We haven’t even made it through the weigh-ins for our first UFC event of 2023 and this card has already been decimated by cancellations, last-minute lineup changes, and opponent swaps.
The card is now almost entirely different than when it was originally announced, however, there’s still plenty of great fights to look forward to on Saturday night to kick off the new year for the UFC.
Thankfully, the most recent round of changes has not seen any fights completely get removed from the lineup, so there are still twelve fights currently scheduled for this weekend.
The biggest change of the card comes with the main event, which will now feature Nassourdine Imavov facing Sean Strickland, who is stepping in on extremely short notice to replace Kelvin Gastelum, not to mention he’s making an insanely quick turnaround.
Strickland actually main evented the last UFC event of 2022 on December 18th, when he lost to Jared Cannonier in a razor-thin split decision at UFC Vegas 66.
The other recent change for Saturday’s card involved one of the prelim fights, with Nick Aguirre stepping in as a short-notice replacement for Isaac Dungarian to face Dan Argueta.
Hopefully, things will settle down and this card will lock in heading into the weekend, but we shall see. Here are my picks, predictions, and some betting advice for each fight currently on the lineup:
Priscila Cachoeira – Cachoeira is 12-4 with seven wins via knockout and she has been subbed in two of her losses. She’ll be taking on Sijara Eubanks, who is 7-7 with three knockout victories while being knocked out herself in one of seven losses. These two have been on opposite paths as of late, with Cachoeira winning four of her last five, while Eubanks has dropped three out of her last four fights. Cachoeira has a lot of power in her striking, but she has a slightly negative strike differential and less than ideal takedown game to round things out. Eubanks is a threat in the first round, but she is only 4-7 when going past the five-minute mark. Cachoeira, on the other hand, is 8-3 in fights going past the end of the first round. With neither fighter being particularly prone to getting finished, I expect this one to go into the latter rounds or to a decision, and I think Cachoeira will be the one getting her hand raised here.
Charles Johnson – Johnson is 12-3 with eight stoppage victories (five KO/three submission) and has never been stopped. He’s 1-1 so far during his time with the promotion and has won five of his past six fights overall. Jimmy Flick is 16-5 with 14 wins via submission, but he has also been knocked out in four of his five losses. Flick has won his past four fights and is a nasty submission artist, however, he will be returning from a two-year “retirement” in this fight. Johnson will have slight two-inch advantages in both reach and height in this matchup. Flick has looked pretty solid overall in his career, but he is only 2-7 when he doesn’t find a submission and being knocked out in 80% of his losses is another issue against the power of Johnson. I think Flick could be live for an early submission, but Johnson should be able to find plenty of success if he can survive that initial onslaught and I think he gets this one done via decision or knockout. There was a lot of “strange” betting activity on this one early with Johnson’s Moneyline moving from -150 to north of -500, before finally settling back a bit. I’ll be passing on this one.
Dan Argueta – Argueta heads into his second UFC fight with an 8-1 record and 75% stoppage rate and coming off a short notice loss in his debut with the promotion last year. He’ll be facing Nick Aguirre, who is 7-0 with a 100% stoppage rate and will be making his debut with the promotion. However, Aguirre just accepted this fight and was signed during fight week, so keep that in mind when looking at this one. Both of these guys are fairly well-rounded fighters, but Argueta was impressive in his loss to Jackson, making it the full 15 minutes against a dangerous UFC veteran while being in there on short notice himself. While Aguirre might have some future wins on the horizon in the UFC, I think he will be in a lot of trouble in this one without a finish in the opening minutes. He has six of his seven wins in the first round, so it will be interesting to see what happens if Argueta is able to extend him beyond that. I think the short notice and Aguirre’s lack of experience going deep into fights will be problems here, and I like Argueta to take this one via decision or possibly even a late stoppage.
