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.
‼ BREAKING ‼— Matias Andres MMA (@MatiasAndresMMA) January 9, 2023
Former UFC title challenger Kelvin Gastelum has pulled out of his upcoming main event due to a nasty mouth injury.
Nassourdine Imavov will now be fighting none other than Sean Strickland on Jan 14th. Still five rounds but at 205 lbs. First report: @bokamotoESPN pic.twitter.com/7bgHuT94Pc
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 Gastelum hasn’t competed in MMA since his own 2021 loss to the aforementioned Cannonier, having withdrawn from a planned April 2022 booking against Dricus du Plessis due to injury.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.