It’s almost time for the first UFC pay-per-view of 2024.
UFC 297 makes its way to Toronto, Canada on January 20th. It’s certainly not the most stacked card, but there are still some fun matchups. The main card kicks off with an exciting Allen vs. Evloev matchup and finishes off with an intriguing main event between Strickland and Du Plesis. So without further ado, let’s dive into the main card…
(C) Sean Strickland vs. (2) Dricus Du Plessis
The main even features a fight for the middleweight championship between Sean Strickland and Dricus Du Plessis. Strickland has his work cut out for him against a guy that has clearly gotten under his skin. Strickland is known for dishing it, but also taking it when it comes to verbal jabs with his opponents. This time, however, the banter may have actually gotten to Sean.
In the UFC 297 Press Conference, Du Plessis made some comments in regards to Strickland’s rough childhood. Strickland would emotionally fire back in a very uncharacteristic way. This would lead to a cage-side brawl between the two just days later at a UFC event. Has Dricus gotten into the mind of Sean? And could it affect Strickland’s performance in his first title defense?
Sean’s close training partner and friend, Sam Alvey, certainly sees this fight going only one way. I brought on the Karate Combat heavyweight champion to provide some insight into this main event and, most importantly, a fighter’s perspective. As someone who knows Sean well, Alvey believes that the cardio and style of Strickland will be too much for the South African contender. Regardless of everything said, this is a true 50/50 championship fight, and that makes it all the more interesting.
(2) Raquel Pennington vs. (3) Mayra Bueno Silva
The co-main event of UFC 297 features the second world championship fight of the night. Raquel Pennington takes on Mayra Bueno Silva for the vacant UFC bantamweight title. While Pennington does not have the most fan-favorite style, she is a longtime veteran with plenty of experience. Bueno Silva has been in the UFC since 2018 and now finds herself competing for her first shot at gold.
Raquel seems to have all the tools to get the victory. But, Mayra appears to be the more dangerous fighter of the two, especially on the ground. Pennington has great cardio and should look to use the clinch to her advantage. Mayra has fairly good striking, but again, a very dangerous ground game. Perhaps not the most exciting fight we have ever seen… But it will certainly be intriguing to see how it plays out. Regardless of who wins, Julianna Pena will be waiting in the wings. Who will capture their first world title at UFC 297?
(13) Neil Magny vs. Mike Malott
Just before the two title fights of the night, we get a fun matchup in the welterweight division between Neil Magny and Mike Malott. Magny seems to be the gatekeeper for anyone looking to reach the top of the division. If you are looking to become a contender at 170 pounds, you must first get through the tough test that is Magny. Similar to Pennington, Magny has been in the UFC since 2013, so you are not going to present something to him that he has not seen in over 30 UFC fights. However, Malott is a very well-rounded fighter with good grappling that may present some problems for the longtime veteran.
While Magny is a good grappler himself, Malott seems to be superior in that department, which could lead to him winning a lot of these exchanges. Malott should have the Canadian crowd on his side and will look to crack into the welterweight top 15 with a win over the #13-ranked Magny. The last thing you want to do is count out Neil Magny, making this a super fun fight.
(13) Chris Curtis vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
Much like Malott, Marc-Andre Barriault will look to get a number next to his name as he takes on the #13-ranked, Chris Curtis. Marc is a well-rounded fighter, but he is also a good striker who throws a lot of volume. Curtis has good power in his shots and always delivers beautiful, yet devastating body shots. Curtis is a good counterpuncher who we know is getting top-notch preparation at Xtreme Couture.
Expect a fun matchup here in the striking department, with Barriault moving forward and Curtis looking to land the counter shots. If Curtis cannot effectively land those big punches, then it could potentially open the door for a Barriault decision with his volume. Given how many times we have seen Chris hurt his opponents, nothing is a given in this fight. Marc-Andre will also have the Canadian crowd behind him as he looks to get ranked at middleweight with a win over “Action Man.” Expect a tough challenge for both opponents in this fight.
(3) Arnold Allen vs. (9) Movsar Evloev
The main card will kick off with perhaps the most interesting matchup of the night between Arnold Allen and Movsar Evloev. Allen’s only UFC loss is to the greatest featherweight of all time, Max Holloway. He now looks to bounce back against the Russian wrestling sensation that is Evloev. The lessons learned from the Holloway loss can be a huge boost to Allen, who has still never been finished his professional career. While Evloev is an undefeated 17-0 fighter, he has not finished one opponent in his seven UFC fights. Many saw him struggle at times in his last one against Diego Lopes.
Although Evloev is undefeated in the promotion, Allen is no stranger to hot starts. He was 10-0 to start his UFC run. Mosvar will surely be hunting those takedowns in this fight, while I would imagine it is in Allen’s best interest to keep this one standing. You have to imagine that Allen will be on his back at least once in this fight, and so how will he fare in that position? An interesting fight, to say the least…
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