A late-notice booking has resulted in two middleweight strikers moving up to light heavyweight this Saturday, as Nassourdine Imavov meets Sean Strickland to close the UFC’s first bill of 2023. Read on for our best UFC bets for Saturday’s Fight Night card.
A date between Imavov and Kelvin Gastelum just isn’t in the cards, as a battle of the two middleweights has fallen through for a second time, with Strickland stepping in to save the card on less than a week’s notice. In Saturday’s new light heavyweight main event, Imavov will vie for a fourth straight victory after outdueling Joaquin Buckley this past September. The 27-year-old has won all but one of his five UFC contests and boasts a solid pro record of 12-3.
As for the other half of Saturday’s light heavyweight headliner, Strickland gets back in the saddle less than a month after dropping a razor-close split decision to Jared Cannonier. The loss on points left Strickland on his first career slump, having fallen to reigning middleweight king Alex Pereira by KO last summer. The California product had won six straight before his current two-fight skid, and he now meets Imavov with a UFC record of 12-5.
Before those two strikers square off, Dan Ige will aim to snap a three-fight losing streak of his own against a surging Damon Jackson in the featherweight co-main event.
Check out our UFC best bets.
UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Imavov Schedule & Odds
(Odds via FanDuel)
Main card (7 p.m. ET)
- Nassourdine Imavov (-128) vs. Sean Strickland (+100)
- Dan Ige (-124) vs. Damon Jackson (+102)
- Punahele Soriano (-160) vs. Roman Kopylov (+130)
- Ketlen Vieira (-124) vs. Raquel Pennington (+102)
- Usman Nurmagomedov (-850) vs. Raoni Barcelos (+540)
Prelims (4 p.m. ET)
- Claudio Ribeiro (-118) vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan (-104)
- Mateusz Rebecki (-850) vs. Nick Fiore (+540)
- Javid Basharat (-340) vs. Mateus Mendonça (+260)
- Allan Nascimento (-355) vs. Carlos Hernandez (+270)
- Daniel Argueta (-550) vs. Nick Aguirre (+390)
- Charles Johnson (-355) vs. Jimmy Flick (+270)
UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Imavov Best Bets
- Moneyline: Soriano (-155 via PointsBet) vs. Kopylov
- Upset: Jackson (+105 via Caesars) vs. Ige
- Winning method: Pennington by decision (+160 via FanDuel) vs. Vieira
- Prop bet: Imavov-Strickland goes distance (+108 via FanDuel)
- Parlay: Soriano (-160) + Pennington (+102) + Imavov-Strickland goes distance (+108) = +583 (via FanDuel)
Top Picks for UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Imavov
Moneyline: Soriano ML vs. Kopylov (-155 via PointsBet) ⭐⭐⭐
Soriano’s physical measurables may not strike fear, but his mitts do, and he meets Kopylov with slight edges in significant strikes landed per minute (3.95 to 3.44), significant strikes absorbed per minute (3.42 to 3.81), and, perhaps most importantly, knockdown average (1.28 to 0.75).
A purebred puncher, Soriano is at his best when pressing forward and throwing from the pocket, and now that he’s tasked with a slow starter in Kopylov, look for him to lead the dance, put his opponent on the back foot, and unload hooks upstairs and down to make it two in a row.
If you’re feeling adventurous, a seventh career KO/TKO for Soriano at +180 (via FanDuel) might be worth your attention.
Upset: Jackson ML vs. Ige (+105 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐
Granted, Ige’s UFC tenure has featured stiffer competition than Jackson’s, but he hasn’t seen much action against dogged wrestlers and grapplers, save for a recent loss to Movsar Evloev in which he was manhandled.
Jackson is excellent on the mat, averaging 2.62 takedowns and 2.06 submissions per 15 minutes to Ige’s 1.23 and 0.35. As long as he can earn Ige’s respect on the feet, Jackson should rely on his chain wrestling, bring the action to the mat, and chew the clock while peppering Ige with ground-and-pound and threatening with submissions for a fifth straight win.
Winning Method: Pennington by decision vs. Vieira (+160 via FanDuel) ⭐⭐⭐
Long known as a durable grinder, Pennington has flaunted her much-improved striking of late, most notably in her recent win over Aspen Ladd. She now gets a similarly skilled foe in Vieira, a solid wrestler and willing, albeit clunky striker.
Luckily, Pennington boasts a comfortable edge over Vieira in every striking category, including significant strikes landed per minute (3.93 to 3.13), significant strike accuracy (51% to 41%), and defense (63% to 52%).
The UFC vet has earned three of her last four wins and nine of 14 on points, and though she can still grind with the best of them, I expect Pennington to pop Vieira with the jab early and often before letting her mitts fly in combination until the final horn sounds for another decision victory.
Prop bet: Imavov-Strickland goes distance (+108 via FanDuel) ⭐⭐⭐
Imavov has gone the distance in methodical Octagon showings opposite Jordan Williams and Buckley, while Strickland was last seen going five rounds with Cannonier and earned four of six straight wins by decision prior to his slump.
Stats aside, the styles of these two duellists aren’t conducive to the ol’ ultraviolence, as Imavov prefers to dart in and out of range, and Strickland often takes the center and works behind the jab, but sometimes fails to push his advantages.
I see this matchup yielding a tepid five rounds and leaving the judges with the difficult and thankless task of picking a victor.
Parlay: Soriano (-160) + Pennington (+102) + Imavov-Strickland goes distance (+108) = +583 (via FanDuel) ⭐⭐⭐
UFC best bets made 1/14/2023 at 12:34 a.m. ET.
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