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By Clinton Jones

Sports Editor

Dricus du Plessis predicts ‘exciting’ finish as he returns to UFC action

This weekend's bout will be the South African's first against a UFC ranked opponent.

South African mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Dricus du Plessis finally returns to action after nearly a year as he bids to get his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career back on track.

After injury and a string of cancelled fights, Du Plessis will take on 12th-ranked American middleweight Brad Tavares in a stacked UFC 276 card in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya’s (22-1) title clash with Jared Cannonier (15-5) headlines at the T-Mobile Arena in Nevada.

Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski (24-1) defends his featherweight title against No 1 challenger Max Holloway (23-6) for the third time as the co-main event, which promises to be another bout expected to light up proceedings.

But for local MMA fans all eyes will be on Du Plessis as he continues his quest to become the best middleweight on the planet.

New generation

The man affectionately known as ‘Stillknocks’ just sees Tavares as another stepping stone on his journey to that goal.

“I do feel he has never quite progressed. If you look at his age, if you look at from day one to now, nothing has changed,” Du Plessis said of his opponent.

“He is a really great fighter and hard guy. He was a great gatekeeper, but there is a new generation coming through.”

The bout against Tavares will be the South African’s first against a ranked opponent in UFC, after his fight against Kelvin Gastelum in April at UFC 273 was cancelled when Gastelum withdrew due to an undisclosed injury.

Tavares fought Adesanya a few years back and lost on points, and Du Plessis is looking for the same result but with a more spectacular finish.

“I am not going to go out there and be reckless. The way I fight has always been exciting,” Du Plessis said.

“I want to do in under three rounds what the champion couldn’t do in five.”

When asked about the main event, Du Plessis predicted the champion would have the upperhand.

“Both fighter are incredible in their own way,” he said.

“It’s an incredible match-up but I think Issy (Adesanya) will be too slick, too quick and too calculated for him.”

The UFC 276 tournament will be broadcast live on SuperSport from 12.15am on Sunday morning.

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