UFC middleweight champion Dricus Du Plessis knows the identity of his next challenger, but when it comes to who’ll face the winner of his UFC 305 bout with Israel Adesanya, he says there’s only one fight to make.

Du Plessis takes on former champion Adesanya in the main event of UFC 305 in Perth, Australia on August 17 and, following his press conference and face-off with “The Last Stylebender” last week, “Stillknocks” chatted with Submission Radio to offer his take on how the title picture will play out at 185 pounds through the rest of the year.

The main contender, in Du Plessis’ eyes, is Australia’s former champion Robert Whittaker, who underlined his championship credentials with an impressive display to finish short-notice opponent Ikram Aliskerov in Saudi Arabia last month.

According to Du Plessis, it was a performance that not just showed that Whittaker is still among the middleweight elite, it also highlighted the jump between the ranked contenders and the very top contenders in the UFC’s middleweight division.

“That just goes to show what a what an amazing fighter he is,” he stated.

“I’m so happy for him. And so happy that the world can see. Everybody looks at this fight and goes, going, ‘Oh, Dricus beat Whittaker. Maybe Whittaker’s out of his prime. Whittaker is done. He’s washed.’

“Guys, the man is what? 32 years old. 31, turning 32. He’s in his prime, still. And I’m just happy that he proved all those naysayers wrong in saying, no, he’s a washed-up fighter.

“For myself, obviously, that’s great as well. And, all these other fighters – listen, yeah, you’re doing great, (but get) at the back of the line. Come play with the big boys in the top five and see what it’s like. Whittaker proved that.

“He proved that you can be a number 10-ranked fighter and to be a number three-ranked fighter is two very, very different things. The difference between the number one guy, the number one fighter, and number 10 is massive. I’ve been in both scenarios. It’s a big step up. And I’m just happy he got to prove that, and he proved that to the world, and to the rest of the division. Listen, win your fights, earn your respect, but stay in your lane.”

Talk then turned to who Whittaker should face in order to earn himself a shot at the title later this year, and, once again, the South African world champion was clear on who the other top contender in the division currently is – and it’s another former champion.

“I mean, just in terms of what the people want to see, they want to see me and Strickland do the rematch,” he said.

“They make the most noise, the Strickland fans, I guess. But either one of them. At the end of the day, I’m here to fight the best guys. I’m here to fight the biggest fights, the fights that most make the fans want to see.

“So now, in my opinion, how I see this playing out, you cannot not do the Whittaker-Strickland fight. I think that’s the fight that needs to happen.  Now I know Strickland when we were at the presser said Whittaker is nothing but a blitz and it’s an easy fight. And now he doesn’t want to take that fight.

“Let me tell you one thing – Robert Whittaker is no easy fight for anybody. Strickland (is) also an incredible fighter. That’s just a fight that makes so much sense. That’s a fight on its own. You can main event that fight on any card. And I honestly think that’s how it’s going to play out. I think the UFC is going to make Whittaker and Strickland, and ultimately that’s going to determine who’s the number one contender.

“With Khamzat out of the running for now – obviously I would have loved to have seen the fight with him and Whittaker – but with him being out of the running for now, I think Whittaker-Strickland for the number one contender fight’s the next one.”

Submission Radio

Du Plessis on who would win in a potential Robert Whittaker vs. Sean Strickland fight

A title eliminator between former champions Whittaker and Strickland would be a fresh matchup for UFC fans, with the pair never having crossed paths in the Octagon before. It would also pit two of the toughest middleweights in the division head to head in a bout with a title shot up for grabs.

It’s a matchup Du Plessis would love to see, both as the division’s reigning champion, and also just as a fan of the sport.

“It’s interesting, I think Sean has a style where it’s really hard to hit him. Defensively, he’s really, really good. He’s really hard to hit and to avoid damage. He’s not scared to make it a boring fight,” he said.

“And with Rob, you know, he has got a blitz, and it’s faster than you think. And he can put your lights out with one punch, which Strickland does not have. I think Rob has a more all-around game, but then Strickland has the size advantage.”

It’s a matchup that would likely split the pundits down the middle, with the two fighters offering contrasting fighting styles, but a crucial shared quality – the ability to get the win, regardless of the circumstances.

“It’s all going to be come down to who’s going to implement their gameplan (the best),” Du Plessis explained.

“If you’re going to let Strickland walk forward and get into that rhythm, there’s very few people on earth that’s going to be able to beat him. But if you’re fighting Rob’s style, standing still in front of him, waiting for him to blitz, there’s nobody in the world that’s going to beat him.

“So that would be a very interesting fight in the fact that I don’t 100 percent know who’s going to win that fight. That means it’s a great fight!”

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