UFC: UFC 297: Sean Strickland favored in first title defense


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The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first pay-per-view event of 2024 will take place at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Saturday and features a pair of title fights.

The prelims begin at 6:30 ET, with the main card airing on ESPN+ at 10 p.m.

Sean Strickland, who is coming off a major upset over Israel Adesanya in Sydney in September, will defend his middleweight title for the first time against Dricus Du Plessis in the headline fight. It pits two aggressive fighters in the Octagon.

Strickland (28-5, 15-5 UFC) rebounded from a tough end to 2022 with a win over Nassourdine Imamov to kick off last season. He then put himself back in the picture to face Adesanya by beating Abusupiyan Magomedov.

The South African Du Plessis (20-2, 6-0) is undefeated in the UFC while coming off an upset of his own over Robert Whittaker. He enters with an eight-fight win streak overall.

“He has a dog in him, but my dog is a lot stronger and a lot bigger,” Du Plessis said this week.

Strickland opened as the -120 favorite at BetMGM, where he had shifted to -115 by Friday with the public backing him with 55 percent of the bets and 59 percent of the money wagered.

In the co-main event, Raquel Pennington (15-8, 12-5) will face Mayra Bueno Silva (10-2-1, 5-2-1) for the bantamweight belt that Amanda Nunes vacated with his retirement last June.

The 35-year-old Pennington has won her past five fights, with the most recent coming against Ketlen Vieira last January before taking time off for the birth of her first child.

Bueno Silva won three consecutive fights after joining the bantamweight division in 2022. However, her most recent fight against Holly Holm was ruled a no contest after Bueno Silva tested positive for ADHD medication in her pre-fight screening, negating what would have been a second-round submission by the Brazilian.

With Pennington coming off a lengthy absence at 35, it’s Bueno Silva who has been backed by 87 percent of the money as the -165 favorite. Pennington has been supported by 58 percent of the total bets.

The first UFC event in Toronto in five years includes a trio of other fights on the main card.

–The card opens with a featherweight fight between Arnold Allen (19-2, 10-1) and Movsar Evloev (17-0, 7-0), with both emerging fighters to looking to keep their momentum going forward toward title contention.

After winning his first 10 UFC fights, Allen dropped a decision against Max Holloway last April. Evloev has also had an excellent start to his UFC career, including a close win over replacement fighter Diego Lopes in his most recent fight.

Evloev is the heavy -190 favorite, but it’s Allen at +160 who has drawn 68 percent of the bets and 62 percent of the money.

–Mike Malott (10-1-1, 3-0) seeks to remain undefeated in welterweight fights against veteran Neil Magny (28-11, 21-10), who has the most welterweight victories in UFC history. Malott, 32, grew up north of Toronto and is coming off a win at UFC 289 in Vancouver.

Malott is easily the biggest favorite on the card. He opened at -275 and those odds have shortened even further to -350 with 89 percent of the money backing him to win. Magny has been backed by 63 percent of the bets as his odds have lengthened to +260 from +210.

–Marc-Andre Barriault (16-6, 5-5) and Chris Curtis (30-10, 4-2) will also step into the Octagon for a middleweight fight.

Barriault has won his past two fights, against Julian Marquez last March and Eryk Anders in June. Curtis lost to Kelvin Gastelum last April and had his fight at UFC 289 against Nassourdine Imavov stopped due to a cut resulting from the two knocking heads.

Curtis is another significant favorite, drawing 60 percent of the money at -180. Barriault has been backed by 66 percent of the total bets at +150.

Prelim Fights:
–Brad Katona vs. Garrett Armfield
–Charles Jourdain vs. Sean Woodson
–Serhiy Sidey vs. Ramon Taveras
–Gillian Robertson vs. Polyana Viana
–Yohan Lainesse vs. Sam Patterson
–Jasmine Jasudavicius vs. Priscila Cachoeira
–Malcolm Gordon vs. Jimmy Flick

–Field Level Media


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