Top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight contenders, Robert Whittaker (No. 2) and Dricus du Plessis (No. 5) were booked to battle at UFC 290, which took place tonight (Sat., July 8, 2023) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, with a coveted 185-pound title shot on the line.
Whittaker is no stranger to setbacks and adversity. A knockout loss to current division champion, Israel Adesanya, may have cost him the belt, but it didn’t stop “The Reaper” from climbing the ranks a second time and giving “The Last Stylebender” everything he could handle in their rematch. It hasn’t been that long since their second fight, but already, Whittaker is likely one win away from a third opportunity. Meanwhile, du Plessis has clobbered his way through the ranks quickly, winning five straight bouts to start his UFC career and break into the 185-pound title mix. In addition to being a vicious finisher, the talented South African also knows his way around a microphone, which has drawn the ire of the aforementioned Adesanya.
In short, it was an excellent pairing, one that probably deserved a five-round main event billing next week (cough, Holly Holm); however, with UFC 293 in Australia getting closer with each passing second, it was important to get this pivotal bout underway sooner than later. And, in the end, it was du Plessis who punched his championship ticket with a super impressive second round finish.
Both fighters touched gloves in mutual sign of respect and we were off and punching ...
Whittaker opened things up with a quick flurry, which du Plessis blocked easily, as “Reaper” strafed him with a low kick on his way out. Nice right hand from Whittaker, who was feinting and confusing du Plessis early. du Plessis with a lazy kick, which Whittaker countered with a hard jab. Lumbering knee from du Plessis, followed my a clunky combination, before Whittaker shot for a takedown and secured it. du Plessis tried a guillotine off his back, and the pair scrambled on the ground for a few seconds as the South African was able to use the cage to get back to his feet. Whittaker pumped the left jab, with du Plessis countering with a hard combination that sent his opponent bouncing off the fence. Hard knee up the middle from du Plessis, then a right hand as he started to warm up. Left jab from Whittaker got him a little too close for comfort, with du Plessis grabbing a head lock and chucking the former champion to the canvas. du Plessis roughed up Whittaker on the ground with skin-splitting elbows in the final minute, opening up a cut and angling for a submission as the round came to a close. Super strong start from Whittaker could have been wiped out by du Plessis’ final successful minute.
Whittaker opened up the second frame with a combination, which du Plessis countered with a hard low kick. Whittaker with a hard combination in his follow up attack as du Plessis once again seemed to be starting a round a bit slow. du Plessis scored with a Southpaw jab as Whittaker tried to snipe from the outside. du Plessis continued to march forward, just waiting for his opportunity to find an opening.
And then he found it.
du Plessis stunned Whittaker with a right hand and the Aussie began to slowly crumble to his knees. Whittaker was clearly hurt, then du Plessis took his time, picked his shots, and finished a wounded Whittaker along the fence.
See you “Down Under,” Mr. du Plessis.
Final result: du Plessis def. Whittaker via second round technical knockout — WATCH HIGHLIGHTS!
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