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DONNERED IN THE DESERT

Dricus du Plessis hammers his way up UFC rankings – and now ‘I’m coming for the No 1 spot’

Dricus du Plessis hammers his way up UFC rankings – and now ‘I’m coming for the No 1 spot’
Dricus du Plessis lands a punch on Brad Tavares in their UFC 276 middleweight bout at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on 2 July 2022. (Photo: Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)

South Africa’s Dricus du Plessis and Cameron Saaiman both registered impressive victories at UFC 285 on Sunday morning.

Du Plessis put in a composed second-round performance to outlast and ultimately force America’s Derek Brunson’s corner to throw in the towel at Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 285 in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Du Plessis now holds the longest win streak in the division with his fifth victory on the trot.

The gruelling middleweight brawl was not all plain sailing for the burly South African as former division title contender Brunson took him to the mat earlier in the first round.

Brunson, a former college wrestler, was more comfortable on the ground and made Du Plessis sweat in the opening five minutes.

The extended grappling between the two brawny men fatigued both fighters as they appeared to breathe heavily through their mouths in the second round.

Dricus du Plessis

Brad Tavares (right) and Dricus du Plessis exchange strikes in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on 2 July 2022. (Photo: Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)

But Du Plessis ensured the fight stayed with both men on their feet in the next five-minute spell as he made his superior strength and conditioning show with well-timed jabs and hooks that ultimately felled the American.

“I said it throughout this fight week, when that second round comes I’m still going to be there, no matter how hard the first round is. And that’s how it happened. He faded in the second and I didn’t,” said Du Plessis after his biggest UFC win to date.

With seconds left before the end of the second round, Du Plessis delivered a thunderous hammer fist to the face of Brunson before Brunson’s corner tossed the white towel into the ring to prevent further damage to their fighter.

Although the fight will technically go down as a “corner-stoppage”, Stillknocks, as Du Plessis is known – for his ability to knock his opponents out – regards the win as a “finish” against Brunson.

“A win is a win. I [was] here to win the fight. I’m always looking for the finish and I consider this as a finish, in my opinion,” the South African said.


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Du Plessis stepped into the octagon the No 10-ranked fighter in the middleweight division, with Brunson No 5, but after their epic bout their positions are likely to swap.

“I’m top five in the world… as big as that sounds, I’m not celebrating that. I’m coming for the No 1 spot,” Du Plessis said.

Saaiman bags another win

Du Plessis’s training partner and compatriot, Cameron Saaiman, was also in action at UFC 285.

The 22-year-old impressed with a majority-points decision victory over America’s Mana Martinez in the bantamweight division.

Dricus du Plessis

Dricus du Plessis is introduced before facing Darren Till of England in a middleweight fight during the UFC 282 event in Las Vegas on 10 December 2022. (Photo: Sean M Haffey / Getty Images)

As in his previous fight against Steven Koslow at UFC 282 – his UFC debut – Saaiman was penalised for illegal moves.

Read in Daily Maverick:

South Africa’s Dricus du Plessis victorious against Brad Tavares in UFC 276 bloodbath

SA’s Dricus du Plessis and Cameron Saaiman claim victory at UFC 282 bouts in Vegas

‘The Future’ has arrived – South Africa’s Dricus du Plessis and Cameron Saaiman to make history at UFC 282

The South African connected Martinez’ groin with low kicks twice in the first round as referee Herb Dean was forced to deduct a point early from Saaiman.

“I just want to apologise to everyone again. I’m sorry. I don’t want to be a dirty fighter, that’s not my intention at all,” said Saaiman.

Saaiman was the better fighter throughout the three-round bout, showing his wide array of skills including strikes, takedowns, ground-and-pounds and textbook grappling.

Dricus du Plessis

Dricus du Plessis reacts after defeating Darren Till in Las Vegas on 10 December 2022. (Photo: Sean M Haffey / Getty Images)

In the third round, Saaiman made contact with Martinez’ eye but Dean deemed it accidental and did not deduct any more points from the remorseful Saaiman.

The warnings didn’t perturb Saaiman as he kept attacking the legs and Martinez’ body, but was ultimately unsuccessful in knocking out the American.

After the judges’ decision, Saaiman was declared the winner 29-26, 28-27 and 28-28 after three gruesome rounds.

“I felt great in here, I felt like my cardio was up to scratch. I’ll go back to the drawing board… Let’s go back into training next week. I hope to be here [Las Vegas] back in June,” the fighter told UFC commentator Joe Rogan after the bout. DM

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