Most athletes who take a fight on six days notice would suffer from serious conditioning issues throughout the course of the bout. However, Sean Strickland is a rare breed. Competing in the Light Heavyweight division for the first time in his career, Strickland did not only compete at a high level, he delivered one of the most complete performances on the main card of UFC Vegas 67. There’s a lot to unpack here; without further ado, let’s get into it!Embed from Getty Images
Strickland vs. Imavov
Nassourdine Imaavov entered his fight against Sean Strickland as the slight favorite according to the odds makers in Las Vegas. That was partly due to the fact that Imavov had a full training camp to prepare while Strickland was a last minute substitution. Nevertheless, Strickland was the aggressor in round one. He applied forward pressure and forced Imavov to fight off of his heels the entire round. It was an impressive display of tenacity from a fighter who headlined a main card less than a month ago.Embed from Getty Images
Both fighters were relatively cautious in round two, but Strickland was more active. The most significant moment came when Strickland executed a nice level change takedown midway through the period. However, Imavov was not hurt and bounced back to his feet quickly. In round three, Strickland took his foot off the gas and appeared to be gaining a second wind. Although there was less footwork on display, both fighter managed to land some well-timed jabs. In round four, Strickland continued his striking acumen, eventually opening up a cut under Imavov’s right eye.
Going into round five, it was obvious that Strickland was winning the fight. However, Imavov refused to quit. He threw more punches than he had in any other round and found success landing to the body. Strickland responded with a few strikes of his own; it was the most entertaining round of the fight. Ultimately, Strickland was awarded a unanimous decision victory by the judges. The decision was an easy one but Imavov should not be discouraged. This was the first five round fight of his career and his first time competing in the main event. He will undoubtedly receive more opportunities in the future.
Ige vs. Jackson
Featherweight veteran Dan Ige desperately wanted to get back into the win column tonight. Midway through round one, it appeared that he inadvertently poked Damon Jackson in the eye. The fight was paused but the replay revealed that Ige did not poke Jackson in the eye; his open hand had scraped across Jackson’s face and the palm of his glove went across Jackson’s open eye. Nevertheless, the ordeal seamed to agitate Ige who fought more fervidly for the remainder of the round.
Midway through round two, Jackson threw a lunging left jab that missed badly. Ige wisely sidestepped the ill-timed strike and landed a left hook of his own. The maneuver was timed perfectly and Jackson was knocked out on impact. It was a dramatic second round knockout victory for Dan Ige!
Soriano vs. Kopylov
Middleweight challenger Punahele Soriano attempted a takedown in the first fifteen seconds of his bout against Roman Kopylov. Kopylov was able to avoid the maneuver and began landing punches off of his back leg while Soriano applied forward pressure. With 45 seconds left in the round, Kopylov executed a successful takedown of his own, solidifying the fact that the round belonged to him.
Soriano employed the same strategy in round two; however, a great combination by Kopylov left Soriano visibly hurt. Kopylov took a second to gather his breath and then walked to the center of the octagon. Soriano pursued him but was again met with a barrage of punches. This time the combination rendered Soriano defenseless and the referee was left with no choice but to step in and stop the fight. Roman Kopylov is one to watch in the Middleweight division!
Vieira vs. Pennington
Bantamweight veterans Ketlen Vieira and Raquel Pennington engaged in a close fight that could have gone either way. In round one, Vieria used her height advantage to keep Pennington on the outside with the jab. However, Pennington was the more active fighter in rounds two and three and enjoyed more body control time. Although her takedown attempts were unsuccessful, her ability to make Vieira uncomfortable while grappling along the side of the cage swung the momentum in her favor. For her efforts, Pennington was awarded a split decision victory.
Nurmagomedov vs. Barcelos
Rising Bantamweight star Umar Nurmagomedov made quick work of Raoni Barcelos tonight. Early in the round, there was an accidental clash of heads, after which Nurmagomedov could be heard screaming “don’t head butt me,” in the direction of his opponent! When the two fighters met in a close exchange shortly thereafter, Nurmagomedov gave Barcelos a left knee to the midsection followed by a left hook to the jaw. The punch knocked Barcelos out on impact. Nurmagomedov is a future contender in the Bantamweight division!
Although Sean Strickland’s aspirations of becoming the UFC Middleweight Champion were derailed by suffering two consecutive losses at the end of 2022, his comeback fight tonight speaks volumes about who he is as a fighter. Tonight’s performance makes him the first fighter in UFC history to participate in two consecutive main events. Even if he never wins a title, that is a distinction he will likely hold for the foreseeable future.
The world’s most renowned mixed martial arts organization returns next week with UFC 283 from Brazil. Glover Teixeira, a native Brazilian, will meet Jamahal Hill for the Light Heavyweight title. The co-main event of the evening features the fourth showdown between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno for the Flyweight Championship belt. You won’t want to miss it! As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis available right here at World in Sport!
Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.