Sean Strickland was a headliner on the last fight card of 2022 and he’ll be a headliner on the first card of 2023 this Saturday at UFC Vegas 67. The seventh-ranked light heavyweight, Strickland is stepping in on just five days’ notice after Kevin Gastelum withdrew from the card on Monday afternoon. According to ESPN, Gastelum has an injury to his mouth, preventing him from being able to fight. Opposite Strickland will be No.12 Nassourdine Imavov, though the fight will take place at the light heavyweight limit of 205 pounds as opposed to the middleweight cap of 185 pounds.
As of Tuesday morning, no other changes have been announced to the card. Getting a boost from Strickland, the main card is extremely strong, with No.13 Dan Ige and Damon Jackson battling at featherweight in the co-main event. Opening the main card is No.12 bantamweight Umar Nurmagomedov who is a considerable favorite against Raoni Barcelos.
A top-five bout at women’s bantamweight is also part of the featured card with No.2 Ketlen Vieira taking on No.5 Raquel Pennington. Vieira last fought in May when she took down Holly Holm seven months after defeating Miesha Tate. A victory will surely put her in line for a title shot in 2023 if she fights again before the end of the year. Vieira is only a slight favorite over Pennington, however, as the latter is on a four-fight winning streak and coming off a win in April over Aspen Ladd.
After a disappointing finish to his year in which he took issue with the judges after they leaned toward Jared Cannonier when scoring the bout a split decision, Strickland (25-5-0) is frustrated. It is no wonder why he jumped at the opportunity to get back in the octagon. It was only last July that he fought Alex Pereira in a title eliminator, and now he has lost consecutive fights for the first time in his UFC career. Taking on Imavov (12-3-0), he’ll face a younger fighter who may be nearly as hungry as he is.
Another Dagestani talent in the UFC, Imavov is riding a three-fight winning streak, the foundation of his 4-1 record in the promotion. At UFC Paris, he scored a unanimous decision victory over Joaquin Buckley after TKO finishes his previous times out. Like his opponent, Imavov is a headhunter, bound to keep this fight an upright contest. Drawing Strickland instead of Gastelum, this now becomes a brawler’s match with a potentially great pay-off for Imavov. If he can collect the win, he’ll surely secure a top-10 spot, something that wasn’t on the table against his other opponent.
UFC Vegas 67 Fight Card and Odds
*Odds are from the beginning of the week and subject to change.
#7 Sean Strickland (-200) vs #12 Nassourdine Imavov (+170) – Light Heavyweight
#13 Dan Ige (-125) vs Damon Jackson (+105) – Featherweight
Punahele Soriano (-155) vs Roman Kopylov (+135) – Middleweight