UFC Fight Night Report: Sean Strickland defeats Nassourdine Imavov on short notice

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UFC Fight Night Report: Sean Strickland defeats Nassourdine Imavov on short notice

On Saturday evening, the UFC returned with their first Fight Night event of 2023 from the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card was originally scheduled to be headlined by a middleweight bout between Nassourdine Imavov and Kelvin Gastelum, but Gastelum was forced to withdraw from the bout due to an injury earlier in the week. In his place, Sean Strickland stepped in to face Imavov despite headlining the last UFC card just a month ago, and the bout was moved to light heavyweight as a result of Strickland taking the fight on such short notice. Strickland was coming into this fight off of a pair of losses, but the short-notice weight change resulted in Strickland holding a ten-pound weight advantage over Imavov here, which is certainly a rarity for non-heavyweight bouts. This marked Imavov’s first main event in the UFC, and he came into this fight riding a three-fight win streak, a streak that includes stoppage wins against Ian Heinisch and Edmen Shahbazyan. The co-main event featured a bout in the featherweight division, as Dan Ige looked to put an end to his recent string of losses against Damon Jackson, a fighter with an impressive record of 5-1 since making his UFC debut in 2020.

Brendan Fitzgerald provided commentary for this card alongside Dominick Cruz and Paul Felder. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Dan Ige, Roman Kopylov, Umar Nurmagomedov, and Allan Nascimento.



  • Charles Johnson def. Jimmy Flick by TKO at 4:33 of Round 1
  • Dan Argueta def. Nick Aguirre by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
  • Allan Nascimento def. Carlos Hernandez by rear naked choke at 3:16 of Round 1
  • Mateusz Rebecki def. Nick Fiore by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Claudio Ribeiro by KO at 0:28 of Round 2
  • Javid Basharat def. Mateus Mendonca by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)


  • Umar Nurmagomedov def. Raoni Barcelos by KO at 4:40 of Round 1
  • Raquel Pennington def. Ketlen Vieira by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
  • Roman Kopylov def. Punahele Soriano by TKO at 3:19 of Round 2
  • Dan Ige def. Damon Jackson by KO at 4:13 of Round 2
  • Sean Strickland def. Nassourdine Imavov by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)


The fighters exchanged leg kicks to begin the first UFC bout of 2023. Flick changed levels and shot for a takedown, but the positioning was quickly reversed and Johnson took top position. Flick escaped to his feet, as Johnson began to work the body with teep kicks. Johnson connected with a number of heavy hooks to the body as well as the head, and his pace seemed to be overwhelming Flick. Flick secured a much-needed takedown, but once again Johnson was able to take top position with just over a minute to work. Johnson postured up and threw down ground and pound strikes until the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Charles Johnson by TKO at 4:33 of Round 1

I thought the stoppage was a bit early here, but the fight was rather one-sided while it lasted, with Johnson just putting a beating on Flick throughout the fight’s four-and-a-half-minute duration. Johnson did excellent work on the feet, attacking the head and body in combination, which eventually forced Flick to shoot for takedowns. While Flick was able to get Johnson to the ground twice, Johnson was able to work his way into top position both times, and eventually finished the fight with his ground-and-pound strikes. Johnson is now 2-1 in the UFC following this win, and this marked his first stoppage victory in the promotion.


Argueta quickly closed the distance, and more or less threw Aguirre to the ground. Aguirre worked his way off of his back, but Argueta transitioned into what appeared to be a reverse triangle positioning. Argueta was a bit too high, and Aguirre slipped out from under him before taking the back of Argueta. Argueta worked his way back on top, and looked for damaging elbows from side control, before taking the back of Aguirre himself. He was not able to secure the finish, but I thought Argueta did enough to take this round. 10-9 Argueta.

