Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back after an extended Holiday break to stage UFC Vegas 67 from inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the ESPN+-streamed event will be a Light Heavyweight fight between Nassourdine Imavov and Sean Strickland. In the co-main event, Dan Ige will face Damon Jackson in a Featherweight affair.
While it’s not the original main event that was planned, we are still in store for a good scrap. Sean Strickland agreed to fill the void left behind Kelvin Gastelum as a result of an injury, and now the trash-talking bruiser has the task of trying to stop Imavov, who is on a three-fight win streak and is 4-1 so far inside the Octagon. Imavov (ranked No. 12) is eying a spot in the Top 10, and he could very well get there if he proves victorious come fight night.
Strickland is simply trying to turn things around for himself after losing two straight to current division champion, Alex Pereira (before he was champion), and Jared Cannonier. Prior to that, the loud-mouthed combatant had won six straight, so his recent slump is unusual. That said, he needs a big win here because losing three straight doesn’t look good on anyone’s resume, even if you took a short notice fight. Imavov has proven to be the real deal and now gets to show off his stuff in his first-ever main event. And, to be honest, an impressive win over Strickland doesn’t hurt the resume. How much his stock will rise at 185 pounds remains to be seen, but a win is a win.
What in the world happened to Sijara Eubanks? At one point in her career she was considered a legit title contender, but she has been all over the place since starting off her UFC career with two straight wins. Since then she has only gone 3-5 and hasn’t come close to getting to contention. She is 1-3 in her last four fights. She was supposed to face Priscilla Cachoeira before the fight was scrapped due to her weigh-cutting issues. This is the second time she has missed weight for a UFC fight, so it doesn’t exactly do her any favors.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
The original headlining act was set to feature a fight between Gastelum and Imavov, but the promotion was forced to call on Strickland to fill in last-minute after Gastelum suffered a nasty mouth injury. Also, Jeff Molina was forced out of his fight against Jimmy Flick and was subsequently suspended after he was linked to the on-going gambling probe focused on his coach, James Krause. As a result, Charles Johnson stepped in to fill the void. Also, Omar Morales withdrew from his fight against Mateusz Rebecki due to undisclosed reasons. Nick Fiore agreed to step in to fill the void.
An intriguing Welterweight fight between Shavkat Rakhmonov and Geoff Neal was cancelled after Neal suffered an unfortunate injury. The bout will now take place at UFC 285. Also, Jarno Errens suffered a shoulder injury and was forced out of his fight against David Onama.
Following a 25-second knockout win on the Contender Series, Claudio Ribiero punched his ticket to the big show. But he was already looking worthy prior to that win because he was on a five-fight win streak, all via knockout with four of them coming in the first round. He will be welcomed to the UFC cage officially by Abdul Razak Alhassan, who is coming off a loss to Joaquin Buckley and is a horrid 1-4 in his last five UFC fights.
Mateusz Rebecki will put his 13-fight win streak on the line when he makes his UFC debut against fellow newcomer, Nick Fiore. Like Ribieiro, Rebecki also scored a first-round finish on the Contender Series. Rebecki packs power in his punches, scoring nine knockout wins over his pro career. As for Fiore, he comes in just as impressive at 6-0 with all of his wins coming by first-round finish, four via submission and two via knockout. This one should be fun.
Mateus Mendonca will also put his undefeated (10-0) record on the line when he battles Javid Basharat in a Bantamweight affair, and a battle of undefeated contenders as “Snow Leopard” is 13-0 with 11 finishes on his record. It seems a bit odd to have two undefeated prospects matched up against each other so soon into their respective UFC careers, but we can’t complain for getting a great fight.
Nick Aguirre is also coming into his UFC debut having yet to taste defeat. At 7-0, the talented Featherweight has yet to see the judges scorecards in his career, and he intends to keep that streak alive when he battles Dan Argueta, who suffered the first loss of his MMA career in his own UFC debut against Damon Jackson.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
All of the fights mentioned in the previous section will be taking place on the undercard, so let’s take a look at the remaining two fights rounding out the “Prelims,” shall we?
