TORONTO – The monumental UFC 300 event in April still does not have a headliner, and UFC commentator Jon Anik thinks that could be because the promotion is waiting for this weekend’s fights to play out.
UFC 297 takes place Saturday at Scotiabank Arena (pay-per-view, ESPNews, ESPN+), with Sean Strickland set to put his middleweight championship on the line against Dricus Du Plessis (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) in the main event. Both fighters have been asked if they would be open to making a quick turnaround for April 13 in Las Vegas, and neither completely ruled out the idea.
Anik sees multiple possibilities still in play for UFC 300, which already features Justin Gaethje vs. Max Holloway for the BMF title and Zhang Weili vs. Yan Xiaonan for the strawweight belt, but thinks the result at UFC 297 will be a factor in the final decisions.
“I think we could see a welterweight title fight, a middleweight title fight or a light heavyweight title fight at UFC 300 depending on what happens this weekend,” Anik told MMA Junkie. “If Dricus Du Plessis wins here, I think the foundation has been laid here for him and Izzy, depending on the health of the new champion. And certainly Sean Strickland and Khamzat Chimaev would be near the top of my life of dream fights for this year. There are plenty of opportunities and options. … I just think we’re going to get clarity for 300 and whatever title fights are added once these four championship athletes get through this business here in Toronto.”
As much speculation as there is around the future direction of the UFC 297 main event winner, Anik shared genuine excitement for the fight itself. It’s been a rollercoaster of a build, with Strickland and Du Plessis engaging in a heated December press conference, fighting in the crowd at a UFC card, then on UFC 297 fight week switching tone and sharing admiration for one another.
Anik doesn’t think it gets much better for a 185-pound title fight and thinks Strickland vs. Du Plessis is the perfect way to start the promotion’s pay-per-view schedule for 2024.
“This fight, in terms of the merits of this main event, it didn’t need any dust-up in the crowd at UFC 296,” Anik said. “It’s an outstanding main event. I have a phrase I throw out there called ‘bulletproof matchmaking.’ I just can’t see any scenario where this middleweight championship fight is not entertaining for as long as it lasts.
“I think that’s good way to put it: Competitive tension. I certainly wouldn’t classify it as a grudge match. But Dricus Du Plessis is perpetually misunderstood, I believe, by MMA fans around the world. Just a really good egg. And I feel like in his heart he felt badly that he struck this nerve with Sean Strickland. Perhaps he was a little bit scared, for lack of a better adjective, at some of the threatening things that Sean was saying privately. I don’t feel like this fight needs any extra heat or friction.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 297.