Fight fans no longer have to wonder about what the rest of 2023 and early 2024 will look like for the UFC. President Dana White went to the UFC’s social media pages to announce multiple title fights in the upcoming schedule. New UFC Middleweight Champion Sean Strickland will make the first defense of his title against surging South African prospect Dricus Du Plessis.
Stickland dethroned former champion Israel Adesanya in September of this year. Also announced by the UFC, current Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski will put his belt on the line against number one contender Ilia Topuria. Volkanovski filled in on 11 days’ notice to face Lightweight Champion Islam Makachev in the last PPV event and will be returning on relatively short notice.
White also announced the next challenger for “Suga” Sean O’Malley’s Bantamweight Championship. O’Malley will face bitter rival Marlon “Chito” Vera, who is the only man to have defeated O’Malley in his young career.
Stickland vs. Du Plessis:
With Former Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya sidelined for the foreseeable future the division must move on. Champion Sean Stickland has always been an active competitor who wants to fight as soon as possible. Du Plessis was initially supposed to fight for the title the night Strickland won the belt. After knocking out former Champion Robert Whittaker, it was Du Plessis who faced off with the champion at the time Israel Adesanya. This was supposed to be the next massive fight at 185 pounds but Du Plessis was forced to withdraw from the fight because he needed ample time to recover.
Strickland shocked the world at UFC 293, dominating the second-longest reigning champion in Middleweight history. Entering that contest Stickland was a massive betting underdog (+700) at online sportsbooks. Currently, the odds are not out on this fight but don’t be surprised if the challenger Du Plessis is the betting favorite when the odds are released. UFC president Dana White stated that this fight will take place in January of 2024. As the first PPV event of the new year this fight card will have other quality fights added in the coming weeks.
Volkanovski vs Topuria:
In February, Featherweight World Champion Alexander Volkanovski (26-3) returns to 145 pounds to face undefeated number-one contender Ilia Topuria. Volkanovski is coming off a devastating head-kick knockout loss to Lightweight Champion Islam Makachev less than three weeks ago. Topuria (14-0) is a devastating finisher who has stopped opponents in four of his last five fights.
Topuria’s skillset is elite, on the feet, the talented Georgian prospect has one-punch knockout power that can change fights in an instant. On the Ground, Topuria is a Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu Blackbelt who submitted Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu product Bryce Mitchell at UFC 282. Volkanovski may be the greatest fighter in the history of the 145-pound division, but he will face his toughest test yet three months from now.
Volkanovski is currently the No. 3 ranked Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world and has never lost a fight at 145 pounds. As of today, the UFC has not announced a venue for this PPV event.
O’Malley vs Vera:
A rematch with bad blood and prior history headlines the third event of 2024 for the UFC. The only man to defeat Bantamweight Champion “Suga” Sean O’Malley (17-1) is Marlon Vera (21-8-1). “Chito” will get a title opportunity even though he is ranked No. 6 in the division. When O’Malley burst on the scene in the UFC many fans recognized the potential of the red-haired Arizona native.
O’Malley’s first real test in the UFC came against Vera back in 2020. O’Malley entered that fight a perfect 12-0 but damaging leg kicks by Vera forced a TKO loss for the current Bantamweight Champion. Since that disappointing result for O’Malley, he has rattled off five straight wins with four coming by knockout. Vera has won five of his last six fights and recently defeated Pedro Munhoz at UFC 292.
The build-up to this fight is going to be highly entertaining. Vera is very well-rounded with eight knockouts and submissions on his record. O’Malley wanted this rematch to prove that the loss to Vera from years ago was a fluke. This may be Vera’s only chance at UFC gold as he would become the first UFC champion from Ecuador with a victory.
We will keep you updated as UFC President Dana White announces the promotion’s plans in the coming weeks.
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