Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strikers Sean Strickland and Nassourdine Imavov will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Jan. 14, 2023) at UFC Vegas 67 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I don’t know that anyone is overly excited about a second consecutive Strickland main event after his fairly ho-hum sparring match against Jared Cannonier just a few short weeks ago. Still, Strickland is a well-established top contender at Middleweight, and he deserves some credit for risking his spot against a talented up-and-comer on short-notice. Imavov does indeed look the part of an elite talent. The French striker is a great athlete with some pretty nasty hands, and his quick development has resulted in a fast rise up the rankings.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jack Hermansson (UFC Vegas 47), Uriah Hall (UFC Vegas 33), Brendan Allen (UFC Vegas 14), Krzysztof Jotko (UFC Vegas 25), Nordine Taleb (UFC Fight Night 138), Tom Breese (UFC 199)
Key Losses: Alex Pereira (UFC 276), Jared Cannonier (UFC Vegas 66), Kamaru Usman (UFC 210), Elizeu Zalaeski dos Santos (UFC 224)
Keys to Victory: Strickland’s style confounds fight fans and his opponents alike. He’s deceptively good at staying in his opponent’s face without getting cracked in the process, which allows him to pile on the jabs and slowly take over the fight.
Strickland faces a fellow jabber here, though. Imavov is faster with the strike and more likely to follow up with a punishing cross. Fortunately, Strickland has dealt with powerful jabbers like Jared Cannonier and Uriah Hall previously, and he knows what adjustments have to be made.
First and foremost, volume is key. If Strickland cannot match Imavov on pure speed, he has to be doubling and tripling up the jab, ideally mixing it to the torso too. When fighting faster opponents, it’s also important to initiate rather than rely too heavily on the counter. Strickland should be the man moving forward, which will help mitigate Imavov’s ability to spring forward into heavy one-two combinations.
Pushing a high pace would be a smart move for Strickland. Imavov slowed significantly against Buckley, and this will be his first 25-minute contest. The veteran should take advantage of his experience edge and try to force some fatigue.
Key Wins: Joaquin Buckley (UFC Paris), Edmen Shahbazyan (UFC 268), Ian Heinisch (UFC Vegas 32)
Key Losses: Phil Hawes (UFC Vegas 19)
Keys to Victory: Imavov is clearly a special Middleweight. His defensive wrestling has improved very quickly since his first UFC loss, and the 27-year-old strikes with the speed and fluidity of a top talent.
Imavov trains with Ciryl Gane. He moves like him. Unlike the former interim champion, however, Imavov does not use his feints and speed to land low kicks. Against Strickland, it would be smart to start targeting the lead leg.
Simply put, Strickland is not an easy man to hit cleanly in the face. Cannonier is one of Middleweight’s better knockout artists, and even he accepted that committing to body shots and low kicks was necessary to stay ahead on the scorecards. In this battle of jabbers, whoever can take away the other’s lead leg is at a huge advantage.
If Imavov can slow down Strickland, he leaves him far more exposed to those sharp combinations upstairs.
Even with Kelvin Gastelum replaced, the general stakes here remain similar.
Strickland is the veteran defending his position. Though his situation isn’t quite as dire as Gastelum, he has lost two in a row. He’s fighting to stop the slide, return to the win column, and prove that he still deserves to belong in the Middleweight title conversation. The little bit of goodwill for stepping up on short-notice? That’s the cherry on top.
As for Imavov, he’s being given a chance to really skyrocket up the rankings. Defeating Gastelum would’ve improved his position, sure, but Strickland is ranked at No. 7. It’s a more impressive accomplishment for Imavov to take out Strickland, especially if he can do it in more impressive fashion than “Killa Gorilla.”
At UFC Vegas 67, Sean Strickland and Nassourdine Imavov will go to war in the main event. Which fighter has his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 67 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 67: “Strickland vs. Imavov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.