Strickland won the belt with a seismic upset against Israel Adesanya in September but lost it during his first defence, suffering a split-decision defeat by Du Plessis in Toronto.
Strickland battered the South African’s left eye to the point of closure, but the controversial American sustained his fair share of damage, too; midway through the bout, Strickland began to leak blood from a cut around his own left eye.
“Well f*** haha... man that headbutt really made it difficult to see but I thought we got the job done. Blood and all!!!” wrote Strickland, 32, on X on Sunday (21 January). “Onto the next one!!! Thanks everyone who supported me!!!!!!”
At the post-fight press conference, Du Plessis was asked about Strickland’s comments. The 30-year-old said: “It’s the first time I’m hearing of it. No, I didn’t feel a headbutt during the fight [...] No, I can’t remember any head butt.”
Du Plessis’s win made him the first South African champion in UFC history and improved his record in the promotion to 7-0. Overall, Du Plessis’s record in professional MMA stands at 21-2, and Saturday marked the first time he had fought beyond three rounds. The result also marked just the second time he had fought to a decision.
The 30-year-old is expected to defend the title against Adesanya next, after the pair shared an in-ring staredown last year. After Du Plessis’s surprise TKO of ex-champion Robert Whittaker in July, Adesanya entered the Octagon for a heated exchange with “Stillknocks”.
Du Plessis was then expected to challenge Adesanya in Australia last September, but an injury ruled out the South African, leading Strickland to accept the title fight.
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