Allen Nascimento – Nascimento is 19-6 in his career with 15 wins via stoppage and 13 of those coming via submission. He’s never been stopped, is 1-1 so far in the UFC, and coming off an extremely impressive performance over Jake Hadley in his most recent fight. Carlos Hernandez is 8-1 with four submission wins and has never been finished. Hernandez has also won eight straight fights after losing his professional debut; however, he is coming into this one off back-to-back split decision wins in his past two fights once he reached tougher levels of competition. Nascimento will have a sizeable four-inch height advantage in this matchup, and I think that will play a big role in helping him secure the win in this one. Nascimento proved in his last fight he can win a dominant decision, and I think he will do so again here or possibly even find a submission in the latter rounds. Nascimento is a training partner of all-time UFC submissions leader Charles Oliveira, so he is well-versed with his submission game.
Javid Basharat – This will be a battle between undefeated fighters, as Basharat enters with a 13-0 record against the 10-0 record of Mateus Mendonca. Basharat has 11 stoppage victories with five knockouts and six submissions, while Mendonca has seven finishes with three knockouts and four submissions. Basharat is 3-0 in the UFC/DWCS and has outstruck every opponent he’s faced by 27+ strikes. Basharat also boasts a solid 5.4/2.4 differential in strikes landed vs strikes absorbed. He averages 1.7 takedowns per 15 minutes and has an 87% takedown defense. Mendonca has faced some decent talent in his career so far, but he will be making his UFC debut here against a very tough opponent. I think Basharat will be able to find his groove with his striking early in this fight and cruise to another fairly comfortable decision win in this one. I also wouldn’t entirely rule out Basharat possibly putting away Mendonca late.
Mateusz Rebecki – Rebecki is 16-1 with 14 stoppage victories coming via eight knockouts and six submissions. He’s making his UFC debut and has won 14 consecutive fights. Nick Fiore is 6-0 with a 100% stoppage rate against some extremely questionable competition and is also making his UFC debut. Rebecki has shown to be very well-rounded and equally as dangerous. He was originally scheduled to face Omar Morales, but Fiore was brought in and signed as a short notice replacement. I wrote a WagerWire Fighter Spotlight article on Mateusz Rebecki if you are interested in a more complete dive on this fight, but in short, Rebecki is my favorite pick of the week. Fiore’s competition has been largely terrible, respectfully, and he will be facing an entirely different level of opponent in Rebecki. The Moneyline for Rebecki is a little higher than I prefer to bet, so I highly recommend looking into his Inside the Distance prop.
Claudio Ribeiro – Ribeiro is 10-2 with a 100% knockout rate and is making his UFC debut. He’ll be facing 11-5 Abdul Razak Alhassan, who has nine knockout victories of his own. Both of these guys pack an extremely dangerous punch; however, they have been trending in opposite directions. Ribeiro is nearly seven years younger and won six straight fights, while Alhassan has dropped four of his past five overall. Ribeiro will also have 3″ height and 4″ reach advantages in this matchup which should bode well in the striking exchanges. I wrote a WagerWire Underdog of the Week article on this fight, but shortly after posting, my pick for this one has already moved to a slight betting favorite at most sportsbooks. Both of these fighters prefer to stand and bang, and in that scenario, I will gladly take the younger, taller and longer striker in Ribeiro to find his target first. I love Ribeiro to get this one done, and despite the fact that Alhassan has only been stopped in one of five losses, I think there’s a decent chance that he gets knocked out fairly early in this fight.
Umar Nurmagomedov – Nurmagomedov is 15-0 with eight finishes coming via one knockout and seven submissions. He’s 3-0 in the UFC and will be facing arguably his toughest competition to date in Raoni Barcelos. Barcelos is 17-3 with ten stoppage victories in his career while being submitted in one of his three losses. He’s coming into this fight off a win, but he had dropped both of his previous fights before that. Nurmagomedov will have slight 1″ height and 2″ reach advantages, and he is also nine years younger than Barcelos. Nurmagomedov has a ridiculous 4.35/0.37 striking differential while averaging five takedowns per 15 minutes. Barcelos has a 93% takedown defense, but the volume he has faced should be considered: he’s faced only 16 takedown attempts in eight UFC fights, breaking down to an average of only two per fight. Nurmagomedov will attempt that many takedowns consecutively, if necessary, and will certainly pour on the volume here against Barcelos. While Barcelos might have some early success staying upright, Nurmagomedov should eventually start securing takedowns and chasing for submissions. While I love Nurmagomedov in this matchup, his Moneyline is insanely high, and the Decision/Submission Double Chance prop line isn’t much better. Betting options I would recommend considering are Nurmagomedov R3/Dec, Nurmagomedov by Sub, and Nurmagomedov Sub R2/R3.
