Dricus Du Plessis has expressed his firmly held belief that Khamzat Chimaev has yet to truly feel the strength of an actual 185-pound fighter, and he is determined to be the one to give him this experience. This proclamation comes ahead of Du Plessis’s forthcoming bout against Sean “Stillknocks” Strickland, slated to take place on January 20 at the main event of UFC 297 in Toronto. The announcing of this booking sparked surprise among many spectators who had anticipated that Chimaev, with his recent majority decision win against Kamaru Usman at UFC 294, was next in line for a title shot at middleweight.
Du Plessis, however, maintains that Chimaev continues to be the UFC’s preferred choice to vie for the middleweight gold against the winner of the UFC 297 title fight. The South African fighter revealed his enthusiasm regarding the possible matchup, outlining his intention to demonstrate to Chimaev just what true strength feels like. In an interview with James Lynch, Du Plessis confidently predicted a match with Chimaev, stating, “The UFC is probably going to want to do Khamzat. He’s a big draw, and if he won the fight against Usman he’d get a title shot.”
Elaborating on his tactical approach against the strong Chimaev, Du Plessis continued, “If he tries to take me down, which he should, I don’t think he realizes the power difference between 170 and 185.” He implied that Chimaev relies on his power to outmaneuver his opponents, asserting, “If he fights me and he fights that way, he’s going to find out what strength feels like.” However, the circumstances surrounding Chimaev’s claim to the middleweight title shot were called into question following an unconvincing majority decision.
Chimaev moved up to middleweight to face Usman, who was also entering the Octagon at 185 pounds for the first time. Even so, Sean Strickland’s manager, Lance Spaude, stated that “Borz” wasn’t even considered during the booking discussions for Strickland’s UFC 297 match against Du Plessis. All the while, Du Plessis, who has remained undefeated in his six UFC appearances, including five finishes, is fresh off a second-round TKO against the former champion, Robert Whittaker.