Pending the result of the UFC 297 main event at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada, the winner may have some compelling options as for what's next. Sean Strickland will be defending his title for the first time after shocking the world last September and defeating one of the greatest Middlweights of all-time, Israel Adesanya. His opponent, Dricus Du Plessis is a South African tank, who is riding an eight fight win streak. He is coming off of an upset of his own, when he defeated Robert Whittaker at International Fight Week in July.
This fight technically wasn't supposed to happen, but then we saw two of the biggest upsets of 2023, and so here we are. These Middleweights do not like each other, and fans can gurantee a wild and exciting main event, however long it lasts. After this fight, there will be some options for the next challenger to the Middleweight title, including Khamzat Chimaev. Chimaev is coming off of a win over former Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, and is being heavily discussed amongst the MMA community for a potential next opponent to either Strickland or Du Plessis.
But does he deserve it?
You could argue that Khamzat should be next in line for a title. When looking down the rankings, you could argue that there's very few that deserve a title shot. Adesanya and Whittaker are coming off losses to the very men that are fighting for the title this weekend, Cannonier is definitely an exception, he owns a win over Sean Strickland, but he hasn't been that active, and possibly needs one more win. There are some fights in the works these next few months, and hopefully the title picture will get sorted out afterwards. But Khamzat Chimaev is a guy with an extraordinary amount of hype, he is uberly talented, and just beat a former champion. Although he is ranked at number nine, who else is there for the winner of this weekend's main event to fight, especially if Israel Adesanya isn't ready? Khamzat is a very entertaining choice.
On the other hand, you could also argue that Khamzat does not deserve a title shot. Sure he's got a big name and a lot of hype around him, but it's very rare that the UFC gives out title shots to the #9 ranked fighter in the world. When Khamzat made his UFC debut, he was very active, fighting six times from 2020-2022, but since then, he's only fought once. His health and inactivity as of late has affected that, but when you own zero wins over active middleweights and you've fought once in twelve months, how can that justify a title shot?
Regardless of the outcome between the UFC 297 main event between Sean Strickland and Dricus Du Plessis this Saturday night, it will be very interesting the see the aftermath and who the winner will call out next. Guys like Khamzat Chimaev, Israel Adesanya, and Jared Cannonier should be amongst the names listed in that conversation, but when it comes time to decide, only time will tell.