Dricus Du Plessis: Robert Whittaker Should Face Sean Strickland Next

July 9, 2024
While Dricus Du Plessis has been immensely impressed by Robert Whittaker’s latest wins, he believes “Bobby Knuckles” is still another victory away from a title shot.

Whittaker suffered a second-round TKO loss against Du Plessis at UFC 290 in July 2023. While Du Plessis was the only person to beat Whittaker other than Israel Adesanya since 2014, many discounted “The Reaper” following that loss.

However, Whittaker rebounded with a unanimous decision win over Paulo Costa at UFC 298 this past February. Whittaker was then scheduled to headline UFC on ABC 6 in a title eliminator against Khamzat Chimaev last month before “Borz” pulled out due to illness. Chimaev was replaced on nine days’ notice by unranked prospect Ikram Aliskerov, who went on to suffer a first-round knockout loss.

Closely watching the fight, Du Plessis was very happy with Whittaker’s dominant win and believes the Australian would have beaten Chimaev as well. For Du Plessis, it was statement made in favor of the entire top tier of the division.

“He didn’t perform badly. He performed the way Rob does,” Du Plessis recently told Hello Sport. “I was just the better fighter on that night and I got that win. And people wrote him off just for that loss. He came back against Paulo Costa. Paulo Costa looked amazing in that outing, he [Whittaker] just straight out beat him…I honestly believe he would have beaten Khamzat if they had to fight. It was a big question mark for me that fight [Whittaker vs. Aliskerov] because it had implications for me as a champion. But I was so happy because I don’t think people realize what it takes to be in the Top 5 of the UFC. Being Top 5 best fighters in the world.”

Aliskerov was riding a seven-fight winning streak going into his clash against Whittaker, and the Russian’s lone pro loss came via a first-round knockout against Chimaev in 2019. Despite Aliskerov’s impressive pedigree on the regional scene and early UFC career, Du Plessis notes that the upper echelon of the UFC is a whole different ballgame, as Whittaker proved.

“And that guy, Ikram, trained with him many many years ago,” Du Plessis said. “And he is a good fighter. He is a really good fighter, but thinking you’re a good fighter, even a great fighter and just walking into the UFC, in the Top 5, Top 3, it’s a whole different ball game. It takes a special human being to do that. And Robert Whittaker proved that and I’m really happy that he did because you get a lot of guys that win three to four fights and think, ‘I’m ready to beat the guys at the top. Why can’t I beat that guy?’ And he just went out there and he proved that there’s levels to this game.”

Meanwhile Du Plessis defends his title against former champ Israel Adesanya at UFC 305 on Aug. 17 in Perth, Australia. While Du Plessis was impressed with Whittaker’s performance, he believes it wasn’t enough to warrant the next title shot. According to Du Plessis, Whittaker should next fight No. 1 contender Sean Strickland, who is coming off a split-decision win over Costa at UFC 302 last month.

“Yeah [Strickland vs. Whittaker]. It’s a fight that makes sense,” Du Plessis said. “I know Dana said Whittaker vs. Khamzat was a title eliminator but that was kind of taken away from Rob. Taken away the opportunity because they’re not necessarily going to give him a title shot for beating an unranked opponent… But the Rob and Strickland fight would be massive. It’s a hard fight, the fact that I don’t know who’s gonna win that fight… That would be an interesting fight. It would be a shame if we don’t see it.”

Reference: https://www.sherdog.com/news/news/Dricus-Du-Plessis-Robert-Whittaker-Should-Face-Sean-Strickland-Next-194262

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