The UFC calendar is underway, and the first Fight Night of the year was a memorable one.
Two fighters changed their destinies, while others staked their claim as fighters to watch in the year to follow.
The card is over, and the fights are done, so let’s wrap it what you missed at UFC Fight Night 217.
Full Card Results
Sean Strickland def. Nassourdine Imavov by unanimous decision (49-46 x2, 48-47)
Dan Ige def. Damon Jackson by KO (punch) at 4:13 of Round Two
Roman Kopylov def. Punahele Soriano by TKO (body kick and punches) at 3:19 of Round Two
Raquel Pennington def. Ketlen Vieira by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Umar Nurmagomedov def. Raoni Barcelos by KO (punch) at 4:40 of Round One
Javid Basharat def. Mateusz Mendonca by unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Claudio Ribeiro by TKO (punches) at 0:28 of Round Two
Mateusz Rebecki def. Nick Fiore by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27 x2)
Allan Nascimento def. Carlos Hernandez by submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:16 of Round One
Daniel Argueta def. Nick Aguirre by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Charles Johnson def. Jimmy Flick by TKO (punches and elbows) at 4:33 of Round One
Big UFC Fight Night Rebound WIn for Sean Strickland
Sean Strickland had no room for error when he came in as a last-minute substitute to face Nassourdine Imavov. Three weeks ago, Strickland delivered a limp effort against Jared Cannonier that resulted in a split-decision loss that should have been unanimous. With the first losing streak of his career underway, and his chances of fighting for a middleweight title looking grim, Strickland took the fight with Imavov and had to make it count.
And boy, did he ever.
Imavov was unprepared for Strickland’s striking and couldn’t find any avenue his experienced foe didn’t already block off. Every time Imavov came forward, Strickland countered effectively and took back the pace of the fight. Strickland outlanded Imavov in four of the five rounds, scored a takedown, and left no doubt to the judges that he was the better man.
With the fight taking place at light heavyweight to accommodate Strickland’s late arrival, he may not move from the #7 spot. That being said, the strength of this performance should be enough to get him back on track after the disastrous outing against Cannonier just three weeks ago.
As for Imavov, going back to the drawing board won’t require that much creativity. Strickland came on board after Kelvin Gastelum fell out, and Gastelum is the right kind of opponent Imavov needed at this stage of his career. With that fight being canceled twice already, it’s hard to say if the third time is a charm.
Either way, Strickland’s inspired performance reinforces his spot as one of the top middleweights going into 2023.
Dan Ige Snaps His Streak
Dan Ige was on the cusp of a featherweight title shot after rattling five straight wins from 2018-2020, but things fell apart at the worst time. A loss to Calvin Kattar sent Ige into a tailspin, going 1-3 in his next four and fighting for his UFC life against Damon Jackson.
Ige finally got back to his winning ways with a sensational KO of Jackson in the second round. From the beginning, Ige was the sharper striker as he tagged Jackson frequently and left him bloodied at the end of the first round. It was more of the same in the second, that is until Ige uncorked Jackson with a left hook that did him in.
For now, Ige stays alive as he remains on the outside of the division’s top ten rankings. He may not have much to offer against the division’s upper tier, but “50K” still has the goods and can deliver on any given night.
Roman Kopylov Shocks Punahele Soriano
A bout between rising contenders Roman Kopylov and Punahele Soriano was supposed to be one of the more competitive fights on the card. It wasn’t meant to be as Kopylov tore right through Soriano, putting on an authoritative two-round beating.
The Russian picked Soriano apart from the opening bell, using a piston jab and low kicks that did more damage than Soriano’s flurries. By the end of the first round, Soriano had the look of a beaten fighter and seemed resigned to defeat. That came after a series of body shots drew the stoppage as Kopylov put together a great performance.
That kind of win is sure to put Kopylov in the running to potentially main-event a future edition of UFC Fight Night.
The Final Bell
- Raquel Pennington too smart for Ketlen Vieira
Pennington managed to outwork Vieira, effectively outboxing her for two and three-quarters rounds. While Vieira was her typical aggressive self, Pennington’s cerebral style and effective use of her range prevented her from scoring significant strikes or establishing any sort of control. It was Pennington’s fifth straight win, and perhaps she may get a rematch with Amanda Nunes yet.
- Another easy night for Umar Nurmagomedov
Umar Nurmagomedov handled Raoni Barcelos with ease, stopping him with strikes in the first round. 2023 figures to be a big year for Nurmagomedov, but finding a dance partner might not be easy at first glance. With the majority of the bantamweight division’s elite facing off against each other over the next few months, Nurmagomedov may need to take a stay-busy fight while waiting for a big fight to materialize.
- Charles Johnson flattens Jimmy Flick
Jimmy Flick thought that two years away from the UFC would do him good, but reality hit him right in the face in the form of Charles Johnson. Johnson, a former LFA standout, wasted no time in giving Flick the business. Flick was flat out the gates and stood no chance as Johnson tore him up. It was a solid performance capped off with a brutal finish for Johnson, and a great way to ring in 2023 for the UFC.