UFC 297: Strickland vs. du Plessis Predictions & Betting Tips

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UFC 297: Strickland vs. du Plessis takes place on Sunday (AEDT) at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada – and we’ve got our UFC predictions for all the fights below.

UFC 297: Strickland vs. du Plessis Predictions


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Sean Strickland vs. Dricus du Plessis Prediction

There’s been a lot of bad blood leading into this middleweight title fight, to the extent that taunts from Dricus du Plessis about his outspoken rival’s troubled childhood hit a raw nerve and led to Sean Strickland physically attacking him in the stands at UFC 296 in December. A month later they’ll now get the chance to finish what they started in the Octagon.

The 32-year-old Strickland shocked the world last time out by defeating Israel Adesanya on the scorecards to win the belt. Strickland’s not typically known for his punching power, but to his credit he actually dropped Adesanya in the opening five minutes and had him in real danger of being finished, while his unorthodox ‘Philly Shell’ style boxing defense seemed to perplex the champ the further the fight went.

Frankly it was a terrible showing from Adesanya given the striking skills he has at his disposal and the fact that the challengers style was already well established heading into the fight, but nonetheless Strickland stayed composed and made the most of the opportunity. Strickland will be braced for a different kind of fight this time around though, but as always he’ll stick to his usual gameplan, working behind solid boxing fundamentals and in particularly his crisp jab, while leaning on his toughness and cardio to try to outlast his opponent over five rounds. Strickland does have respectable wrestling too, but it’s not something we see much of these days from him.

While Adesanya’s natural instinct to be patient and look for openings and counter-strike opportunities backfired against Strickland, the 30-year-old du Plessis will have a completely opposite approach with an action-packed style that’ll see him lead the charge with hard-hitting, high-volume striking. He not the most technically sound, but he’s a durable powerhouse whose aggression and heavy hands make a big impression.  He also benefits from also being fairly well-rounded, working for takedowns and demonstrating good submission ability too. That gives him multiple routes to victory and as such 19 of his 20 wins have come inside the distance (10 by submission, 9 by knockout).

I think du Plessis’ whirlwind approach and constant pressure has the potential to overwhelm Strickland’s unorthodox defense here. However, the danger for du Plessis is that traditionally he’s not had the best cardio and could gas himself out trying to get the finish, which would play right into Strickland’s hands. It leaves this being a finely balanced fight that could go either way, but while cardio could be king here I’ll take du Plessis to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the champ in the early rounds and eventually hurt him enough to set up a TKO finish in the 3rd round.

Prediction:  Dricus du Plessis to win by TKO in Rd3.

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Raquel Pennington vs. Mayra Bueno Silva Prediction

The co-main event of UFC 297 sees the bantamweight title vacated by Amanda Nunes last year up for grabs when Raquel Pennington comes in off a five-fight winning streak to fight Mayra Bueno Silva, who is unbeaten in her last four bouts.

Unfortunately it’s a match-up that emphasizes how underwhelming the 135lb division currently is in the wake of Nunes departure, especially given that when Pennington fought Nunes back in 2018 she was handed such a beating she attempted to quit on her stool prior to the final round.

Given how demoralizing that fight was for her the now 35-year-old deserves respect for managing to claw her way back up to title contention, and she’s beaten respectable opponents like Ketlen Vieira, Aspen Ladd and Macy Chiasson along the way. She’s still primarily a boxer who doesn’t really have any notable stopping power, but makes up for that with solid technique and toughness. Meanwhile, these days she favors using the clinch and is quite capable of grinding down opponents from there, while she’s a decent wrestler too when required.

While Pennington is a veteran who has faced a who’s who of 135lb talent over the years, the 32-year-old Silva’s resume isn’t as strong. In fact, apart from submitting Holly Holm last time out (in a fight that was later amended to a no-contest ruling due taking medication to treat ADHD without approval) Silva hasn’t actually beaten a fighter in the UFC yet who is currently ranked. Nevertheless, Silva has proven to be a crafty grappler with four of her Octagon victories coming via submission and is an improving striker too.

I think Silva may well find it tricky to get Pennington to the mat in the first place here, so I’ll take the more experienced and technical ‘Rocky’ to use her boxing and clinch-work to win the title via a fairly uneventful decision.

