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Reevaluation: Dricus Du Plessis

With the dust settled from UFC 297, Dricus du Plessis has established himself as the new middleweight king.  Although he has faced significant adversity in almost all of his recent fights, Dricus has won again and again.  Until recently, most people dismissed him as a potential title challenger.  Now, he not only has the belt, but has the potential to establish a dominant reign.

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Instead of facing long-time champion Israel Adesanya, Dricus faced newly crowned Sean Strickland.  Both fighters demonstrated their unique skillsets for twenty-five minutes.  Sean peppered Dricus with jabs throughout the fight, causing significant damage to Dricus’s face.  As usual, Strickland showed impressive evasiveness on the feet.  However, Dricus remained undeterred and continued to throw power shots, landing on several occasions.  He also used his wrestling skills to surprise Strickland throughout the rounds.  In a razor-thin split decision, Dricus prevailed and became the newest UFC middleweight champion.

Dricus definitively proved his ability to endure five full rounds.  He relentlessly pressured Strickland, who himself boasts tremendous cardio.  Although unorthadox, he has good timing with his strikes, able to land several overhangs and high kicks on Strickland.  He also has unquestionable durability, refusing to back up despite eating countless jabs to the face.  With his skills and championship experience, he will continue to be a force in the years to come.

The next challenge is seemingly Israel Adesanya, the long reigning former champion.  Not long ago, Israel seemed favored to prevail in such a matchup.  However, with Adesanya coming off a one-sided loss to Strickland, questions remain about his current form.  Furthermore, even if Israel comes back stronger, Dricus himself poses problems for anyone.  He would likely enjoy a significant grappling advantage, and could put “Stylebender” in bad spots with his forward pressure.  Adesanya is no stranger to big moments, but has his work cut out for him against South Africa’s new champion.

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The 185 pound division once looked starved for fresh contenders, but has now received new blood at the top.  Defending the belt has become much more difficult over time, but Dricus has overcome adversity at each step of his journey.  Beyond the shadow of a doubt, he has proven his championship mettle.

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