UFC 297 Main Card Preview
The UFC is ringing in the new year in style, as UFC 297 will travel north of the border to Toronto for the first pay-per-view event of 2024.
The event will feature multiple championship fights, along with several more intriguing matchups for the Canadian crowd to enjoy on Jan. 20.
There will be nine Canadians on the card, including one in every single fight on the preliminary card. This means the hometown crowd will have someone to get behind in almost every fight.
Additionally, the main card has one of the most entertaining personalities in the sport—headlining the event in Middleweight, Champion Sean Strickland. Everything is in place for an exciting pay-per-view and for a rare Canadian event to open in 2024.
Here is a quick preview of all the fights set to appear on the main card.
Middleweight Championship: Sean Strickland vs Dricus du Plessis
Strickland shocked the MMA world, dominating former champion, Israel Adesanya for five rounds en route to one of the biggest upsets in a championship fight. After scoring a huge knockdown in the opening round, Strickland put on a defensive masterclass en route to a unanimous decision. Having captured Middleweight gold, he will now defend his belt for the first time.
Dricus du Plessis has been a steady riser in the middleweight rankings but saw the spotlight fall on him suddenly after some tension with Adesayna. Originally, it appeared that it would be du Plessis getting a title shot in September.
After defeating Robert Whittaker, du Plessis and Adesanya had an intense standoff in the octagon. However, the South African contender could not recover in time to be able to make the fight. Thus, Strickland was awarded the fight that he eventually won.
Women’s Bantamweight Championship: Raquel Pennington vs Mayra Bueno Silva
In the last UFC event in Canada, one of, if not the greatest female fighter in UFC history, Amanda Nunes, retired as the undisputed double-champion, including her Bantamweight title. As a result, the belt is now vacated for one of these two women to win it at UFC 297.
Pennington rides into this fight on a five-fight win streak. Four of those wins were by decision, and one by guillotine choke. However, she has not fought since Jan. 14 of last year. Meaning that by the time this fight rolls around, it will have been over a year since her last bout. Whether or not the prolonged absence from the octagon will be more of a blessing or a curse.
In the other corner, Mayra Bueno Silva has found similar success in recent fights. She technically won her last four fights, but her most recent victory over Holly Holm was overturned to a no-contest after Bueno Silva tested positive for a banned substance.
Having not fought since mid-July, she is hoping to win this fight with no asterisks attached to it and to capture UFC gold.
Welterweight bout: Neil Magny (13) vs Mike Malott (NR)
Moving away from the title fights, we have a fight between an aging veteran, and a Canadian trying to break into the top-15 of the welterweight division.
Neil Magny is coming off of a pretty brutal loss to Ian Garry. In that contest he had his legs get abused for three straight rounds en route to a unanimous decision loss, and one at the hands of an opponent that was aggressively taunting him all fight. Though he may not be in a position to compete for a title at this stage in his career, he still possesses a lot of experience and skill that makes him a difficult matchup.
His opponent in this fight is Canadian Mike Malott. Having appeared in three UFC fights plus one on Dana White’s Contender Series, Malott is a perfect 4-0 with four finishes. Three by submission, and one by knockout. Three of those contests were finished in the first round, and none of his UFC appearances have made it to a third round thus far.
Malott hopes to continue his ascension into the top-15 with a statement win in front of the Canadian crowd.
Featherweight bout: Arnold Allen (3) vs Movsar Evloev (9)
In an exciting featherweight bout between rising contenders, Arnold Allen is looking to hold his spot in the top-three as he pushes for a title shot. Allen had been on the path to a shot at Alexander Volkanovski, with 10 straight wins to open his UFC career. Unfortunately, he fell short against Max Holloway, stopping him from getting a shot at the belt.
However, he still has a very impressive resume in the UFC so far. That being said he will face a very interesting test against another rising contender.
Movsar Evloev currently boasts an undefeated 17-0 record and is 7-0 in the UFC.
The only blemish on his record so far is that all of his fights have ended in a decision. He’s following a path somewhat similar to Belal Muhammad in that he is very content to take the fight to the ground and minimize risk en route to a decision. He will hope to change that narrative with a statement against Allen.