Dricus Du Plessis outpoints Sean Strickland to win the undisputed middleweight belt – Press Enterprise

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TORONTO — The hostility brewing between Sean Strickland and Dricus Du Plessis finally hit its boiling point at UFC 297 on Saturday night.

The two battled through five rounds, taking the bout to the distance, but in the end it was Du Plessis taking Strickland’s middleweight belt after bloodying the former champ over his left eye and winning a split decision.

Judges Derek Cleary and Eric Colon scored the bout 48-47 in favor of Du Plessis, while Sal D’Amato had it 48-47 for Strickland.

“This is history!” Du Plessis (21-2) screamed in honor of his homeland. “South Africa … we can probably hear them from outside. That country is amazing.”

It was December when Du Plessis referenced Strickland’s abusive relationship with his father. Strickland let it be known that would not be tolerated, and violent recourse would result.

At UFC 296 in December, Strickland jumped over a row of seats and threw punches at Du Plessis — which both said was nowhere near a publicity stunt.

Nothing about the fight was nowhere near a stunt, as the two traded blows, both delivering severe blows, especially in the latter rounds.

Despite the tension leading up to fight night, Du Plessis gave Strickland (28-6) his just due afterward.

“Every time he hits you with that jab it feels like someone hit you with a rock. You are one heck of a man, thank you for bringing out the best of me tonight,” Du Plessis said. “The first three rounds were give and take, but the last two, I was desperate rounds four and five.”

To which Strickland later replied: “I called it from day one — it was going to be a war.”

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