Even by prickly UFC standards, the build-up to Sean Strickland’s UFC middleweight title defence against Dricus du Plessis has been antagonistic. The challenger brought up Strickland’s troubled upbringing. In response, the champion threatened an act of extreme violence that goes beyond the parameters of Mixed Martial Arts.
Strickland hasn’t just directed threatening bile at his opponent. The 32-year-old also launched a horrific homophobic and transphobic tirade at a journalist this week. It has been such a toxic build-up that fight night will almost come as a relief. Finally these warriors will be doing their job, rather than infecting the narrative with vicious invective.
Putting the controversy aside, this is a wonderful fight. One more than capable of selling itself without plumbing the depths of depravity. Strickland shocked the world last time out, taking Israel Adesanya’s middleweight gold. Du Plessis is on an eight-fight winning streak, with victories over Derek Brunson, Darren Till and Robert Whitaker in his last three bouts. This is a top fight however you slice it.
The odds are close, reflecting just what a competitive match-up we’re talking about. Strickland is 4/5 to retain his championship with du Plessis at evens to spring the mildest of upsets. With four knockouts in his last six fights, you’d perhaps favour the challenger if it stays on the feet. Over the distance Strickland seems to be the pick, though he can hold his own upright too.
The co-main event is more straightforward, at least on paper. Raquel Pennington is the underdog as she faces Mayra Bueno Silva. The latter is coming off a No Contest against Holly Holm. She initially made the UFC icon submit in the second round, but the result was overturned when a banned substance was found in a post-fight test sample. Silva clarified that the substance was in a medicine she has routinely taken for ADHD.
While Pennington is the underdog at 5/4, she is coming into the fight in a rich vein of form. ‘Rocky’ has won her last five fights. She tends to go the long way round, with four of those five coming via decision. But Santos has her work cut out here, even if the 8/13 odds indicate she’ll put the Holm stumble behind her.
The rest of the card features British standout Arnold Allen, who takes on Movsar Evloev at featherweight. There’s welterweight action as Neil Magny takes on Mike Mallott. Rounding out the main card, Chris Curtis features in a middleweight contest against Marc-Andre Barriault.
Sean Strickland vs. Dricus du Plessis
Raquel Pennington vs. Mayra Bueno Silva
Neil Magny vs. Mike Malott
Chris Curtis vs. Marc-André Barriault
Arnold Allen vs. Movsar Evloev
Brad Katona vs. Garrett Armfield
Charles Jourdain vs. Sean Woodson
Serhiy Sidey vs. Ramon Taveras
Gillian Robertson vs. Polyana Viana
Early preliminary card
Yohan Lainesse vs. Sam Patterson
Jasmine Jasudavicius vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Malcolm Gordon vs. Jimmy Flick