Cape Town — South Africa’s UFC Middleweight star and top contender Dricus du Plessis plans to force mistakes out of former 185-pound champion Robert Whittaker in their UFC 290 main-card fight tomorrow night.
Du Plessis continues to make history as the most successful South African mixed martial artist thus far, earning a number-five Middleweight ranking in the most competitive MMA promotion.
The South African is virtually one fight away from competing for the coveted Middleweight belt as he faces his biggest challenge yet in the world-renowned Australian Whittaker in a potential number-one contender fight at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday (roughly around 4.30 am SAST).
Du Plessis - the former double EFC (Welterweight and Middleweight) and Middleweight KSW champion - has not set a foot wrong since signing with the UFC, going on a five-fight win streak with wins over Markus Perez, Trevin Giles, Brad Tavares, Darrent Till, and Derek Brunson.
Du Plessis (19-2) made headlines with his high-octane style and ruthless dogged nature, which has seen him secure four stoppages and only one unanimous decision.
He now faces a man who, since 2014, has only lost to the current champion, Israel Adesanya.
With 24 wins and only six losses, Whittaker is one of the most experienced and respected fighters in global MMA, and Du Plessis says it would not be wise to look for holes in the Australian’s game.
“To see holes in Rob’s game is extremely hard, but I don’t feel that is the way to go. I am not looking for holes, I am looking to force mistakes and capitalize on those, and that’s what I will do,” says Du Plessis.
An absolute veteran of high-level MMA, Whittaker has been on the top for years now, racking up ten decision wins, five submission wins, and nine knockouts - a ruthlessly tough, fast, and skilled individual, and Du Plessis believes it will be in his best interest to prevent “Bobby Knuckles” from finding his rhythm.
“Shot for shot, Whittaker is extremely fast and very calculated, and when he gets started and finds his comfort zone, he is very dangerous. So it will be my duty to make sure he does not get to that comfortable place and take him to my world, and that is a very dark place where I feel at home,” says Du Plessis, a well-rounded athlete with one decision, ten submissions, and eight knockouts.
While UFC fans have seen bucketloads of Du Plessis’ stand-up ability, he is a highly-intelligent grappler with a strong wrestling game that could be the deciding factor in the expected war at the T-Mobile Arena this weekend.
When asked about his thoughts on fighting for the title next, Du Plessis admitted that he will not shy away from any challenge should his body allow him to compete.
“Look, I have turned around three fights in seven months to climb this ladder, so If I am physically capable, then there is no problem for me to start my fight camp and be ready for that title fight - no problem at all, I will be ready.
"But I am not even considering that right now. Robert Whittaker inside the cage is all I am focused on right now. I am willing to take a limb off in this fight as it might be the only chance for me to beat Robert Whittaker with that piece of limb. I am not even thinking about the title fight right now.
And I guess the UFC will decide if I am number-one contender after this fight, it is ultimately their call, but there won’t be denying me as number-contender after I beat Rob,” added Du Plessis.
Another South African will look to go 3-0 in the UFC when former EFC Bantamweight champion and Du Plessis’ protege, Camerain Saaiman, throws down against USA’s Terrence Mitchell.
The main event will see the no.2 pound-for-pound athlete in the UFC and current Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski face interim champion Yair ‘El Pantera’ Rodriguez for the undisputed title.
Stay tuned to MzansiMMA and IOLSport for more details.
Featherweight title fight: Alexander Volkanovski vs Yair Rodriguez
Flyweight title fight: Brandon Moreno vs Alexandre Pantoja
Middleweight fight: Robert Whittaker vs Dricus Du Plessis
Lightweight fight: Jalin Turner vs Dan Hooker
Middleweight fight: Bo Nickal vs Valentine Woodburn
Welterweight fight: Robbie Lawler vs Niko Price
Welterweight fight: Jack Della Maddalena vs Josiah Harrell
Strawweight fight: Yazmin Jauregui vs Denise Gomes
Light Heavyweight fight: Jimmy Crute vs Alonzo Menifield
Light Heavyweight: Vitor Petrino vs Marcin Prachnio
Bantamweight fight: Cameron Saaiman vs Terrence Mitchell
Flyweight fight: Shannon Ross vs Jesus Aguilar
Lightweight fight: Kamuela Kirk vs Esteban Ribovics