Dricus du Plessis has made history by becoming the first South African Middleweight champion in the UFC with a split-decision win over Sean Strickland, showcasing his impressive journey from debut to triumph in just six fights.
Canada (21 January 2024) – In a thrilling showdown at UFC 297, Dricus du Plessis etched his name in South African sports history by becoming the first-ever UFC Middleweight champion from the Rainbow Nation.
The Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada, played host to this historic moment as Du Plessis secured a split-decision victory over Sean Strickland in the main event.
Known by the moniker ‘Stillknokcs,’ Du Plessis showcased his mettle in a closely contested battle against Strickland, who asserted his dominance with a trademark jab early in the fight. While Du Plessis is recognised for his fast starts, he opted for a more measured approach in the initial stages. The clash unfolded over five intense rounds, ultimately culminating in Du Plessis clinching victory and seizing Strickland’s middleweight belt.
Amidst the adrenaline-fueled moments, Du Plessis couldn’t contain his jubilation, exclaiming, “This is history!” The newly crowned champion expressed his pride for his homeland, proclaiming, “South Africa… we can probably hear them from outside. That country is amazing.”
Despite the competitive tension leading up to the fight, Du Plessis, with humility and respect, acknowledged Strickland’s prowess. “Every time he hits you with that jab, it feels like someone hit you with a rock. You are one heck of a man; thank you for bringing out the best in me tonight,” Du Plessis graciously remarked. In response, Strickland, in his own candid manner, declared, “I called it from day one – it was going to be a war.”
Du Plessis’ journey to the championship has been nothing short of impressive. Since his UFC debut in October 2020, he has navigated through six fights, securing victories over formidable opponents such as Darren Till, Derek Brunson, Robert Whittaker, and now, adding Sean Strickland to his illustrious list of triumphs.
The victory not only elevates Du Plessis to championship status but also paves the way for a new era in South African mixed martial arts.
Congrats Dricus. Proudly South African… and PROUD of South Africa! ❤️🇿🇦