Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one day away from the upcoming UFC Vegas 76 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which is set to go down tomorrow night (Sat., July 1, 2023) on ESPN and ESPN+ from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a middleweight main event between Top 10 title hopeful Sean “Tarzan” Strickland and former PFL star Abusupiyan “Abus” Magomedov, a five-round headliner with major title implications for late 2023 and beyond.
Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the lightweight scrap between Grant Dawson and Damir Ismagulov, check out Patrick Stumberg’s breakdowns for the UFC Vegas 76 preliminary card — which he wrote after counting all the cameos in the Spider-Verse — by clicking here and here. For the latest “Strickland vs. Magomedov” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.
For the rest of the UFC Vegas 76 main card predictions click here.
185 lbs.: Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov
Sean “Tarzan” Strickland
Record: 26-5 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -145
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 12 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.76 | Striking accuracy: 41%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.25 | Striking Defense: 63%
Takedown Average: 1.04 (64% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 85%
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Nassourdine Imavov
Abusupiyan “Abus” Magomedov
Record: 25-4-1 | Age: 32 | Betting line: +125
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’2”“ | Reach: 78” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 22.11 | Striking accuracy: 100%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 0.00 | Striking Defense: 100%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 0%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Dustin Stoltzfus
Sean Strickland is back for yet another APEX headliner, partly because he’s always hanging around the Top 5 of the division, but mostly because he’s got decent name value and never turns down a fight, so the promotion can continue to recycle him as it carries on with these mind-numbingly mediocre “Fight Night” cards on ESPN. Strickland has racked up eight fights at middleweight, seven of which have been contested at APEX in Las Vegas and this marks his fifth main event. His record since moving up from welterweight is 6-2 and seven of those eight fights have gone to a decision. The point I’m trying to make is that Strickland, who managed to secure just one performance bonus in 18 UFC contests, is a spectacularly unspectacular fighter and probably wouldn't be where he is today without diarrhea of the mouth. His adoring gym bros not named Orlando Sanchez regard “Tarzan” as a talented grappler but he hasn’t scored a submission victory in over nine years. Ask for his striking, he’s certainly good at jabbing the s—t out of flat-footed opponents like Jack Hermansson. Watching that snuff film between Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori has convinced me Strickland dodged a bullet when he battled “Killa Gorilla” last winter. On the plus side, Strickland has only been outwrestled twice in his UFC career. One of those times came in a loss against former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, so it’s hard to be critical of that performance. And even with my anti-Strickland rant, one thing I won’t deny is that he knows how to win.
Abusupiyan Magomedov was bouncing around the Interantional circuit for several years before docking his middleweight ship on the shores of PFL. Things certainly got off to a good start, racking up three wins and one draw in four fights for Ray Sefo and Co., but then “Abus” got KTFO by Louis Taylor in late 2018 and that was the end of his “Smart Cage” run. A pair of submission wins overseas were enough to score a contract with UFC in late 2022 and the Russian bruiser made the most of his opportunity, smashing and trashing Dustin Stoltzfus at UFC Paris. There was a lot of eye rolling when the promotion announced his fight against Strickland for UFC Vegas 76, which is understandable when you consider that “Tarzan” has fought nearly every top contender at 185 pounds and Magomedov isn’t even ranked. In the bigger picture, “Abus” has one less fight than Strickland at 30 but six more finishes across his career (20). I think the danger here is judging Magomedov on his upset loss at PFL, or as some dopey MMA fans like to call him on the message boards, a “PFL washout.” He’s got better offensive wrestling than Strickland, more power in his hands, and equally-reliable cardio. What he doesn’t have is the level of experience that “Tarzan” has against UFC-caliber competition.
That’s where the waters get murky. Strickland’s biggest UFC win to date is over ... Uriah Hall? Nassourdine Imavov? Hermansson? I’m not sure there are enough quality wins to make him the favorite heading into UFC Vegas 76 against what I believe is the superior athlete. In addition, Magomedov is frustrated from the repeated fight cancelations and has something to prove this weekend in “Sin City.” Look for “Abus” to walk through Strickland’s jabs, fend off a couple of panic-takedowns, and back “Tarzan” into the cage to unleash hell.
Prediction: Magomedov def. Strickland by technical knockout
155 lbs.: Grant Dawson vs. Damir Ismagulov
Grant “KGD” Dawson
Record: 19-1-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -110
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 13 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’10“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.12 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.41 | Striking Defense: 45%
Takedown Average: 3.80 (34% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 40%
Current Ranking: No. 15 | Last fight: Submission win over Mark O. Madsen
Record: 24-2 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -110
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 11 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’10“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.78 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.51 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 1.17 (28% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 75%
Current Ranking: No. 12 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Arman Tsarukyan
UFC fans got their first look at Grant Dawson when he debuted on Season 1 of Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in summer 2017, securing a victory — and a UFC contract — by submitting Adrian Diaz in the second stanza. Dawson would win seven of his next eight, which includes back-to-back submission wins over Jared Gordon and Mark O. Madsen. The latter was particularly impressive when you consider Madsen was a three-time Olympic wrestler who captured a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Games. Dawson scored two takedowns in that fight and Madsen scored zero. That’s really been the story of Dawson’s career inside the Octagon, racking up 27 takedowns throughout his UFC tenure. To be fair, he also made headlines for his on-again, off-again relationship with turinabol, the same steroid that gave Jon Jones the fits during pico-gate. I think the big question heading into this 155-pound affair is how well the former featherweight will perform in the second half of this fight. “KGD” has serviceable striking but most of his offense is designed to set up and execute the takedown, which may not come so easily against his Russian foe.
Much like his opponent, the rough-and-tumble Damir Ismagulov has been nearly perfect since parting ways with M-1 Challenge back in late 2018, using his wrestling to pretty much cruise through the lightweight competition. Then came his first loss inside the Octagon, when Ismagulov was outwrestled by 155-pound wunderkind Arman Tsarukyan. It should be noted that Ismagulov stuffed 14 of Tsarukyan’s 21 takedown attempts, something that will no doubt be of concern to Team Dawson. The difference in this fight is the power of Ismagulov, who scored 12 knockouts in 24 wins. That said, he’s yet to score a finish in six appearances under the UFC banner, which has me wondering if the step up in competition is to blame. This fight will be dictated by the Russian’s defensive wrestling. If he’s able to keep Dawson at bay, there’s a pretty good chance “KGD” will get boxed up and shut out. I just think it’s asking a lot to get a wrestler the caliber of Dawson to respect the distance for all three rounds. I don’t expect anything flashy in this co-headlining affair, but I do expect a very close fight that could be sealed with an exhausted Dawson landing a late takedown to steal the final frame.
Prediction: Dawson def. Ismagulov by decision
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the UFC Vegas 76 main card predictions RIGHT HERE.
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To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 76 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archives here and here. For the updated and finalized “Strickland vs. Magomedov” fight card and ESPN/ESPN+ line up click here.