Dolidze and Imavov Jockey for Position in Crowded Middleweight Division

February 1, 2024
1 month

Roman Dolidze and Nassourdine Imavov have both fought fighters ranked in the top five of the UFC’s middleweight division. Neither man has produced an impressive enough result to stay there himself. When the two men meet this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, each will be attempting to prove they have earned their spot in the rankings.

Imavov, ranked No. 11, hasn’t won since September 2022. In Imavov’s two fights since his last win, he dropped a decision to former middleweight champion Sean Strickland and added a no-contest against Chris Curtis. The no contest was frustrating because Imavov was winning the fight before it was stopped due to an accidental clash of heads.

No. 8 Dolidze also hasn’t won a fight since December 2022. In Dolidze’s only action since then, he lost a decision victory to former title challenger Marvin Vettori. Dolidze had won four fights in a row before that.

This fight represents what to expect from this card. MMA latest updates show there are a lot of hungry fighters on this card who may not be well known but are desperate to force their way into the UFC title picture.

Main event bets to consider: Over 2.5 (-143), Imavov by finish +143

Can Dober Stay Off the Mat?

Drew Dober is an action fighter hanging on the No. 15 spot in the rankings at lightweight. One of Dober’s vulnerabilities is getting caught by strong grappling opponents on the ground. That makes Dober’s matchup with Renato Moicano so dangerous this weekend.

Dober has seen four of his 12 career losses come via submission. Moicano, who is ranked No. 13, is as dangerous a grappler as you will see in the division. The 34-year-old Brazilian grappler has seen 10 of his 17 career wins come by submission.

Dober, however, has skills that will trouble Moicano as well. Moicano has taken three knockout losses in his career, and Dober has won 14 of his 27 career victories by knockout. This is a fight that has been perfectly matched. Both men like to go for the finish and have weaknesses that the other is well-suited to exploit, according to MMA news sites.

Bets to consider: Moicano to win by submission +180, Under 1.5 rounds (-117)

Black Wolf Ready to Prove His Worth

Aliaskhab “The Black Wolf” Khizriev passed his first test in the UFC. After earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, Khizriev submitted his first opponent on the main roster to improve to 14-0 in his career. But life seldom goes easy for young prospects in the UFC.

The UFC doesn’t try to protect young, undefeated stars like boxing does. Khizreiv’s next step will be trying to prove he can beat a more experienced middleweight in Makhmud Muradov. Muradov has 34 professional fights but is 4-2 in the UFC. 

Muradov has been submitted four times, while Khizriev has won four of his fights by submission. This will be another major test for Khizriev. The challenge, according to MMA news sites, is that fighters have to adjust throughout their career to having opponents who are more challenging to put away.

Khizriev may force a stoppage in this one, but if it happens, it will come in the back half of the fight.

Bets to consider: Over 1.5 rounds -190

Young Fighters Look to Make Their Statement in the UFC

Gilbert Urbina bounced back from a loss during his UFC debut by beating Orion Cosce with a front-kick knockout to the body. Urbina has run into a high-quality opponent during his short time in the sport. He lost to Sean Brady, who is ranked in the UFC, on the regional scene by decision.

Urbina’s opponent, Charlie Radtke, ground out a decision during his UFC debut in 2023. This will be an interesting test for Urbina. Radtke is a solid, if unspectacular, fighter. It appears that Urbina has some explosiveness that could serve him well.

Bets to consider: Under 2.5 (-159), Gilbert Urbina by KO, TKO or DQ (+250)

Silva Hopes to Keep Momentum Going

Natalia Silva’s overall record won’t turn many heads. But what the women’s flyweight fighter has shown during her stint in the UFC is impressive. Silva has a perfect 4-0 record in the promotion, including a decision win over tough veteran Andrea Lee.

Silva will see a step up in competition when she fights Viviane Araújo. Araújo has lost three of her past five fights, but a close look at those fights shows there’s not much to be ashamed of. Araújo lost all three fights by decision to a current champion, Alexa Grasso, a former title challenger, Katlyn Chookagian, and a contender ranked in two classes, Amanda Ribas.

There’s a chance that Silva’s too much for Araújo to handle. Silva has more tools and could easily grind her way to a decision. This is just a flier on a more experienced fighter who has fought difficult opposition.

Bets to consider: Araújo by decision +440

Armbar or Bust

Julija Stoliarenko has won 10 of her 11 career fights by submission. There is little variety to her grappling game. All ten of those submissions were by armbar. Despite many opponents knowing the game plan, Stoliarenko has won two of her past three fights as an underdog by locking up opponents in an armbar.

Luana Carolina’s ability to avoid fate will be paramount to getting a win. Carolina should be able to do so, as she has only been submitted once in her career. Here’s a quick look at the other fights on the card not mentioned above.

  • Women’s strawweight, Molly McCann (-295) vs Diana Belbiță (+225)
  • Flyweight, Azat Maksum (-215) vs Charles Johnson (+170)
  • Welterweight, Themba Gorimbo (-250) vs Pete Rodriguez (+195)
  • Featherweight, Lee Jeong Yeong (-150) vs Blake Bilder (+120)
  • Lightweight,  Marquel Mederos (-148) vs Landon Quiñones (+118)
  • Heavyweight, Thomas Petersen (-177) vs. Jamal Pogues (+140)

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By Dean McHugh.