Much like the first round, Argueta pushed forward with heavy strikes to close the distance before attempting a takedown, but this time Aguirre was able to defend the attempt and keep the fight on the feet. The fighters traded strikes, with both men landing solid blows, however, Argueta continued to push the pace, and eventually found the takedown that he was looking for. Argueta took the back of Aguirre before mounting Aguirre, where he threw down heavy ground and pound strikes. Aguirre was able to defend himself from Argueta’s attempts to finish the fight, but this was another clear round for Argueta. 20-18 Argueta.

Aguirre’s corner informed him that he was in need of a finish going into this final round. Aguirre was landing decent countershots as Argueta rushed in, but once again, Argueta’s pace eventually overwhelmed Aguirre, and Argueta secured another takedown. Argueta threw down enough solid ground and pound strikes to ensure that the scorecards would be in his favor, and was able to retain top position until the final horn sounded in the fight. 30-27 Argueta.

WINNER: Dan Argueta by unanimous decision (30-27 all)

Argueta was a step ahead of Aguirre throughout the entirety of this fight, overwhelming Aguirre with his pressure on the feet before taking the fight to the ground, where Argueta largely dominated. It was a strong performance from Argueta, who made his UFC debut last year in a losing effort to Damon Jackson. This marked Aguirre’s first fight in the UFC, and unfortunately, we did not get to see much of what he had to offer in this bout, but ultimately that comes down to Argueta and his dominant performance here.


Hernandez cracked Nascimento with a right hand in their opening exchange. Nascimento responded with a front kick, and he flurried forward with a combination of strikes before securing a takedown, taking the back of Hernandez in the process. Hernandez attempted to return to his feet, but Nascimento was able to lock in the rear naked choke in the process, forcing Hernandez to submit.

WINNER: Allan Nascimento by rear naked choke at 3:16 of Round 1

Nascimento is a very skilled grappler, and he showcased that ability in this fight. He took Hernandez’s back almost effortlessly, and from there, he locked in the rear naked choke, securing the first-round submission in just over three minutes, marking his first stoppage victory in the UFC. In his last bout, Nascimento was able to use his grappling to largely control (the then undefeated) Jake Hadley on the ground, but here he was a bit more aggressive in pursuing a finish, and it quickly paid off. Nascimento is now 2-1 in the UFC, with that one loss coming by way of split decision against Tagir Ulanbekov.


Rebecki opened up with a pair of kicks to the body. Fiore landed a solid right hand, but Rebecki returned fire and Fiore went on the retreat. Rebecki was throwing every shot with fight-ending intent, but was getting tagged quite often from Fiore’s counters as well. A shot from Fiore cut Rebecki open beneath his left eye. One of Fiore’s heavy body shots practically turned Fiore around as he attempted to escape Rebecki’s attack, but Rebecki continued to pressure forward. Rebecki secured a takedown with roughly ninety seconds remaining in the round, and he maintained top position until time expired in the round. 10-9 Rebecki.

Rebecki continued to dig into the body in the second round. Fiore shot for a takedown of his own, and he was successful in taking Rebecki down to the ground momentarily. Rebecki escaped and took Fiore down, where he began to work from the guard of his opponent. Rebecki was able to hold Fiore here for the remainder of the round, and he landed enough damaging ground and pound strikes in the process to likely secure this round on the scorecards. 20-18 Rebecki.

Fiore attempted to take Rebecki back to the ground early in the final round, but his takedown attempt was defended by Rebecki. Instead, it was Rebecki who was once again successful in taking his opponent to the ground. Fiore was unable to escape from under Rebecki, and much like the previous two rounds, Rebecki was able to maintain his position until the end of this bout. 30-27 Rebecki.

WINNER: Mateusz Rebecki by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

Rebecki was a massive favorite going into this fight, and he started the bout at an insane pace, looking to get Fiore out of there quickly. Fiore was able to weather the storm, and Rebecki seemed exhausted by the start of round two, but he switched strategies, and was able to utilize his wrestling to take the next two rounds despite his fatigued state. There were certainly some flaws in Rebecki’s game here, and he didn’t look the part of a -750 favorite, but he still got the job done in the end. This marked the UFC debuts for both of these fighters.


