Journey to UFC Champion: Dricus Du Plessis

Published on 24 January 2024 at 16:00

The first South African UFC champion has proven to be in his prime after becoming the King of the Middleweights at UFC 297. Dricus Du Plessis joins Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesanya and Francis Ngannou as African-born champions in the MMA organisation. Now that he has completed the ultimate accomplishment in MMA, it's time to have a look through Stilknocks' career and how he has progressed through the years.

Before his UFC debut

Dricus Du Plessis began his MMA career back in July 2013. He debuted on EFC Africa and earned his first professional win in mixed martial arts, winning by first-round TKO. The South African showed true potential after getting two submissions victories and another TKO win before he suffered his first loss to Gareth McLellan, submitting to a Guillotine Choke in the third round at EFC Africa 33.

Stilknocks redeemed his loss and went on an eight-fight winning streak, stopping every opponent with a Guillotine Choke or a Rear-Naked Choke as well as picking up a couple of TKO wins. During his unstoppable run, Du Plessis won the vacant EFC Welterweight title at EFC 50 in 2016 and would soon become a two-division champion a year later when he submitted Yannick Bahati at EFC 62 to win the EFC Middleweight Championship. 

The Hatfield-born fighter moved to MMA organisation, KSW, where he competed for the Welterweight Championship on his debut. At KSW 43, Dricus became champion after defeating Roberto Soldic by second-round TKO. Du Plessis' title glory would not last long in the company as he lost in a rematch to Soldic by third-round knockout at KSW 45.

Du Plessis earned two more victories before signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championships as he got a second-round TKO win at KSW 50 before returning to EFC and earning his ninth submission win of his career. The UFC clearly saw potential in the South African as he had a 100% finish rate with the 14 MMA victories he had.


The Arrival of Du Plessis

Dricus made his UFC debut at UFC Fight Island 5 which was during the COVID-19 era with strict restrictions. He gave the MMA community something to be excited about when crowds would return as he knocked out Markus Perez in the first round. Du Plessis' next Middleweight bout would take place at UFC 264 as he defeated Trevin Giles by knockout in the second round, making the T-Mobile Arena go crazy. 

One year later, Du Plessis earned his first decision win which happened at UFC 276 when he beat Brad Tavares by unanimous decision and would therefore lose his 100% finish rate in MMA. Of course, it would not put Stilknocks down in the slightest as he ended the year with a high when he defeated former title challenger, Darren Till, by third-round submission with a Rear-Naked Choke at UFC 282.

By the start of 2023, Du Plessis became the #14 contender in the UFC Middleweight rankings, meaning that the competition would get harder as he would try to move closer to the top. At UFC 285, the South African-born fighter defeated Derek Brunson by TKO which was late in the second round and would boost him up the rankings. This would soon make Du Plessis the #8 contender in the Middleweight division.

The Middleweight prospect would have one of the grandest opportunities in MMA as he was set to face former UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker, at UFC 290 as the winner would fight for the undisputed title. Du Plessis took everyone by surprise as knocked down Whittaker before stopping him by TKO in the second round to earn a shot for UFC Gold. 


First South African UFC Champion

After a triumphant fight at UFC 290, it looked like Dricus Du Plessis would face the Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, next as the two fighters exchanged a war of words at the post-fight interview. This rivalry began online when both fighters were talking about their African routes since Du Plessis was born and bred in South Africa whilst Adesanya was born in Nigeria but moved to New Zealand and grew up there.

At UFC 293, the title picture would change as Adesanya lost the UFC title to huge underdog, Sean Strickland, by unanimous decision. This meant that Stilknocks would face a new challenge ahead of his title shot.

Just when you thought Du Plessis had one fiery rivalry to himself; another one would begin. During the 2024 season press conference, Du Plessis and Strickland exchanged words in what would be a heated rivalry before they brawled in the crowd after being shown in a crowd-cam at UFC 296.

Both men would finally clash in the Octagon as the two top Middleweights headlined UFC 297 with the 185-pound belt on the line. The title fight would go the distance after an extraordinary battle with both men bloody and bruised. In what was a very close fight, Dricus Du Plessis just edged the win by split decision to become the new UFC Middleweight champion.

It is unknown for the next step for the first South African UFC Champion as he looks to defend his title against a top Middleweight contender. Some fans believe he should face Israel Adesanya so they can finally fight for the first time, and, some believe that a rematch with Strickland should happen as not everyone favoured Du Plessis to win that fight after the five rounds.

How long will Dricus Du Plessis stay as UFC Middleweight Champion? Who will he face next in his first title defence?


Written by Charlie Oxtoby


Instagram: charlie_oxtoby

MMA Instagram:

Twitter: Charlie_Oxtoby1

Add comment


There are no comments yet.