UFC action is back for the first time in the new year with a trip to the APEX centre for UFC Vegas 67.
Sadly, the event has already been hit with some pretty significant changes since the card was revealed before the break. The highly anticipated co-main event between top contenders Shavkat Rakhmonov and Geoff Neal was pushed back into March. It was then announced this week that one of the headliners, Kelvin Gastelum, pulled out due to an injury. Instead, the night will be headlined by his original opponent, Nassourdine Imavov and Sean Strickland, who headlined the final event of 2022.
Just before the main event, the new co-main is an exciting featherweight bout between Dan Ige and Damon Jackson. They are fighting for a spot on the edge of the top 15. We’ll also see a full slate of UFC debuts this weekend with no less than FIVE debuting fighters scheduled so far, three of whom are undefeated. Finally, standout ranked contenders, Ketlen Vieira and Umar Nurmagomedov will return, trying to work their way towards a title shot. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds.
Main Card (4:00 PM PST)
Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Raoni Barcelos
Nurmagomedov: -1000 Barcelos: +600
Over 2.5: -260 Under 2.5: +190
Likely trying to end this year with a title shot, the undefeated (15-0) Umar is going to take on the difficult task of Raoni Barcelos. Being in the bantamweight division, especially with two unbelievable competitors, this is sure to be an exciting fight. That being said, this matchup is one that clearly favours Umar. Barcelos has had some impressive performances, but he always seems to lose momentum as the fight goes on. To me, that’s what’s going to be his downfall with this kind of opponent. Umar will likely be able to keep a high enough pace later in the fight, as well as shut down Raoni’s offence, to win the decision.
Nurmagomedov by Decision
Ketlen Vieira vs. Raquel Pennington
Vieira: -123 Pennington: +100
Over 2.5: -367 Under 2.5: +260
With the bantamweight division being all over the place, a win in this matchup could easily lead to a title shot at some point this year. Although I think Vieira’s wins over Tate and Holm (especially Holm) are questionable, you’d have to believe that she’s a huge favourite over Pennington. She’s a few years younger, Holly Holm was the clear number one contender; Vieira seems like the clear choice.
Vieira by Decision
Punahele Soriano vs. Roman Kopylov
Soriano: -160 Kopylov: +130
Over 2.5: +116 Under 2.5: -150
With neither man making any significant waves in the UFC quite yet, this is a close matchup on paper. Although they’re both sitting at 9-2, one man’s results look just the slightest bit more impressive. Soriano has grabbed three early KOs in the UFC and has only lost in decisions. Meanwhile, Kopylov has only one UFC win and was finished in another fight. It should be a close one, but I see Soriano getting his hand raised.
Soriano by Decision
Dan Ige vs. Damon Jackson
Ige: -128 Jackson: +105
Over 2.5: -167 Under 2.5: +130
Ige was once in the conversations for a future title shot. Sadly, he’s now on a 3-fight skid, fighting to keep his spot in the top 15 and keep his career alive. Jackson has been on the opposite trajectory with 4 wins in a row going into the weekend. Not only does Jackson have all the momentum in this matchup, but his grappling heavy style is the same as Ige’s last 3 opponents. Ige hasn’t been able to overcome that style yet, I think Jackson will keep that trend going and win a decision. Though, I should point out, this will be Ige’s best matchup in the past couple years considering how good his opponents were.
Jackson by Decision
Sean Strickland vs. Nassourdine Imavov
Strickland: +105 Imavov: -125
Over 4.5: +100 Under 4.5: -129
In a rare sight, a second UFC card in a row will be headlined by the same man: Sean Strickland. It was close, but we predicted that his style would lose to Cannonier over 5 rounds. In this case, his style is the exact reason that he should win this fight. Strickland isn’t flashy, but he uses his technical ability to win close fights, especially when they’re long. Imavov is talented, but he’s never really had a statement win. He grabbed a decision win over Buckley in Paris last year, but he also lost to Hawes in a decision at one point. I have no doubt it will be close, but this is exactly where Strickland does his best. He lives and fights in Las Vegas, spars HARD on a regular basis, does well in longer fights and is very difficult to prepare for.
Strickland by Decision
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 1:30 PM PST)
Mateus Mendonça vs. Javid Basharat
Mendonça: +266 Basharat: -350
Over 2.5: -123 Under 2.5: -106
Out of all the debuts this weekend, this one is the most exciting. Not only was Mendonça a great, entertaining fighter on the Contender Series, but Basharat brings a lot of hype as well. I think Mendonça has a great future ahead of him in the UFC. Sadly for him, Basharat seems to already be on that next level. He had a dominant rookie year last year with wins over Trevin Jones and Tony Gravely. Those wins tell me he’s ready for big things this year.
Basharat by Finish
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Vegas 67. These are odds that favour the bettor. Although some of them may conflict with my picks, they offer a fair reward for a slight bit of risk.
The Underdog Cachoeira at +200
I’m actually blown away by this betting line. Cachoeira seems like one of those women who’s always around the top 15, always close to getting a big win that propels them up the rankings. On the other side, Eubanks has been on a rough skid and hasn’t shown signs of turning it around. If you still aren’t convinced, look no further than their records. Cachoeira sits at 12-4 while Eubanks is at 7-7. At +200, I’m jumping on those odds all day.
The Underdog Strickland at +105
As I mentioned above, these conditions are perfect for Strickland. He prefers being active, doesn’t care who he’s fighting, lives in Vegas and doesn’t have to cut as much weight, now fighting at 205. Meanwhile, Imavov was expecting a completely different style of fighter and was expecting to fight down 20 pounds at middleweight. At +105, it’s well worth the gamble.
Strickland vs. Imavov Over 4.5 at +105
Whether you’re siding with the late replacement, Strickland, or Imavov, all signs point to a full 5 round fight. Neither man has grabbed all that many finishes thanks to their long, grinding style of fighting. We also have to remember that, because this is a VERY late matchup, they’re likely going to be more cautious and slower to start than normal. It’s also tough to forget the fact that Strickland just had a 5 round fight less than a month ago.
The Short Run
Rębecki + Nurmagomedov + Vieira
The Long Run
Argueta + Basharat + Rębecki + Nurmagomedov + Nascimento