Ribeiro landed a number of heavy leg kicks to begin the fight before the fighters traded hands. Alhassan opted to shoot for a takedown, but Ribeiro defended the attempt and was able to create separation. Ribeiro connected with a solid right hand before Alhassan shot for another takedown. Once again, the attempt was defended, and the fighters wrestled against the cage for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Ribeiro on my scorecard, despite a late flurry from Alhassan. 

Ribeiro came out swinging wildly in the second round, and Alhassan made him pay, countering strongly with an overhand right that rocked Ribeiro. Alhassan realized that Ribeiro was hurt, and he just swarmed him with powerful strikes against the cage until Ribeiro eventually crumbled down to the ground.

WINNER: Abdul Razak Alhassan by KO at 0:28 of Round 2

Alhassan often fights quite wildly, but that was not the case here. While Ribeiro was clearly content to brawl, Alhassan looked to wrestle in the first round. Ribeiro did a good job of keeping the fight on the feet, but Alhassan slowed the pace of the bout, and perhaps as a result, Ribeiro started the second round very aggressively, allowing Alhassan to counter and secure the knockout finish. Alhassan is now 6-5 in the UFC, and all twelve of his professional wins have come by way of knockout.


Mendonca pressured forward to begin the fight, trapping Basharat against the cage, where he attempted to take Basharat down. Basharat defended the attempt, as the fighters’ traded strikes on the feet. Mendonca was throwing out some wild strikes, and Basharat was doing his best to avoid these shots, before responding with his own offence. Basharat landed a spinning kick to the body, before connecting with a left hand that knocked Mendonca’s head back. A right hand from Mendonca knocked Baharat off balance, but Baharat was able to compose himself and secure a late takedown. This was a very close round. 10-9 Baharat.

Mendonca changed levels and took Basharat down early in round two. Basharat quickly escaped to his feet, where he landed a pair of right hands before stuffing another takedown attempt. Basharat went for a takedown of his own, and he was able to take Mendonca down and secure top position with over half of the round to work. Basharat landed strong ground and pound from this position, drawing blood from Mendonca’s nose. Mendonca opted to roll for a heel hook, but could not finish the submission before time expired in the round. 20-18 Baharat.

Mendonca continued to apply forward pressure in the final round, with Basharat circling the cage while attempting to keep Mendonca at range with his jab. Mendonca eventually decided to chase after another takedown but was unsuccessful, and Basharat took top position on the ground with just over two minutes to work. This time, Mendonca was able to escape, but he decided to attempt a guillotine choke, and this led to Basharat escaping and regaining his previous position on the ground, a position that he retained until the end of the fight. 30-27 Basharat.

WINNER: Javid Basharat by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

This was a very competitive bout throughout the entirety of its fifteen-minute duration. Mendonca’s pressure and unpredictable attacks were making it difficult for Basharat to fight comfortably, but he was able to counter well regardless, and I thought he stayed just the slightest step ahead of Mendonca throughout the bout. Basharat now holds a record of 3-0 in the UFC, and he made it clear that he’s looking for a ranked opponent in his next bout, calling out Chris Gutierrez in his post-fight interview.


The first round played out at a fairly slow pace, with neither fighter really committing to their attacks. Nurmagomedov held the slight edge in terms of activity and landed the occasional strong hook whenever Barcelos closed the distance. Towards the end of the round, Nurmagomedov surged forward and landed a lighting fast left hand after throwing a knee to the body, and the left hook knocked Barcelos out cold. 

WINNER: Umar Nurmagomedov by KO at 4:40 of Round 1

Barcelos had never been knocked out in his career going into this fight, but that streak was shattered in quite brutal fashion here. Nurmagomedov is not someone known for his knockout power, but he really caught Barcelos with the perfect shot here and picked up his second career KO/TKO finish as a result. Nurmagomedov expressed his frustration with the lack of ranked bantamweights willing to face him after the bout, but he is quickly making his way up the bantamweight ladder, and after a win like this against a fighter like Barcelos, I imagine he will be a difficult obstacle to avoid for fighters looking to make it to the top of the division.  Nurmagomedov is now 4-0 in the UFC following this win.


