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The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

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The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Du Plessis Shocks UFC With Controversial Comments

The nation of South Africa was enthralled when native Dricus Du Plessis dethroned Sean Strickland in Toronto on Saturday, Jan. 20. Du Plessis claimed the 185-pound title from the outspoken American in a close and highly contested split decision at UFC 297. 

The margin on the fight was razor thin, with the three judges scoring the bout 48-47, 47-48 and 48-47. Many in sports media, including analysts on ESPN, argued that Strickland should have won.

With the title, Du Plessis became the first South African champion in the UFC. For the new champion, this crowning achievement was a culmination of many years of hard work. 

“When they said, and new,’ it felt like 15 years of work, dreaming and sacrificing came together in one single sentence. It was incredible, it felt surreal. Amazing,” Du Plessis said. 

The build-up to the fight became tense at the press conference for the prior fight card, UFC 296. Tensions boiled over when Du Plessis targeted Stickland’s experience of childhood abuse at a seasonal press conference, and, the next day, the two brawled in the stands while attending UFC 296. 

Strickland was enraged with Du Plessis.

“You don’t really talk about a man’s wife, you don’t really talk about a man’s kids, and you don’t about a kid being abused. These things are off-limits,” Strickland said on the podcast “This Past Weekend.”

Du Plessis appeared unbothered.

“I don’t really care how he feels. I don’t care about him being triggered. He says whatever he wants, and I can say whatever I want. And how there’s one thing that’s a soft spot, a trigger for him. And now we’re not allowed to say anything? Man, if you want to dish it out, you have to be able to take it,” Du Plessis said. 

This controversy added to the intensity of the fight. Analysis from the experts agreed that Strickland thrived at the beginning of the fight, while Du Plessis struggled with his offense and defense. 

The fight took a turn in Du Plessis’s favor when he cut Strickland near his left eye in the third round with a head butt. He would later explain that it was his game plan to play Stickland’s game initially and change the tide in the later rounds. The added pressure from Du Plessis’s dogged offensive style and his effort to stay in Stricklands’ face changed the fight.

The fifth round was close, but Du Plessis came out on top, despite Strickland landing more jabs and significant strikes, by a fairly large 173-137 margin

“It feels like somebody hits you with a rock,” Du Plessis said. “[Strickland is] very deceptive when he throws the jab, and he can turn it into a left hook. He does that really, really well.”

Controversy continued after the fight. In the immediate aftermath, both Strickland and Du Plessis were complimentary of one another, with Strickland acknowledging the loss and asking for a rematch. However, Stickland soon changed his position, claiming that his eye was cut open by an illegal headbutt. Du Plessis claimed that was not what Strickland had said to him in the cage after the final round, according to MMA Fighting. 

“He came up to me in the cage right before they announced me as the new champion. I went to him and I shook his hand, and I said, ‘You’re a warrior, well done, was a great fight,’ and he said, ‘No, you definitely beat me […]. You deserve it, you won that fight, you beat me,’” Du Plessis said. 

Despite the high tensions, an upcoming rematch seems unlikely at this time. Du Plessis will face Israel Adesanya at UFC 300 on April 13 in Las Vegas in his first title defense since becoming champion.

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