UFC Vegas 67 Betting Picks and Analysis
After over a month off from UFC action, the world-leading mixed martial arts organization returns to our living rooms for the first card of 2023. We do, however, enter the first UFC card of the year with three canceled fights and a late change to the main event.
For the first time in 2023, here’s our picks to help with betting on the UFC this weekend at UFC Vegas 67.
Sean Strickland vs. Nassourdine Imavov
In 2023, we continue from where we left off with a main event containing Sean Strickland, as Kelvin Gastelum withdrew from the main event on Monday. The American lost to Jared Cannonier in the final UFC fight of last year but now has a great chance to return to the win column against Nassourdine Imavov.
The main question surrounding Strickland this time around, however, is his overall fitness. The 31-year-old is known for his durability and endurance, but in this one, he has taken the fight on just five days notice and Christmas and all its festivities has come since his last battle in the octagon.
At the same time, it's been almost a year since a split decision win over Jack Hermansson in the UFC to take his record to 25 wins. Alex Pereira knocked him out at UFC 276 in July, before the recent split decision loss to Cannonier. Ultimately, when Strickland has taken a step up in competition, he's lost.
Imavov, however, has lost just once since coming into the UFC five fights ago. His highlights have seen him get a sensational TKO win over Edmen Shahbazyan and Ian Heinisch, while he beat Joaquin Buckley in a fairly comfortable decision win in September.
Given how Imavov has had a full fight camp, he has to equal Strickland's well-known pressure in the octagon and ramp up his striking and perhaps even throw in a few takedowns in hope that the American’s fitness isn’t as good as it was this time last month.
Nassourdine Imavov to win is -113 with FanDuel.
Dan Ige vs. Damon Jackson
Dan Ige and Damon Jackson come into this co-main event with contrasting records in their past five fights.
Ige looked to be heading toward title contention when he beat Edson Barboza on points to make it six wins in a row in the UFC. However, he has only managed to KO Gavin Tucker since March 2021.
The Hawaiian fighter has gone on to lose to Calvin Katter since the win over Barboza, and after beating Tucker, he has lost to Chan Sung Jun, Josh Emmett and Movsar Evloev. It means just one win for Ige in almost three years and it’s been over four years since he got one of his famous submission victories.
At the same time, despite being a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Ige has just five submission wins from his 15 in total, while Jackson has 15 submission wins from 22 victories and is only a purple belt in this discipline.
Ige is going to need to be the better striker in this fight because he is not going to want to take Jackson to the ground. Moreover, the latter has won four fights since his KO loss to Ilia Topuria in December 2020. This isn’t, however, to suggest Jackson isn’t a comfortable striker as he TKO'd Pat Sabatini in September to win his second Performance of the Night bonus in just six UFC fights.
Ige is the favorite at -130, and we think his overall superiority across the mixed martial arts board should see him get the win on points.
Dan Ige to win by points is +260 with FanDuel.
Punahele Soriano vs. Roman Kopylov
In our opinion, this fight could be the one that steals the show and gets the Fight of the Night bonus, as two men in their early 30s look to stamp their marker down on the middleweight division.
As a brown belt in judo and with six knockout wins from his total of nine victories, Punahele Soriano is entering his 12th professional fight since his debut in 2017. Roman Kopylov made his debut one year earlier and after winning his first eight fights, he entered the UFC and lost on his debut in the organization to Karl Roberson via a rear naked choke.
Kopylov returned to the win column with a sensational TKO win over Alessio Di Chirico to make it eight wins via stoppage and just one victory on points. Now, against Soriano, he must go for the knockout once again.
Soriano is fantastic at controlling the tempo of a fight and timing his punches. He has only won in the UFC via knockout too but has lost to Brendan Allen and Nick Maximov on points.
Kopylov’s tempo has to match Soriano’s and the Russian must increase the volume of strikes too, simply because his ground and clinch game is not strong enough to deal with a man with a judo background.
Kopylov is a great talent and deserves to be in the UFC, but this seems to be one step too far for him right now. We think Soriano will win to make it a record of 12-2 in MMA.
Punahele Soriano by points is +330 with DraftKings.
Ketlen Vieira vs. Raquel Pennington
In the toughest fight to call at UFC Vegas 67, Ketlen Vieira and Raquel Pennington will battle for a place amongst the title discussions in the women's bantamweight rankings.
Vieira comes into this one ranked No. 2 in the UFC women's bantamweight rankings and has looked great since losing to Yana Kunitskaya in early 2021. The Brazilian made easy work of former champion Miesha Tate in late 2021, before beating another former champion, Holly Holm, in a narrow split decision win.
The difference for Vieira in this fight will be her excellent jiu-jitsu and judo. She is a black belt in both disciplines and her dominance in grappling has been the difference in her moving up the rankings. In fact, with a record of 13-2, the 31-year-old has won seven fights on points and four via submission and just two via KO/TKO.
Pennington — a former title challenger at this weight class in 2018 — is now back up to No. 5 in the women's bantamweight rankings after four wins in a row. She secured three of these wins via a unanimous decision against Marion Reneau, Pannie Kianzad and Aspen Ladd, while also forcing the tap from Macy Chiasson via a guillotine choke.
Similarly to Vieria, Pennington's wins from her 14-8 record mainly come from decisions; she has won nine in this manner and just four via submission.
As the sportsbooks suggest, it will be a close fight. However, Vieria has been excellent since losing in 2021, and she should be the next title contender in the bantamweight rankings and set up a fight with Amanda Nunes if she wins here.
Ketlen Vieira by points is +145 with FanDuel.
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