Vieira was giving Pennington issues on the feet early, utilizing her footwork to keep Pennington at range. Vieira’s shots were packing power, and she was able to open up a cut on Pennington about halfway through the round. As the round progressed, Pennington was taking more chances, closing the distance with combinations of hooks. Vieira’s counters were dangerous, but Pennington responded strongly with counter hooks of her own at the end of these exchanges. Pennington pressured forward and wrapped Vieira up against the cage to end the round. 10-9 Vieira.

Pennington brought the fight back to the clinch in the second round, but Vieira was able to escape without much damage done. A low blow to Vieira resulted in a temporary halt in the action, but the fight resumed before long. Pennington was the aggressor in round two, and that pace benefited Pennington, who was not allowing Vieira to dictate the range of the bout as she did in round one. Late in the round, Vieira engaged Pennington in the clinch against the cage, but it was Pennington who did the damage from the position, landing numerous knees to the body. 19-19.

Pennington connected with a  superman punch early in the third round, which prompted Vieira to march forward with short combinations of punches. The fighters spent a considerable portion of the round battling in the clinch, where they reached somewhat of a stalemate in the position, with neither doing considerable damage or securing a takedown. Vieira eventually broke away and landed a right hand, but then chose to go right back to the clinch. Viera attempted to climb onto Pennington’s back along the cage, and while she successfully took the position, she was unable to do anything of significance with it before time expired. 29-28 Vieira.

WINNER: Raquel Pennington by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

Both fighters were content to wrestle in the clinch for the majority of the final round, and that really left the fight up in the air as the final horn sounded. I gave the slight edge to Vieira as I thought her strikes were slightly more damaging, but you could easily go either way on the third round, and I don’t think there is much to be upset about as far as the scorecards are concerned. This was a solid performance from Pennington against the bantamweight division’s second-ranked fighter, and Pennington has now won five consecutive fights, the longest win streak of her career.


Both Soriano and Kopylov looked solid on the feet early, both landing heavy strikes in the opening minutes of the fight. Soriano was swinging for the fences on some of these strike attempts, and he was certainly doing damage whenever he found his target, but Kopylov was working his jab to great effect, which was largely keeping Soriano at range. Soriano shot for a takedown at one point, but the attempt was easily defended, and Kopylov responded with a successful takedown of his own before letting Soriano back up. The round was very competitive, but I gave the slight edge to Kopylov.

Soriano connected with a number of uppercuts throughout the first two minutes of the second round. Kopylov began to attack the body, and Soriano was clearly hurt from the barrage of strikes that Kopylov landed on the midsection. Eventually, the damage from the body shots was just too much for Soriano to take, and one last kick to the right-side broke Soriano’s guard, allowing Kopylov to just swarm him with strikes until the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Roman Kopylov by TKO at 3:19 of Round 2

Kopylov’s jab really seemed to be the difference maker in the first round, but he started digging into the body in round two, and that’s what ultimately led to the finish. It was a great finish for Kopylov against a hard-hitting opponent in Punahele Soriano, who was clearly swinging for the knockout from the opening bell. In his post-fight interview, Kopylov stated that this was the final fight on his current contract, so this was exactly the performance he needed to ensure that his contract is renewed, and he now holds a record of 2-2 in the UFC.

DAN IGE (15-6, 145.5) VS DAMON JACKSON (22-4-1, 1 NC, 145.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT

There was a quick exchange of strikes in the clinch that resulted in Ige dropping Jackson to a knee momentarily. Ige partially landed a head kick at one point, that Jackson just ate. Jackson shot for a takedown, but the attempt was defended, and Ige accidentally swiped over Jackson’s eye in the process, resulting in a short break in the action while Jackson was given time to recover. Ige pressed forward as the fight resumed, ending the round strongly with aggressive flurries of strikes.

