The final Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) card of 2022 is already upon fight fans, scheduled to go down tomorrow night (Sat., Dec. 17, 2022) inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. And UFC Vegas 66 is posed to be an entertaining card ... at least on paper. In the main event, a significant Middleweight fight finishes off the year when Jared Cannonier locks horns with Sean Strickland, while Arman Tsarukyan battles Damir Ismagulov in a meaningful Lightweight scrap one fight prior.
Before we wrap a ribbon around UFC Vegas 66, let’s first check out some random storylines, tidbits and statistics ...
Main Event Rescheduling
- Well, let's start with the main event. First, the pair of Middleweight contenders were supposed to fight two months ago at UFC Vegas 62 on Oct. 15, 2022; however, Strickland suffered a nasty finger infection and was pulled.
- Strickland and Cannonier are coming off massive losses, and they both tasted defeat on the same card (UFC 276). “Killa Gorilla” is coming off a UFC 185-pound title loss to Israel Adesanya that headlined UFC International Fight Week. Strickland is coming off a knockout loss to Alex Pereira (recap here) in a featured bout of that same card.
- Three fighters who competed at UFC Austin earlier this year in June are returning to action: Damir Ismagulov earned a split decision over Guram Kutateladze and now co-headlines UFC Vegas 66; Julian Marquez suffered his first knockout loss to Gregory Rodriguez (see it here) and will look to bounce back against Deron Winn, who was also knocked out at the same show by Phil Hawes (watch highlights).
Ranked Flyweights On ‘Prelims?’
- There is always one thing about UFC you can complain about: card placement. And UFC Vegas 66 has a head-scratcher. No. 9-ranked Flyweight, David Dvorak, takes on No. 12-seeded Manel Kape in the second fight of the night. Dvorak and Kape could easily be high up on the main card but nah ....
However, there is a Flyweight fracas featured on the main card — No. 8-ranked Amir Albazi will take on Alessandro Costa (more on him later).
Wins And losses
- Eighteen fighters are coming off wins, while 10 fighters are coming off losses.
Dober Gets His Wish
- After his win over Terrance McKinney in March and then his knockout victory at UFC 277 in July, Drew Dober called for a fight with fellow UFC veteran, Bobby Green. He originally wanted it at Madison Square Garden; however, Green was suspended. Dober ultimately got his wish, though. Indeed, Dober and Green will throw down in the “People’s Main Event.” Oh, and they are both making their 20th UFC appearance:
Drew Dober & Bobby Green will both make their 20th UFC appearance when they face each event this weekend.— Andy Hickey MMA (@AndyHickeyMMA) December 14, 2022
A very impressive feat in a sport were many athletes crash & burn very quickly. pic.twitter.com/gTQfwlfS6e
- Only one fighter is making his UFC debut this weekend, and that would be the aforementioned Costa. If that name sounds somewhat familiar it is because Costa (12-2) competed on the first episode of this year's season of Contender Series. He won via split decision, but did not get a UFC contract. Costa went back to the regional scene and is coming off a 12-second knockout at Lux Fight League 27 in October that got him into the promotion. Oh, and he is facing a Top 10-ranked opponent in his debut.
The Rise Of ‘Juicy J’
- The career turnaround of Julian Erosa is not being talked about enough. Erosa is currently in his third stint with UFC, which is insanely rare. He went 1-4 in his two previous stints, getting knocked out three times. During 2020, when UFC was looking for fighters to fill cards, Erosa got another shot and has made the absolute most of it. He is 5-1 with three finishes and “Fight of the Night” and is coming off a massive win over Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 279. Erosa faces Alex Caceres at UFC Vegas 66 and is one win away from possibly getting a Top 15 spot in the rankings. Incredible stuff.
Only One Brazilian, One Australian
- Some fight cards are filled with Brazilians and Australians; however, this weekend, there is only one of each: Alessandro Costa (Brazil) and Jake Matthews (Australia).
Xtreme Couture-Heavy Card
- Five fighters from Las Vegas, Nevada,-based gym, Xtreme Couture, are fighting this weekend: Sean Strickland, Amir Albazi, Manel Kape, Julian Erosa and Cheyanne Vlismas.
Short Notice Fights
- Two fighters are fighting this weekend on short notice. Cody Brundage fights Michał Oleksiejczuk, replacing Albert Duraev, and Bryan Battle takes on Rinat Fakhretdinov, replacing Michael Morales.
Oleksiejczuk Vs. Factory X
- This will be Oleksiejczuk’s second time fighting someone from Colorado’s Factory X. He faced Dustin Jacoby in March at UFC 272, and on Saturday, he will face Jacoby’s main training partner, Cody Brundage.
Lost to Islam
- Three UFC Vegas 66 fighters lost to current Lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev: Bobby Green (coming off a main event loss to Makhachev), Drew Dober (lost to him in 2021) and Arman Tsarukyan (lost to him in his UFC debut).
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 66 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 66: “Cannonier vs. Strickland” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.