UFC champ Sean Strickland to defend title vs. Dricus Du Plessis

UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland will defend his title against Dricus Du Plessis in January, UFC CEO Dana White announced Monday.

Strickland (28-5) will be seeking his first title defense, after upsetting Israel Adesanya for the belt in September. The 185-pound title fight will headline UFC 297 in Toronto. According to sources, the event will take place on Jan. 20.

UFC likely would have gone with an immediate rematch between Strickland and Adesanya (24-3), but Adesanya has elected to take an indefinite break from professional competition. Du Plessis, of South Africa, had been set to face Adesanya before Strickland earlier this year but was forced to take time off because of injury.

Strickland, 32, is on a three-fight win streak. He appeared far from title contention as recently as last year, when he suffered back-to-back losses against Alex Pereira and Jared Cannonier. His ascension to the middleweight crown in a nine-month span has been one of this year's top breakthrough performances.

Du Plessis (20-2) earned the title shot by knocking out former champion Robert Whittaker in July. He is 5-0 in UFC, with other finishes over the likes of Derek Brunson and Darren Till.