plessis stopped Robert Whittaker in the second round to earn a shot at then middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. It was DDP’s sixth straight win since making his debut inside the octagon. The UFC was set on Adesanya headlining the Australian PPV in September and wanted him to fight Du Plessis.

However, Du Plessis was a little banged up and wanted to be 100% for his title shot. With the promotion and Adesanya set on fighting in September, they turned to the next logical contender, Sean Strickland. Strickland had won two fights earlier in 2023 to get into the title picture. Strickland jumped at the opportunity.

While few gave him a chance, Strickland put on the performance of a lifetime and dominated Israel Adesanya in a standup fight over the course of five rounds to become UFC champion. Tonight, Strickland was looking to defend his title against the division’s top contender.

UFC 297 Recap

Round 1

The UFC 297 main event kicks off with a touch of the gloves. Low kick and a jab starts the striking from Strickland. Front body kick from Strickland. Big jab from Strickland lands and another front kick. Low kick now from Strickland. Long jab from Strickland and Du Plessis tries to come forward but nothing lands.

Another big jab from Strickland. Strickland’s boxing looks crisp early. Left over the top lands for Du Plessis and Strickland snaps his head back with a jab. Strickland has a ton of heat on these jabs and they are landing consistently. Body kick now from Du Plessis. Du Plessis comes up top and it just misses.

Left hook from Strickland. Long 1-2 lands for Strickland. Wild shots from DDP miss the mark there. Leg kick checked by Strickland and now he lands another jab. Big takedown attempt from Du Plessis and he gets Strickland down. One minute left and Strickland is using the fence to get right back up.

Jab from Du Plessis and now a jab from Strickland. More jabs from Strickland and now Du Plessis lands one back. Head kick attempt from Du Plessis. Sharp jab from Strickland. The first round ends and I lean towards the champion as he lands a huge right at the very end.

Round 2

Start of the second round at UFC 297 and both men had their moments in the first. Two straight jabs from Strickland start things and Du Plessis loads up on a right that misses. Combination from Du Plessis is blocked by Strickland. Combination now from Strickland.

Du Plessis comes in but he eats a counter from Strickland. Spinning backfist from Du Plessis lands. Front kick to the body lands for Strickland. Left hook from Strickland and Du Plessis slips. Huge jab from Strickland lands. Du Plessis is trying to use a ton of pressure here but he’s not really landing.

Inside leg kick from Strickland and then he blocks the counters of Du Plessis. 1-2 from Strickland. The defense is on point so far. Jab from Strickland and Du Plessis tries firing back. Du Plessis is throwing heavy but he’s not really landing at all here. Big body shot lands for Du Plessis.

Double jab from Strickland and now a nice body kick lands for DDP. Big left hand lands for DDP and now a 1-2 from the challenger. Takedown now from DDP with 40 seconds left in the round. Scramble from Strickland and they are back to striking. Combination from Du Plessis and the round comes to a close. Likely a round for DDP.

Round 3

Entering the third at UFC 297 and I think it’s all tied up after two. Here we go to start the third. Du Plessis comes forward with a winging shot that misses. Double jab now from Strickland. Head kick lands for Du Plessis. Big combination again for DDP but nothing much landed there. Front kick from Strickland and now a jab.

Check hook for Strickland. Left hand lands for DDP. Another nice left hand lands for Du Plessis. Clean 1-2 lands for Strickland. Body shot for Du Plessis. Du Plessis moves forward and throws finishing with a body kick. Strickland lands a jab but nothing much else. Combination from Du Plessis misses but his activity is letting him pull ahead.

Left hook lands for Strickland. Du Plessis is really pressuring heavy here but he’s not landing much. Nice left from Strickland and now a left for Du Plessis. 90 seconds left and Du Plessis lands a jab. 1-2 from Strickland. Double jab from Strickland backs Du Plessis up. Head kick misses from DDP. Jab from Strickland. The round comes to a close and it’s a very close round.

Round 4

Entering the fourth at UFC 297 and it could be anyone’s fight. Du Plessis goes right back on the pressure but he eats a combination from Strickland. Sharp jab from Strickland. Strickland starting to throw more here at the beginning of the fourth. Elbow from Du Plessis and it cuts Strickland.

Big right hand from Strickland lands. Combination from Strickland and a body kick from DDP. Overhand right from Strickland. 1-2 from Strickland lands and now another jab. Combination from Du Plessis. Right hand from Du Plessis and Strickland counters. Jab from Strickland.

Both men land big shots and Strickland clinches. Du Plessis gets a takedown. Strickland is bleeding bad right now and Du Plessis lands a huge right as they get up. 1-2 now from Du Plessis and DDP is taking over here. Big kick from DDP and now a big takedown from Du Plessis.

90 seconds left in the round and DDP is really taking over this fight. Strickland gets back up but Du Plessis takes him right back down. One minute left in the round and Strickland breaks free. Right hand for DDP lands. Big uppercut lands for DDP and Strickland lands a jab. 1-2 from Strickland and the round ends.

Round 5

Entering the final round and Strickland might need a finish to retain his UFC title. They touch gloves and here we go. Long jab from Strickland starts things out. Sharp left lands for Strickland and a combination from Du Plessis. Big jab from Du Plessis that snaps Strickland’s head back.

Jab from Strickland but there’s not as much on it. Check left hook lands for DDP. Right hand from Strickland and a 1-2 from DDP. Leg kick lands for DDP and a big right over the top lands for Strickland. Another big right from Strickland lands. 1-2 now from Strickland and DDP fires back.

Takedown from DDP and it’s defended perfectly by Strickland. Power jab from Strickland lands and another. 1-2 now from Strickland and a right over the top. Another right hand from Strickland. Jab from Strickland and a takedown attempt from Du Plessis is defended. Right hand for Strickland.

Jab from Strickland. Combination from Du Plessis finishing with a body kick. One minute to go and Strickland lands. Du Plessis fires back. Jab from Du Plessis and Strickland lands a right. Both men trade big rights. Another big right from Strickland and another. Strickland coming on strong here. They throw major heat and the fight ends. I give the final round to Strickland but this one will be close at UFC 297.

Dricus Du Plessis def. Sean Strickland by Split Decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)