The second-biggest fallout from Sean Strickland’s UFC 293 upset of Israel Adesanya is Dricus du Plessis’ position in the middleweight division, according to Chael Sonnen.
The two-time UFC middleweight title challenger and UFC analyst sees du Plessis in a tough spot after Strickland pulled off the win over “The Last Stylebender.”
“[Khamzat] Chimaev vs. Paulo Costa [at UFC 294] just became a No. 1 contender’s match,” Sonnen said Monday on The MMA Hour. “It wasn’t originally. It was a No. 1 contender’s match for Chimaev if Chimaev wins. And then they were going to yank that rug and reveal it to us right after the fight in case [Chimaev] won.
“But now, because you’ve got a No. 1 champ at the top, Strickland vs. Paulo works all day long, Strickland vs. Chimaev, plus they trained together, it works all day long. That’s going to be a No. 1 contender’s match, and du Plessis is going to get forgotten yet again.”
Du Plessis ripped Adesanya’s performance at UFC 293 and called to face Strickland for the title, after which he said he’d give Adesanya a “well-deserved hiding on my home soil South Africa.”
That contrasted with UFC President Dana White’s reaction to Adesanya’s loss, which was to indicate an immediate rematch was his first choice for Strickland’s next step.
The UFC president also made it very clear that du Plessis had erred by turning down Adesanya at UFC 293 due to a foot injury. Sonnen mirrored his former promoter’s look at the situation.
“It’s not a great idea to sit around and wait, and du Plessis just needed a little more time,” Sonnen said. “He just needed that one match. I don’t know that he’s the No. 1 contender. I do think that’s a beautiful fight. But if we go and do the rematch, which I’m sure we’re going to do — so we do Strickland vs. Izzy , let’s say that the oddsmakers get it right [and] Izzy beats him. You’re telling me we’re not going to the trilogy? We’re going to make it so known that we don’t want Sean as our champion, we’re not even going to hide it?
“So then if you do do a trilogy, I just ate up the next 12 months, but even if I don’t eat up those 12 months, while Chimaev and Paulo Costa is likely only to the hardcores an elimination bout, I think as that fight gets closer, it’s going to be revealed to the world and we’re all going to know it’s an elimination bout.
“I don’t know what to do with du Plessis, and I think that’s a really hard spot. Du Plessis once had this great attitude: Put me on the undercard, I’ll fight anybody. And he proved it. He went out and fought Robbert Whittaker, nobody not named Izzy Adesanya got the jump on him. He’s got to go after somebody else. But du Plessis has also got to know what time it is.”
Sonnen agrees that the heat between Adesanya and du Plessis made a fight between them guaranteed box office gold, and he advocated for the South African fighter to campaign not for a shot at belt, but a fight with his rival.
“The bigger thing lost there, getting [Adesanya and Strickland] back together — I’m sure they did a fine piece of business, and I’m sure next time will be even better; the sequel generally does better than the original,” Sonnen said. “But none of them will do what du Plessis and Izzy had building. They had this entire nation to the point where you were having to review interviews. If you have to review interviews, your fight is going to be very hot, and it just seems like that was the one to try to preserve. I don’t think we have a smart 85-pounder out there; if you had a smart 85-pounder, he’d be calling out du Plessis with everything that he’s got.
“Bo Nickal is not going to get an opportunity to fight Strickland or Izzy for the title next, but he could do everything he could to get that du Plessis fight, and du Plessis is obviously next, even if it’s next from the next. They should all be going after him. They should all see what’s been lost and what opportunity there is. I predict for you they don’t do any of those things.”