In the Flyweight division, Charles Johnson will take on Jimmy Flick. Johnson split his first two fights inside the Octagon, but he is 5-1 in his last six fights overall. “InnerG” has a well-rounded attack that reflects on his record, racking up five knockout wins, three via submission and four via decision.
As for Flick, he is ending his two-year retirement and was last seen defeating Cody Durden in Dec. 2020. After Jeff Molina was suspended by the NSAC, Flick was forced to turn his attention toward Johnson, and now he is looking to extend his win streak to five straight.
Staying at 125 pounds, Allen Nascimento takes on Carlos Hernandez in an interesting pairing. Hernandez is currently on an eight-fight win streak and hasn’t tasted defeat in over five years in what was his pro MMA debut. Nascimento, meanwhile, has alternated wins and losses over the last six years and is coming off a victory over Jake Hadley.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
There was a time when Dan Ige was considered a legit title contender at 145 pounds, but after his recent woes, that is no longer the case. After starting his UFC run with a 7-1 record, Ige has now lost his last three fights. He now goes into his fight against Damon Jackson with immense pressure because “Action” has won four fights in a row and has been on fire. With the chance to pick up a win over Ige in front of him, he will come out guns blazing ready to hand his foe his fourth straight loss. What will become of Ige’s UFC career should he suffer another setback is unclear, but I’m sure he will do all he can to make sure he doesn’t have to find out.
But let’s not forget about the other half of the equation of the co-main event because Damon Jackson has gone on a nice, quiet run by winning four straight and improving his UFC record to 5-1 his second time around. The former interim LFA Featherweight champion is slowly climbing the ranks and a win over Ige would raise his stock tremendously.
Interest Level: 6.5/10
The rest of the main card features a trio of great matchups, including an intriguing Bantamweight bout between Umar Nurmagomedov and Raoni Barcelos. Undefeated at 15-0, 3-0 inside the Octagon, Nurmagomedov is quickly climbing the ranks and is already locked in as the No. 11 ranked fighter in the division. With Team Khabib on his side, Nurmagomedov has all the makings of a future champion, but he has a stiff test ahead of him in Barcelos, who is 6-2 inside the UFC cage.
In the women’s 135-pound division, former title contender Raquel Pennington returns after a nine-month layoff and puts her four-fight win streak on the line against Ketlen Vieira, who is coming off back-to-back wins over former champions Holly Holm and Miesha Tate. Ranked No. 2, Vieira could very well get the next shot at the strap with a win over “Rocky.”
In further action, Punahele Soriano attempts to pick up his second straight win when he battles Roman Kopylov. Soriano is coming off a huge knockout win over Dalcha Lungiambula, which ended his two-fight losing streak. Kopylov, meanwhile, is also looking to build off the momentum after his knockout win over Alessio Di Chirico.
In all seriousness, this card started off way better than it is now (which isn’t all that bad), but injuries did take it a few pegs down when it comes to the wow factor. But it is still a solid overall card to kick off UFC’s 2023 campaign.
UFC Vegas 67 Main Event On ESPN+:
205 lbs.: Nassourdine Imavov vs. Sean Strickland (Kelvin Gastelum injured)
UFC Vegas 67 Main Card On ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Dan Ige vs. Damon Jackson
185 lbs.: Punahele Soriano vs. Roman Kopylov
135 lbs.: Raquel Pennington vs. Ketlen Vieira
135 lbs.: Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Raoni Barcelos
UFC Vegas 67 ‘Prelims’ Card On ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Claudio Ribeiro
155 lbs.: Mateusz Rebecki vs. Nick Fiore
135 lbs.: Javid Basharat vs. Mateus Mendonca
125 lbs.: Carlos Hernandez vs. Allan Nascimento
145 lbs.: Daniel Argueta vs. Nick Aguirre
125 lbs.: Charles Johnson vs. Jimmy Flick
135 lbs.: Priscila Cachoeira vs. Sijara EubanksCANCELED
*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 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.
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