This past Saturday, du Plessis claimed the middleweight title with a split decision win over Sean Strickland in the main event of UFC 297. Shortly after the biggest win of his career, “DDP” laid the groundwork for his first title defense, suggesting that a fight against Adesanya at UFC 300 “sounds amazing.” Though the fight is far from official at this point, signs to seem to be pointing in that direction for the two rivals, and if it does come to pass, Whittaker believes du Plessis has the advantage.
“I’m going to say DDP,” Whittaker said on The MMA Hour when asked to predict the fight. “Just because, like Sean with Dricus, the safe bet is Sean, but Dricus showed what he was willing to do and what he was willing to go through. Can he do that again against Izzy? Who knows? But he’s a tough guy. He’s awkward and he’s going to be pushing forward that entire time. It doesn’t matter if he’s getting hit, he showed that tenacity in that fight. So I’ll go DDP.”
Whittaker has his own history with both du Plessis and Adesanya. The former middleweight champion lost his title to Adesanya back in 2019 and then lost the rematch three years later. Most recently, du Plessis finished Whittaker at UFC 290, earning “Stillknocks” his title shot at UFC 297. And given his experience with the champion, Whittaker says that du Plessis brings a lot of difficult problems to the table and proved that against Strickland.
“As someone who has fought Dricus, I understand how awkward he is to fight,” Whittaker said. “Everyone who saw the fight can say how awkward he looks. Dude, he was throwing overhands from the first bell to the last bell, and he was throwing combos off of them! [Laughs.] I’ve never seen someone combo a left overhand into a right overhand! The guy is awkward, switching stances the whole fight, pushing forward, tough as nails, taking shots the entire time to land shots. You’ve got to give it to him.
“Now, gun to my head, I thought Sean might be able to get away with a decision win, keep him at the end of his jab, pepper away for five rounds. I thought that would be the safest bet, but I never ruled out Dricus because of how awkward he is, because of how tough and strong he is, because of how hungry he is for that title.
“He’s definitely got a skill set. And his style, as awkward as it may be, it works. That’s his style. His style is awkward, big, and strong. His fights aren’t the prettiest fights, but they get it done. And that’s a big reason why I love MMA so much … because there’s so many ways to climb the mountain, and he’s just an example of it.”
If Whittaker is correct and du Plessis does retain his title, that could be a problem for Whittaker. “Bobby Knuckles” is currently scheduled to fight Paulo Costa at UFC 298, and while a win would put him back in the title mix, having lost so recently to the champion could delay his title hopes. But Whittaker only sees upside.
“Losing to Dricus put him on a list of rematches that I want,” Whittaker said. “So him having the belt just kind of works. Two birds, one stone.”