Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to stage its final event of 2022 as UFC Vegas 66 goes down tonight (Sat. Dec 17, 2022) from inside the friendly confines of UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event is a Middleweight fight between Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland. In the co-main event, Arman Tsarukyan will face Damir Ismagulov in a Lightweight affair.
Both Cannonier and Strickland are coming off losses, so pairing them up at this stage in their careers made sense. Cannonier was last seen coming up short against former Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, at UFC 276 this past summer, while Strickland is coming off a knockout loss to current champion, Alex Pereira, on the same night. The two were set to collide at UFC Vegas 62 this past October, but a gnarly finger infection forced Strickland out of the fight. Ranked No. 3, Cannonier has a respectable 5-2 mark over his last seven fights and has a power advantage over Strickland, who saw his six-fight win streak go up in smoke thanks to Pereira’s heavy hands. Strickland always talks a good game, but it’s really not a bunch of venom spit at his opponents, he just likes to talk smoke about anything and everything he can think of to stir the pot. If he can score a win over Cannonier, he will be right back into the mix, though a loss could be catastrophic for his hopes of remaining in the Top 10. For "Killa Gorilla," icing Strickland keeps him lingering in the championship conversation.
I love the fight between rising Bantamweight contenders Said Nurmagomedov and Saidyokub Kakhramonov, but it’s buried on the “Prelims” undercard, which is a bit of a head-scratcher. Nurmagomedov is currently ranked No. 15 and is 5-1 inside the Octagon. Kakhramonov, on the other hand, is currently riding a four-fight win streak and is undefeated (2-0) so far in his young UFC career. I would have preferred if this fight has a spot on the main card.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Albert Duraev was forced out of his scheduled fight against Michał Oleksiejczuk for undisclosed reasons and replaced by Cody Brundage, who is currently on a two-fight win streak and is 2-1 overall inside the Octagon.
Bruno Silva was forced out of his fight against Albert Duraev with an undisclosed injury and replaced by the aforementioned Oleksiejczuk. Brandon Royval suffered a broken wrist and was bounced from his scheduled bout against Amir Albazi. Stepping in to take his place is UFC newcomer, Alessandro Costa. Also, Deron Winn fainted and fell down a flight stairs in a scary situation just a few days before the event and suffered a concussion. As a result, his fight against Julian Marquez was scrapped.
The aforementioned Costa will get the chance to make his UFC debut on the main card against a Top 10-ranked opponent in Albazi. That said, he will be doing it on short notice, but when opportunity knocks you take it. Costa is currently riding a seven-fight win streak and has a big opportunity to make a splash in his first fight inside the Octagon after failing to capture a contract after a successful win on Contender Series.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
In the Welterweight division, Jake Matthews will face Matthew Semelsberger. Matthews knocked out Andre Fialho in his previous fight this past summer, putting him at 4-1 in his last five fights. Semelsberger, on the other hand, was stopped by Alex Morono at UFC 277, ending his two-fight win streak.
Maheshate missed weight, coming in 2.5 pounds heavy for his Lightweight fight against Rafa Garcia, which will cost him a solid percentage of his fight purse (not exactly ideal in just his second fight with the promotion). That said, Maheshate is on quite a tear, winning seven in a row, including making a successful UFC debut earlier this year by knocking out Steve Garcia in the first round.
There were a lot of people who had high hopes for Manel Kape when he signed with UFC in Feb. 2021, but he started off his UFC career with two straight losses. The former RIZIN Bantamweight champion has turned it around by winning his last two fights, both via first round knockout. He will go for his first three-fight win streak in three years when he faces David Dorak in a Flyweight scrap. Dvorak isn’t used to losing, but he did suffer defeat in his last fight against Matheus Nicolau, his first loss in more than one decade.
In the opening night of the fight, Sergey Morozov battles Journey Newson in a 135-pound collision, while Bryan Battle attempts to pick up his eighth straight win — fourth inside the Octagon — when he collides with Rinat Fakhretdinov, who is riding an impressive 18-fight win streak. Sixteen of his 19 wins have come via stoppage, so the man is all-action once the fights gets going.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
The fight between Cannonier and Strickland isn’t exactly a “must-win” for either of them, but they don't want to lose their second in a row. A loss would be difficult for either one because it knocks them down a few pegs in the rankings, drifting them further away from their championship dreams. Not to mention the toll it takes on a fighter’s confidence when they lose two in a row.
Interest Level: 7/10
Tsarukyan saw his hopes of crashing the Top 5 after Mateusz Gamrot snapped his five-fight win streak this past summer. He will look to get back to his winning ways as he is set to face off against Damir Ismagulov, who is coming in with a 19-fight win streak. The former M-1 Lightweight champion is perfect (5-0) inside the Octagon, though he has yet to score a finish inside the Octagon. This is a highly-intriguing 155-pound collision, as Tsarukyan wants to be considered among the cream of the crop of the division, while Ismagulov is desperately trying to crack the Top 10. The winner takes a huge step forward here.
In the Featherweight division, Alex Caceres will take on Julian Erosa in a bout that could steal “Fight of the Night” honors. Both have found it pretty hard to crack the Top 15 in the stacked 145-pound weight class, but a win here would be huge. Caceres had his five-fight win streak snapped by Sodiq Yusuff. Erosa, meanwhile, has had a nice little career resurrection, winning three straight and is 5-1 in his second stint with UFC. He still has a lot of work to do before he can get close to the Top 15, but a win over “Bruce Leeroy” would increase his stock.
One of the more intriguing nights of the fight is a 155-pound showdown between Drew Dober and Bobby Green. You would think that Dober has put in enough work to crack the Top 15, but when you compete in a shark-filled division like Lightweight, it’s easier said than done. He is 8-3 over his last 11 fights and is currently on a two-fight win streak, knocking out Terrence McKinney and Rafael Alves in back-to-back fights (highlights here and here). As for Green, he has long been one of the most game fighters in the sport, but he has been unable to build consistency when it comes to winning. He is coming off a valiant effort against Islam Makhachev, who stopped him via strikes in the first round earlier in the year. Both of these men love to stand-and-bang, so we could be in store for an instant classic.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Vegas 66 Main Event On ESPN+:
185 lbs.: Jared Cannonier vs. Sean Strickland
UFC Vegas 66 Main Card On ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Damir Ismagulov vs. Arman Tsarukyan
125 lbs.: Amir Albazi vs. Alessandro Costa
145 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Julian Erosa
155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Bobby Green
185 lbs.: Michal Oleksiejczuk vs. Cody Brundage
UFC Vegas 66 Prelims Card On ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):
115 lbs.: Cory McKenna vs Cheyanne Vlismas
170 lbs.: Jake Matthews vs. Matt Semelsberger
185 lbs.: Julian Marquez vs. Deron Winn— CANCELED (details here)
135 lbs.: Saidyokub Kakhramonov vs. Said Nurmagomedov
155 lbs.: Rafa Garcia vs. Hayisaer Maheshate
170 lbs.: Rinat Fakhretdinov vs. Bryan Battle
125 lbs.: David Dvorak vs. Manel Kape
135 lbs.: Sergey Morozov vs. Journey Newson
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change.*
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.
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