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UFC Vegas 67 Main Event Breakdown

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It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks in the sport of MMA. On Dec. 31, UFC President Dana White was caught on video slapping his wife while ringing in the new year in Cabo San Lucas.

With no fights happening over the past several weeks, the focus of the MMA world has been on the now-viral incident. Wednesday, White revealed that he will not be reprimanded by the UFC’s parent company, Endeavor Group Holdings, for his actions, despite the California Legislative Women’s Caucus asking for his dismissal.

Saturday, the promotion opens up its 2023 schedule of events with UFC Vegas 67 from the UFC Apex. It’s the first event of the promotion’s 30th-anniversary slate. Undercard action begins at 4 pm ET/ 1 pm PT on ESPN+, with the main card immediately following at 7 pm ET/ 4 pm PT. Not everybody will be watching Wild Card Saturday in the NFL.

UFC Vegas 67 Main Event Shakeup During Fight Week

Originally, the UFC Vegas 67 main event on Saturday night was to have been a middleweight clash between No. 12 contender Nassourdine Imavov (12-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC) and No. 13 contender Kelvin Gastelum (17-8, 1 NC MMA, 11-8, 1 NC UFC). On Monday, however, plans changed.

Gastelum was forced to withdraw from the headliner due to a mouth injury. (Warning: This tweet includes a depiction of oral surgery. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Gastelum’s teeth needed to be stitched into his gums after the injury. Thus, No. 7 contender Sean Strickland (25-5 MMA, 12-5 UFC) will step in on five days’ notice to fight Imavov on Saturday night.

Your new UFC Vegas 67 main event will still be a maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to close the show, yet this fight takes place in the light heavyweight ranks.

UFC Vegas 67 Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Going into the UFC Vegas 67 main event on Saturday night, Nassourdine Imavov stands as the taller man at 6-foot-3, compared to the 6-foot-1 frame of Sean Strickland. The former owns a one-inch reach (76 inches to 75 inches) advantage over the latter, who owns a half-inch leg reach advantage (42 inches even to 41 1/2 inches.)

As it stands currently, the oddsmakers have this fight listed as a pick-’em. Both Strickland and Imavov have -110 odds headed into Saturday. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Sean Strickland Faces Quick Turnaround for Light Heavyweight Debut

Sean Strickland enters the UFC Vegas 67 main event having posted a record of 3-2 in his last five fights but is currently on a two-fight losing streak. Last time out, he suffered a split decision loss against Jared Cannonier (16-6 MMA, 9-6 UFC) during the UFC Vegas 66 main event on Dec. 17.

He just accepted this fight on Monday and had planned to go snowboarding when he received the call from Mick Maynard that Gastelum withdrew from the headliner, as he told reporters Wednesday.

“He calls me and he’s like, ‘Hey, do you want this fight?'”, Strickland began. “I’m like, ‘God damn it, Mick. I haven’t done anything for a month. I’ve been sitting on my ass.’ Then his suave Australian (expletive deleted) ass says, ‘We’ll pay you a decent amount of money,’ and I said, ‘Well, God damn it, I’m your (expletive deleted) huckleberry. Let’s go (censored) fight, man.'”

Strickland’s colorful vocabulary aside, he just fought four weeks ago and went five rounds with Cannonier the week before Christmas Eve. This is a guy who had no idea he’d be fighting at this time last week. How ready is he? Tune in and find out.

Imavov Looks to Ride Winning Streak to Four

In the other corner, Nassourdine Imavov has posted a record of 4-1 in his last five fights and is currently on a three-fight winning streak. Last time out, he scored a unanimous decision versus Joaquin Buckley (15-6 MMA, 5-4 UFC) during UFC Paris on Sept. 3.

During his Wednesday media availability, Imavov discussed his short-notice opponent’s proclivity to hand out tongue lashings.

“What can he do other than Gastelum?”, Imavov asked through his translator. “Big mouth. I think I just have to be careful of what he’s saying and the world that he’s using. The big mouth. That’s it. I heard that he’s starting to speak already with you guys, so I’m pumped. Let’s go.”

Imavov will be the fresher fighter of the two going into this fight. Can he adapt to the late change in opponent and win the UFC Vegas 67 main event?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC Vegas 67 main event looks to favor Sean Strickland, a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Nassourdine Imavov’s background as a boxer.

Strickland Can Punch His Way to a Win

Sean Strickland has been known to end a fight brutally throughout his MMA career. Back in 2016, he faced Alex Garcia in Pittsburgh and the latter found that out the hard way. During the third and final round of the featured prelim, Strickland opened things up with a leg kick, mixing up his attacks by throwing feints and landing a few jabs.

Garcia took Strickland down and established top control, yet the latter got back up and continued to throw feints, fighting off a takedown effort by his opponent. As the fight neared the end, Garcia was badly wobbled.

Smelling blood, Strickland teed off with a barrage of punches. A vicious right-handed shot put Garcia down and out.

If Strickland can land punches in bunches, the UFC Vegas 67 main event will be his.

Look For Nassourdine Imavov to Land Elbows

In the other corner, Nassourdine Imavov has only knocked out an opponent once since joining the UFC’s active roster. Back in November of 2021, he fought Edmen Shahbazyan during UFC 268 from Madison Square Garden. His elbow shots in the second round told the story.

Shahbazyan and Imavov exchanged right-handed shots to begin the round before Imavov tried to lock in a standing guillotine choke. A second submission attempt was thwarted by Shahbazyan a minute later. All told, Imavov had attempted four submissions by the midway point of round two.

Later on in the round, after Imavov fought off a Shahbazyan submission attempt, he scored with heavy elbow shots to open up a cut. From there, Imavov was able to grapple with Shahbazyan, getting to side control and eventually the crucifix.

At that point, he was able to land copious elbows to score the knockout. If Nassourdine Imavov can effectively grapple with Sean Strickland, it’ll be his world.

Final Thoughts

After the behind-the-scenes drama of the last two weeks, it’ll be refreshing to actually watch fights this weekend. The UFC Vegas 67 main event could be a most intriguing bout. Don’t miss it.

Prediction: Nassourdine Imavov by Unanimous Decision.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.