UFC returns to Canada: UFC 297 Preview

Nov 15, 2023

On Saturday, January 20th 2024, Ultimate Fighting Championship will return to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada with a big card. Two title belts will be on the line, with newly crowned middleweight king Sean Strickland taking on South Africa’s Dricus Du Plessis in his first attempted title defense.  Meanwhile, Raquel Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva will battle it out for the Women’s bantamweight title, which was vacated by the recently retired Amanda Nunes.

If you like to bet on MMA fights or other sports in Canada, there are some good news for gamblers as UFC 297 approaches: there has been a growth in fintech sector and digital payment processors available to online businesses, such as online casinos.  These digital payments allow gamblers for a safe and secure way to deposit and withdraw their gaming funds.  For an example, take a look at phone bill casino, where you can make deposits using your mobile phone and nothing else. In some cases, you won’t even pay for it immediately – the amount will arrive on your next phone bill. In Canada, these casinos are getting increasingly more popular thanks to the fact that users don’t have to create a new e-wallet to make deposits at gaming sites. Anyhow, let’s take a look at the rumored main card for UFC 297 – and don’t forget to place your bets!

[#1 MW] (C)  Sean Strickland  vs [#5 MW] Dricus Du Plessis for the UFC Middleweight Championship

Sean Strickland’s ascent to the top of the UFC middleweight hill has been nothing short of amazing.  When Strickland was knocked out in the first round by Alex Pereira back at UFC 276, he was seen by most fans as the divisions perennial gatekeeper. Three fights later, Strickland was challenging Israel Adesanya for the title in a matchup that no one gave him a chance in. Twenty-five minutes later, he completely dismantled the champion at his own strengths, and solidified a huge upset with a dominant decision win.

Dricus Du Plessis is also another unlikely contender for the title; his style of fighting has been described as sloppy and unorthodox, and few gave him a chance against the former champ and perennial contender Rob Whittaker.  However Du Plessis dominated Whittaker and stopped him in the second round, bringing him to 6-0 in the UFC with 5 stoppages, and earned the next shot at the title.

We will see how Strickland’s technical boxing measures up with Du Plessis brawling attack. As far as matchups of styles go, this one is guaranteed to produce fireworks.

[#1 W135] Raquel Pennington vs [#5 W135] Mayra Bueno Silva for the vacant UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship

The last time UFC came to Canada, we saw Amanda Nunes hang up her gloves after succesfully defending her title against Irene Aldana. This left the already shallow women’s bantamweight division with a vacuum at the top.  The #1 ranked Raquel Pennington is a shoe-in to fight for the vacant title, having won her last five outings.  Mayra Bueno Silva would be riding a four-win streak of her own, however her most recent victory over Holly Holm has been changed to a No Contest after Silva tested positive for a banned substance. Let’s hope that this matchup will light a much-needed spark in the 135lbs weight class.

[#5 FW] Arnold Allen vs [#13 FW] Movsar Evloev

This is  a hot matchup of rising featherweight contenders. Arnold Allen started out his UFC career by winning 10 straight inside the Octagon, before dropping a decision to Max Holloway in his most recent fight. A win over Max would have earned Allen a shot at the gold; however he came up short and now has to face another prospect in undefeated Movsar Evloev. At 17-0 (7-0 UFC), the Ingushetia native is looking to make his name in the division; the only criticism against Evloev is that all of his UFC fights have gone the distance. Will Movsar be able to control Allen on the ground, or will Arnold keep it standing and hand Evloev the first loss of his career? Tune in to find out.

[#16 WW] Neil Magny vs [#82 WW] Mike Malott

One of the UFC’s most prolific welterweights, Neil Magny has stepped into the Octagon 31 times, and had his hand raised on 21 occasions. The 36 year old has a spotty record and any opportunity to fight for a title is long gone; however he is still as solid as ever when it comes to keeping the divisional gates. Magny has traded wins and losses in his last six fights, most recently losing a lopsided decision to Ian Garry.  Now, Neil gets to once again step up against another young prospect – the Canadian Mike Malott.  Mike is 3-0 in UFC with all finishes, but has yet to face an opponent anywhere near Magny’s caliber, so this will be a real test for Malott.

[#21 MW] Chris Curtis vs [#41 MW] Marc-Andre Barriault

Rounding out the card, we have a fairly evenly matched fight between two middle-of-the-pack middleweights. Neither man has been setting the division on fire, however Barriault will be looking to extend a two-win streak, while Curtis is winless in his last two (a decision loss and a No Contest). I really don’t have much to say about this fight, so instead I will offer some musings on UFC in the Canadian market.

If I were our northerly neighbors, I might feel a bit abandoned by the UFC.  Since 2019, there has only been one card in Canada – the aforementioned UFC 289, with the main event of Nunes vs Aldana, was a less than spectacular card on paper. This time around, we have a far more competitive and exciting main event, and two title fights as a bonus.  We also have a few familiar faces – Malott, Curtis, Barriault all appeared at 289 as well. All in all, this is an improvement over the last Canadian event. But it’s still disappointing that the UFC ventures north of the border so infrequently compared to the past, before they started holding most of the small Fight Night events at the Apex Center in Las Vegas.

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