Ketlin Vieira – Vieira is 13-2 with six stoppage victories and is coming into this fight off back-to-back wins. She’ll be facing Raquel Pennington, who has a 14-8 career record with five wins via stoppage while only being stopped twice. Vieira is 7-2 in the UFC so far and is coming off an impressive split decision win over Holly Holm in her last fight, while Pennington will enter on a four-fight winning streak of her own. Both of these fighters are fairly durable, and I expect this to be a very close, fifteen-minute fight that likely ends on the scorecards. Vieira has gone 7-1 in her career when going to the judges’ scorecards, while Pennington has fared a bit worse at 9-6 on the cards. I think Vieira is likely to follow the same recipe that earned her a victory over Holm and try to win the striking exchanges and staying on the feet here. She has defended 24 of 26 takedown attempts so far in the UFC, but if this fight goes to the ground, Vieira will likely have the advantage there as well.
Punahele Soriano – Both of these fighters enter this matchup with identical 9-2 career records. Soriano has stopped eight out of nine wins with seven of those stoppages coming in the first round. He’ll be taking on Roman Kopylov, who also has eight finishes and all of his have come via knockout. He is coming off a win in his last fight, however, Kopylov had dropped his previous two UFC fights with a long list of cancellations in between. The numbers between these two fighters are fairly close and with Kopylov’s very respectable 87% takedown defense combined with Soriano’s comfortability striking, I expect this fight will likely be a stand-and-trade situation for however long it may last. Soriano is the pick here, and I think he likely finds the win via knockout, but definitely keep an eye on live betting opportunities for Kopylov if this fight goes out of the first round. While Soriano is most dangerous early, Kopylov does have five knockouts on his record that occurred in round three or later, so he will remain a threat for a full fifteen minutes.
Damon Jackson – Jackson is 22-4-1 with 19 stoppages coming via fifteen submissions and four knockouts. He’s won four straight fights and will be facing Dan Ige, who is 15-6. Ige is an extremely dangerous striker for the division, but he has dropped four of his past five fights against some of the toughest competition at the division has to offer. While Jackson is equally as dangerous, if not more so, he’s also been stopped in every single one of his losses. This fight was one of the toughest to pick on the card because both fighters have very clear routes to victory: Jackson via submission if he can work some takedowns or Ige via knockout if it stays standing. Ultimately, I’m leaning with Jackson to be able to find some success getting this one to the ground against Ige’s 51% takedown defense and either grind out a very tight decision or possibly get a late submission. Ige has never been stopped before, however, so despite both having solid finishing ability, this one might go the distance.
Sean Strickland – Strickland is 25-5 and will be headlining his second consecutive UFC Fight Night event, stepping in as a short notice replacement for Kelvin Gastelum after previously facing Jared Cannonier last month at UFC Vegas 66. He’ll have another tough opponent here, facing 12-3 Nassourdine Imavov. Imavov is 4-1 in the UFC against some pretty solid competition, and I absolutely loved him in the original matchup here against Gastelum. However, facing Strickland at a catchweight of 205 pounds is an entirely different challenge all together. While Imavov would have enjoyed comfortable size advantages over Gastelum, he won’t have the same benefits against Strickland, who is also tall and long. Imavov also lacks experience in the “championship rounds” of a fight (R4/R5). While that was something I was willing to overlook against Gastelum, I can foresee it being an issue for Imavov here since Strickland not only has that experience but has also won multiple five-round fights. Imavov will certainly be a threat early, but I think this fight heavily leans towards Strickland as the minutes tick here. Strickland should be able to control the striking and grappling exchanges for the most part, he will just need to match the pace of Imavov and push forward. If he does that, I think Strickland will pull away to a decision win down the stretch in this fight.
Check back here after the weigh-ins for the event have completed on Friday for our full UFC Vegas 67 Betting Card.
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