Prediction: Raquel Pennington to win by decision

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Neil Magny vs. Mike Malott Prediction

Neil Magny has been alternating between wins and losses for several years and is coming off a lop-sided decision loss to Ian Garry last time out. Now he’ll take on an ex-Contender Series fighter in Mike Malott, who has been on a good run so far in the UFC, winning all three of his fights inside the distance.

The 36-year-old Magny’s last fight was a bad look as he just couldn’t get anything going at all against Garry. It’s the sort of performance that could dent a fighter’s confidence, but Magny is a very experienced campaigner who will just get back to business, even if there is a nagging feeling that perhaps age is starting to catch up to him. Magny remains a lanky, jack-of-all-trades fighter who will be aided by a 2″ height and large 7″ reach advantage on the feet which he’ll use to try to keep the striking battle at range, while at closer quarters he’ll work for the clinch and wrestling opportunities in order to control the action rather than going for a big finish. He can be taken down himself though and he’s been submitted several times in his career, including twice in the past two years.

While the 32-year-old Malott has nowhere near Magny’s level of experience and doesn’t have the name value of some of the stars the veteran is used to fighting, he is still someone who has the potential to trouble him. Part of that is due to the fact that Malott is a solid all-rounder, so there’s no obvious weakness for a savvy veteran like Magny to exploit. Malott is a very competent and assured striker who moves well and carries more power than his opponent here, while he’s also a capable wrestler and has shown off significant submission ability too.

This is a big test for Malott, but with the Canadian fans cheering him on and Magny showing signs of decline I think he’ll rise to the occasion and best him on the feet to win on the scorecards.

Prediction: Mike Malott to win by decision.

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Chris Curtis vs. Marc-Andre Barriault Prediction

After a disappointing 2023 campaign that left him with a loss and a no-contest, Chris Curtis will try to get back on track in 2024 against Marc-Andre Barriault, who by way of contrast earned back-to-back wins last year.

The 36-year-old Curtis is an experienced veteran with over 40 fights to his name. He’s primarily a crafty boxer with good fundamentals, nice counter-striking and significant power for his size, having finished the likes of Brendan Allen, Joaquin Buckley and Phil Hawes via strikes during his UFC run and numerous others on the regional circuit. He can be hit but does roll with the punches and is very durable, while he also has good cardio and solid takedown defense.

Barriault is also a striker and he’s the bigger, thicker-built middleweight of the two with a 3″ height advantage, though he’ll actually give up an inch in reach to his opponent. The Power Bar’ has something of a brute-force approach, applying pressure and crashing the distance with solid punches and sturdy clinch work, while also having a solid chin and good gas tank for his size.

This should be quite competitive, but while Curtis is the smaller of the two I feel he can match Barriault’s intensity over three rounds while being the better technician on the feet to carve out a decision victory.

Prediction: Chris Curtis to win by decision.

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Arnold Allen vs. Movsar Evloev Prediction

Arnold Allen’s 10-fight winning streak came to an end in his only fight in 2023 against Max Holloway and now he faces another challenging opponent in the undefeated Movsar Evloev, who has won all seven of his bouts in the Octagon.

This is a well matched fight between two talented featherweights. The 29-year-old Allen is a smooth technical kickboxer who manages distance well and picks his shots nicely on the outside, relying on fundamentals while staying fairly defensively sound. Despite having the cardio to push the pace he is generally quite measured and methodical with his output and doesn’t mind going to the scorecards. That being said he showed in his TKO win over Dan Hooker a couple of years ago that when he wants to be more aggressively-minded he can be a genuine threat. For a UK fighter Allen also has surprisingly solid offensive wrestling ability and nice takedown defense too.

The also 29-year-old Evloev is a very well-rounded fighter who benefits from having strong takedowns, solid top control, sturdy takedown defense, and he’s very hard to keep down. Meanwhile on the feet he’s an efficient striker who isn’t a notable finisher, but has good volume and versatile weaponry at his disposal. He mixes his martial arts well and has the cardio to back him up for as long as the fight goes.

I think this should be a close, competitive fight that might be more of a tactical battle than an all-out war. On the feet I think it’s quite even but Allen may have a slight edge.  However, well-timed takedowns from Evloev will be a key factor in helping him stay a step ahead and lead to a narrow decision victory.

Prediction: Movsar Evloev to win by decision.

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UFC 297: Strickland vs. du Plessis Prelims

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About Ross Cole

Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process. You can read more of Ross's work at MMAInsight.com.