UFC 297: Dricus Du Plessis wins split decision over Sean Strickland to claim middleweight title

TORONTO, ONTARIO - JANUARY 20: (L-R) Dricus Du Plessis of South Africa punches Sean Strickland in a UFC middleweight championship bout during the UFC 297 event at Scotiabank Arena on January 20, 2024 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Dricus Du Plessis did just enough to edge Sean Strickland via split decision Saturday night to claim the middleweight title at UFC 297 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Du Plessis pressed the action throughout the fight and rarely took a step back. Strickland was effective with his jab early, but that waned as the fight wore on. As Du Plessis got more comfortable, he began to find his range, and his blitzes against Strickland became more effective.

Both men were marked up, with Du Plessis' left eye being almost swollen shut and Strickland, who won the title by winning a decision over Israel Adesanya at UFC 293 in September, having some bad cuts on the left side of his face.

Du Plessis, coming off a knockout of former champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 290, also mixed in some timely takedowns throughout. There were questions about his gas tank entering the fight, but all those questions were answered in the five-round contest, which Du Plessis won by scores of 47-48, 48-47 and 48-47.

After the bout, Du Plessis called out Adesanya, with whom Du Plessis has had some issues.

Main card (Start time 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV)

• Middleweight championship: Dricus Du Plessis defeats Sean Strickland via unanimous decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
• Women's bantamweight championship: Raquel Pennington defeats Mayra Bueno Silva via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-45)
• Welterweight: Neil Magny (+310) defeats Mike Malott via TKO at 4:45 of the third round
• Middleweight: Chris Curtis defeats Marc-Andre Barriault via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27)
• Featherweight: Movsar Evloev defeats Arnold Allen via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Prelims (Start time 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
• Bantamweight: Garrett Armfield defeats Brad Katona via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Featherweight: Sean Woodson defeats Charles Jourdain via split decision (28-29 29-28 29-28)
• Bantamweight: Ramon Tavares defeats Serhiy Sidey via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Women's strawweight: Gillian Robertson defeats Polyana Viana via TKO at 3:12 of the second round

Early prelims (Start time 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
• Welterweight: Sam Patterson defeats Yohan Lainesse via rear-naked choke at 2:03 of the first round
• Women's flyweight: Jasmine Jasudavicius defeats Priscila Cachoeira via D'arce choke at 4:21 of the third round
• Flyweight: Jimmy Flick defeats Malcolm Gordon via arm triangle at 1:17 of the second round