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Gastelum out, Strickland takes over main event spot at UFC Vegas 67

The former TUF 17 winner suffered an injury to his mouth during fight week.

Sean Strickland approaches Jared Cannonier during their December 17th bout at UFC Vegas 66.
Sean Strickland approaches Jared Cannonier during their December 17th bout at UFC Vegas 66.
Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For Sean Strickland, 2022 ended on a real down note. The former welterweight and long-time UFC fighter entered a de facto top contender’s bout against Alex Pereira back in July with six straight victories to his name. One huge left hook later and he was getting picked up of the canvas. Fast forward to December and suddenly Strickland found himself riding two-straight losses, after Jared Cannonier snatched a controversial split decision at UFC Vegas 66 in the UFC’s final fight card before the new year.

If fans might have expected Strickland to take some time away to regroup and collect himself from the first losing streak of his career, it seems he’s got nothing like that in mind. Instead, the 31-year-old is poised to jump right back into the fire, with a short notice booking against Nassourdine Imavov.

ESPN first reported the news, that Kelvin Gastelum has been forced to withdraw from his planned headlining bout against Imavov on this upcoming Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card. From photos circulating on social media, it appears a nasty mouth injury is the culprit.

That marks just the latest bump in the road for the former Ultimate Fighter season 17 winner. Gastelum hasn’t competed in MMA since his own 2021 loss to the aforementioned Cannonier, having withdrawn from a planned April 2022 booking against Dricus du Plessis due to injury. The 31-year-old Kings MMA talent has picked up just one win in his last six bouts, defeating Ian Heinisch via unanimous decision at UFC 258.

For his part, Imavov will enter this fight against Strickland currently riding three wins in a row. Most recently, the Russian-born Frenchman took a unanimous decision over Joaquin Buckley at UFC Fight Night: Gane vs. Tuivasa back in September. Imavov had been originally scheduled against Gastelum in April, but visa issues kept him from the fight.

UFC Vegas 67 takes place at the Apex facility in Las Vegas, NV. Alongside the middleweight main event, the card is scheduled to feature a featherweight bout between Dan Ige & Damon Jackson. A women’s bantamweight top contender fight between Ketlen Vieira and Raquel Pennington is also expected for the card.

About the author: Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. Host of the MMA Vivisection and 6th Round, he has covered MMA and the UFC since 2013. (full bio)