A shot from Ige opened up a cut on the left side of Jackson’s forehead in the second round, and the blood was pouring into the eye that was injured earlier in the bout. A big left hand from Ige found its target, and he was doing a good job of keeping Jackson’s back to the fence throughout the early portions of the round. As the round progressed, Jackson started fighting with a bit more aggression and was finding far more success, but he eventually walked right into a brutal left hook from Ige that dropped him hard, and Ige just walked off, knowing the fight was over.

WINNER: Dan Ige by KO at 4:13 of Round 2

I thought that Ige was a step ahead of Jackson throughout the vast majority of this fight, and just when Jackson was starting to find a bit more success on the feet, Ige ended the fight with a brutal left hook. Ige had lost three consecutive bouts going into this one, and while this was a step down in competition, Ige was in desperate need of a win here, and he achieved just that with this knockout victory. It’s tough to say what exactly is next for Ige at featherweight, but if he’s going to fight up in the rankings, I think Sodiq Yusuff would make for an interesting matchup.


The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event. Imavov landed the first big shot of the fight, an overhand right. Strickland fired back with a straight left hand before Imavov came in with an uppercut. Strickland began to really turn on the pressure, and it was giving Imavov problems. Imavov opted to wrap Strickland up in the clinch, but Strickland defended well and broke away with a left hand. Strickland was landing a lot of right hooks, which seemed to be his most effective weapon of the opening five minutes. The fighters traded right hands before the end of what was a very close round. 10-9 Strickland.

Strickland brought Imavov into the clinch roughly a minute into the second round, where the fighters wrestled against the cage until Imavov broke away. Strickland landed a three-punch combination, before taking Imavov to the ground. Imavov quickly popped back to his feet, where he landed a heavy combination of strikes. Imavov landed a few more strong shots before the end of the round, but I still narrowly gave the edge here to Strickland. 20-18 Strickland.

The fighters traded heavy punches in the pocket to begin round three. Strickland defended a takedown attempt from Imavov, who was having difficulties gauging Strickland’s awkward timing at this point in the bout. Imavov’s output was failing him here, and Strickland was pulling ahead in the round as a result, just chipping away at Imavov from his comfort zone. The strike count was actually very even, but Strickland was fighting his style of fight, and I had him up 30-27 going into the fourth round.

Strickland continued to find his target with consistency in the fourth round. He defended takedown attempts from Imavov, and forced Imavov to fight a Sean Strickland style of fight. I thought Strickland was landing the more effective shots here, even if Imavov was packing a bit more power into his punches. 40-36 Strickland.

Imavov’s corner informed him that he was likely in need of a finish going into this final round, but he was looking quite tired in his corner. Strickland did a good job of keeping Imavov close in round five, wrapping him up against the cage frequently. Imavov was throwing heavy hands whenever the opportunity presented itself, but Strickland’s chin held up well, and he would fire back before re-engaging Imavov in the clinch. Imavov went for the Yair Rodriguez spinning elbow in the fights final minute but missed his target. The fight went the distance, and I scored the bout 49-46 in favor of Strickland.

WINNER: Sean Strickland by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)

This was very much a Sean Strickland-style fight, with Strickland and Imavov trading strikes at close range throughout the vast majority of this twenty-five-minute bout. Strickland’s awkward timing and angles gave Imavov problems, and even though the strike count was very similar, I thought that Strickland was a step ahead of Imavov. It was a very impressive performance considering that Strickland took this fight on such short notice, and fought a five-round bout just a month ago.  Strickland is now 6-2 since returning to middleweight in 2020, and I think a fight against Robert Whittaker would make a lot of sense for Strickland, especially if he’s looking for another quick turnaround. For Imavov, this was a disappointing loss in his first UFC main event, but there are certainly a lot of takeaways for him and his camp coming out of this one, and I think rescheduling the fight against Kelvin Gastelum would be a sensible direction for him coming out of this one.

About Eric Marcotte 170 Articles
A graduate of Laurentian University, Eric reports on Mixed Martial Arts at POST Wrestling.