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Grant Emrick breakdowns the UFC Vegas 67 Card

UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Imavov

January 14, 2023

Emrick’s 2023 UFC Fighter Pick Record (0-0)

Main Events (0-0)

Lock of the Week (0-0)

Dawg of the Week (0-0)

Lifetime Fighter Pick Record (298-162-3)

Prelim Predictions:

WFLY: Priscila Cachoeira (12-4) vs. Sijara Eubanks (8-7)

  • Pick: Priscila Cachoeira 

FLY: Charles Johnson (12-3) vs. Jimmy Flick (16-5)

  • Pick: Charles Johnson

FW: Nick Aguirre (7-0) vs. Dan Argueta (8-1) 

  • Pick: Dan Argueta

FLY: Allan Nascimento (19-6) vs. Carlos Hernandez (8-1)

  • Pick: Allan Nascimento

BW: Javid Basharat (13-0) vs. Mateus Mendonca (10-0)

  • Pick: Javid Basharat *Lock of the Week*

LW: Mateusz Rebecki (16-1) vs. Nick Fiore (6-0)

  • Pick: Mateusz Rebecki

MW: Claudio Ribeiro (10-2) vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan

  • Pick: Claudio Ribeiro *Dawg of the Week*

Main Card Predictions:

BW: #11 Umar Nurmagomedov (15-0) vs. Raoni Barcelos (17-3)

  • Pick: Umar Nurmagomedov (-625)
  • Quick Reasoning: Do not underestimate Barcelos here. Umar was orbiting -600 betting favorite territory and Barcelos has become a very live dog. I’m going with Umar here due to his solidified grappling, defensive abilities that limit his opponents to less than one significant strike per minute, and willingness to fight for a finish. Barcelos does boast a 93% takedown defense rate, but dropping two of his past three to Timur Valiev and Victor Henry is not too promising for one of his toughest matchups to date. Umar has only given up ten – yes, only TEN – combined significant strikes in his three UFC fights, including two in a UD win over Nate Maness. Pair that knowledge with a beefed-up resume that includes wins over Saidyokub Kakhramonov, I think Umar may take this one with ease. It may not be as easy as his first three fights in the UFC were, but Nurmagomedov should get this done. Since odds are greater than -400 at the time of bet placement, Umar will not be my lock of the week due to value. If you’re feeling lucky though, I wouldn’t question you if you sprinkle a couple of dollars on +450 Barcelos.

WBW: #2 Ketlen Vieira (13-2) vs. #5 Raquel Pennington (14-9)

  • Pick: Raquel Pennington (-110)
  • Quick Reasoning: Big red flag on Vieira: She gives up 4.03 strikes per 3.13 landed (negative striking differential). She is better on the ground than Pennington and her opponent has given up a takedown at least once in her past four fights. However, Pennington is on a four-fight win streak heading into this bout. Vieira is coming off of an eerily close main event win over Holly Holm, one which I saw for Holm instead of the Brazilian. I think the gas tank and takedown attempts can be the difference in this fight, but Pennington is far better on the feet with almost 4 strikes landed per minute with better accuracy and defense than Vieira. I believe Pennington will pull this out on the feet after preventing a few takedown attempts, leading to a 29-28 split-decision victory. I’d bank on Vieira getting at least one takedown, so we’ll see how fast “Rocky” will work back to the feet as our fight x-factor. 

MW: Punahele Soriano (9-2) vs. Roman Kopylov (9-2)

  • Pick: Punahele Soriano (-160)
  • Quick Reasoning: Soriano is just better everywhere and benefits from a one-dimensional Kopylov with this fight. Kopylov’s inability to get fights to the mat provides Soriano with more paths to victory. Although Kopylov has my “big red flag” of negative striking differential, he did face Albert Duraev and Karl Roberson in his first two UFC fights before finishing Alessio Di Chirico in his most recent bout. The metrics overall in terms of striking accuracy are even, with Kopylov having a slightly better defense rate. While striking metrics are somewhat close, Soriano’s ability to get fights to the ground is the x-factor for me. With more paths to victory, Soriano should be able to mix his game up and earn the win without the judges’ scorecards. I’m thinking Soriano by TKO in round 2. 

FW: #13 Dan Ige (15-6) vs. Damon Jackson (22-4-1, 1 NC)

  • Pick: Dan Ige (-120)
  • Quick Reasoning: Dan Ige has gone through the wringer in four of his past five. Evloev, Emmett, TKZ, and Kattar have sent Ige on the roughest stretch of his career. While all defeats, Ige has shown good resilience and put up a good fight at times, especially in the close UD loss with Josh Emmett. Ige has a great chin, is a legitimate boxer with sound movement and hand speed, and has displayed good takedown defense outside of his fight with Movsar Evloev. On the other hand, Damon Jackson is red hot right now! He’s on a four-fight win streak since losing to Ilia Topuria, displaying high-level groundwork and steady improvement in his hands. While I appreciate the work Jackson has put in on his streak, I’m afraid Ige might be too much for him to chew here. Ige should be able to fend off takedown attempts much better against Jackson than he did with Evloev and take advantage of Jackson’s negative striking differential as well. If Ige keeps this standing, I have no doubt he’ll be able to carve a path to victory by putting Jackson outside of his comfort zone. It’s time to see if Ige has solidified gatekeeper status as I’m picking him via UD. 

LHW: #7 MW Sean Strickland (22-5) vs. #12 MW Nassourdine Imavov (12-3)

  • Pick: Sean Strickland (-120)
  • Quick Reasoning: This pains me. I already put together my analysis on Gastelum/Imavov, a fight I already wasn’t excited about, and having Imavov win by decision. Now, we have a fight I’m even less excited about with everyone’s least favorite jab merchant – Sean Strickland – taking this fight on short notice in replacement of Gastelum. Unless Strickland is in rough shape via an unknown injury, I’d expect nothing less than a 25-minute in-and-out jab affair. As much as I don’t care for Strickland, I will give him his flowers as a volume striker (5.59 landed per minute) who has great takedown defense at 85%. I’ll admit, I wasn’t confident with the Imavov pick with Gastelum and I’m not completely sold on Strickland either. But Strickland has been better proven – aside from his bout with current champion Alex Pereira – against ranked competition and more active than Gastelum. Imavov is 4-0 when landing at least one takedown, but I don’t see that happening with Strickland’s superb defense. Three of Strickland’s last four fights have gone the entire five rounds, so he’s well-conditioned for an event like this. On the other hand, Imavov is in his first five-rounder and tired by the third round in his last fight against Joaquin Buckley. While I believe gassing early as he did against Buckley won’t happen again in this fight, I do believe the final three rounds against the non-stop jabbing of Strickland will be difficult to push through. There are still so many questions in this fight such as the minimal weight cut to 205 instead of 185, what condition Strickland is in, and how Imavov may adjust his game plan to Strickland on short notice. I can be way off on my analysis come fight night, but the level of competition, consistent activity in five-round bouts, as well as great takedown defense should allow Strickland to run his high-volume style and potentially get a finish if Imavov tires late while down on the scorecards. I’m going with Sean here based on these factors and value as a pick’em, but I would understand how the short-notice fight may push you to Imavov. Strickland via late-round TKO or UD is the pick. 

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