Robert Whittaker and Dricus Du Plessis will face off in a critical middleweight clash at UFC 290.
The announcement was made by Dana White to cap off a slew of recently announced fights over the last few days. Other fights that have been announced by White are Gilbert Burns vs. Belal Muhammad at UFC 288 and the oft-delayed Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush scheduled for UFC 289.
Whittaker vs Du Plessis is one among many middleweight fights announced by the UFC President. Former title challengers Marvin Vettori and Jared Cannonier are penciled in for a fight, Sean Strickland faces another green prospect in Abus Magomedov, and Jack Hermansson faces off against the resurgent Brendan Allen on future UFC Fight Night cards.
This will be Whittaker’s first fight of 2023, whereas Du Plessis scored a second-round TKO of Derek Brunson at UFC 285. Du Plessis has been advocating for a title fight with Israel Adesanya, and Whittaker remains in the title hunt despite two failed attempts at Adesanya.
Whittaker vs. Du Plessis winner will face Adesanya
There had been speculation that Du Plessis was next in line to face Adesanya, with the two engaging in a heated feud on social media. Despite the seeming inevitability of that matchup, it’s surprising that the UFC has opted to put Du Plessis in a potentially challenging fight against Whittaker.
Whittaker is no worse than the #2 fighter in the division with Alex Pereira moving to light heavyweight. However, there may not be much interest in a third fight against Adesanya. At the same time, Whittaker is likely to be a huge favorite over Du Plessis.
Despite Du Plessis’ lackluster performance against Brunson, a victory over Whittaker would be a significant upset. However, it could also be the breakthrough moment that propels Du Plessis towards a title shot in the middleweight division.