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New Champions Rise at UFC 297: Du Plessis and Pennington Claim Titles in Middleweight and Bantamweight Divisions



Credit: UFC Twitter

In the first major event of the year for the UFC, UFC 297 witnessed the emergence of two new champions in both the men’s middleweight and women’s bantamweight divisions. Dricus Du Plessis was crowned the new middleweight champion, securing the title with a split decision victory (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) over Sean Strickland. Meanwhile, Raquel Pennington claimed the women’s bantamweight title, which was vacated following Amanda Nunes’ retirement. Here are the major takeaways from UFC297:

Dricus Du Plessis Becomes the First South African UFC Champion
In a hard-fought battle, Dricus Du Plessis claimed the middleweight title with a split decision win over Sean Strickland. Du Plessis, showcasing resilience and a unique fighting style, overcame an early setback due to Strickland’s effective jabs and cuts. His unorthodox striking and superior cardio in the latter rounds played a crucial role in his victory. Du Plessis has now ascended to the top of the middleweight division and also cemented his place as the first South African-born champion in UFC history.

Raquel Pennington’s Dominant Performance to Claim the Women’s Bantamweight Title
Raquel Pennington demonstrated a balanced mix of striking and grappling to dominate Mayra Bueno Silva over five rounds, winning by unanimous decision. Pennington’s ability to escape dangerous positions and maintain control, especially in the clinch, was remarkable. Her victory brings a new face to the forefront of the women’s bantamweight division and sets the stage for potential future matchups in a division previously dominated by Amanda Nunes. It is likely that Juliana Peña will fight Pennington in the near future. Peña was the last woman to defeat Amanda Nunes.

A Rivalry Renewed?
The middleweight division is now poised for a renewed rivalry between Dricus Du Plessis and Israel Adesanya. Du Plessis’s victory and his post-fight callout of Adesanya reignited a previously anticipated matchup. Their rivalry, rooted in regional pride and competitive spirit, promises to be a compelling narrative in the UFC’s middleweight division. The dynamic between these two fighters, both vying for the claim of the true African champion, adds an intriguing layer to this potential bout. Du Plessis was quick to call out Adesanya after the fight:
“There was another guy who tried to take my shine.”He lost his shine. Now, I have your shine. You didn’t get into the cage tonight, but Israel Adesanya, get your ass back in the UFC so we can settle the score.”
Adesanya for his part seems ready for the challenge:

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