Another UFC Fight Night has come and gone, with bad blood simmering in the wake of the main event. Not between Nassourdine Imavov and Roman Dolidze, the two combatants in the evening’s final contest. No, it appears to be between Imavov and a pair of Dolidze’s teammates in Sean Strickland and Chris Curtis, two former foes of Imavov. In particular, Curtis seems to have drawn the ire of Imavov.
In the course the UFC fight – which was dominated by Imavov – an illegal kick from Imavov hit a downed Dolidze. During Dolidze’s recovery time, Imavov and Curtis offered a war of words that resumed in the post-fight interview after Imavov was declared the winner. It’s been a while since a single individual managed to pick a fight with an entire camp. It looks like we might be seeing that situation emerge. Think Tito Ortiz vs. The Lion’s Den. Or Kazushi Sakuraba vs. the Gracies.
Aside from that, Imavov succeeded in doing something else no one else had been able to do: make Dolidze look human. Imavov may not have been able to finish Dolidze, but he did come thisclose to doing so, being the first to seemingly hurt him too. It wasn’t a flawless performance, but it was an impressive performance that showed Imavov is more than ready to be taking on the elite of the middleweight division.
But who were the real winners and losers of the event? Sure, 12 UFC fighters officially had their hand raised in victory, but that doesn’t always mean they are the true winners of the night. Same with those who didn’t get their hand raised. Just like not all wins are created equal, not all losses are either. I’ll give you the lowdown on who the biggest winners and losers of the event were. I’ll limit it to three in each category, doing my best to avoid having the same combatants of a contest in both categories. Let’s dig in!
UFC Fight Night Winners
In the staff picks, I expressed that I wasn’t sold on Imavov being ready to do battle with the elite of the division. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the youthful Russian. Imavov showed a lot of veteran savvy in his performance. While the illegal kick wasn’t exactly an intelligent decision given Dolidze clearly had his hand down, it also wasn’t the first kick he threw in that style. In other words, Imavov showed a level of creativity and innovation that tends to make successful titular pursuits a greater likelihood.
Perhaps Imavov benefited from facing Dolidze, who doesn’t exactly shy away from taking unnecessary risks. Dolidze’s defense hasn’t exactly been great either. Regardless, even with the potential asterisks, Imavov showed clear improvement from his first five round UFC fight last year. If he can continue to iron out the wrinkles in his game, he’s a legit dark horse in the division. Given the consistent improvements over the course of his career – and especially those seen over the last year – Imavov looks like he’s going to be hovering around the top of the division for a long time.
Credit to Brown for being self-aware. His previous UFC fight against Wellington Turman was exceptionally underwhelming, even in victory. Knowing he needed to secure an impressive showing, Brown delivered the most impressive knock out of his career. In terms of his breaking down the fight, it was most impressive in that it came within the natural flow of the fight. Brown recognized a hole in the defense of Muslim Salikhov and waited for the right moment to deliver the death blow of the UFC fight.
Given he entered the UFC exceptionally raw, it’s easy to forget Brown isn’t a spring chicked anymore. He’s not exactly old at 33, but he’s nearing the point where he’ll be exiting his prime years sooner rather than later. He needed a performance that would give the UFC a reason to put him in a prime position. With his one-punch KO, he set himself up for a primetime matchup. I’m not saying it’ll be a main event – I very much doubt that it will be – but a ranked opponent and/or a main card spot on a PPV seem like reasonable expectations for his next UFC fight.
While I’m not a believer Gorimbo is going to ever become UFC champion – much less this year as he has stated as his goal – I can’t deny the native of Zimbabwe has made some serious strides in his short time on the UFC fight roster to the point that he doesn’t appear to a novelty flyer. Gorimbo legit belongs on the roster. That’s a far cry from being champion, but not everyone who has fought in the UFC has belonged either. Not to be disrespectful, but CM Punk is the poster child for that.
Granted, the man Gorimbo beat, Pete Rodriguez, hasn’t proven he belongs either. But Gorimbo accepted the UFC fight on Rodriguez’s terms by opting to slug things out on the feet and rapidly disposed of the striker. If Gorimbo can find a level of consistency on the feet that will complement his aggressive ground game, he might surprise and inch his way into the rankings. I’m not counting on that, but I also wasn’t counting on his securing consecutive dominant victories in the UFC.
UFC Fight Night Losers
The matching against Natalia Silva was more of a net benefit for Araujo than it was for Silva. Silva was bound to get an opponent ranked ahead of her, the question was who the UFC would designate the stepping stone for Silva’s ascent. For Araujo, it represented an opportunity to launch herself back into the top of the division as she would absorb the plentiful momentum Silva had built up if she could pull off the upset. Araujo appeared to have the right idea in locking down the hyperactive Silva, but the younger UFC fighter proved to be too much for Araujo to handle.
At 37, Araujo is the oldest member of the women’s flyweight division with a number next to their name. Had she managed to pull off the upset, it’s possible the UFC could have begun promoting some sort of a Cinderella story for her. With the loss, it feels like the door is being slammed shut with extreme emphasis. Araujo isn’t completely spent, but she isn’t going to be getting any more pushes. Look for her next UFC fight to be similar to the role she played here: a stepping stone for a younger fighter.
Khizriev last fought outside the UFC umbrella in March 2018. That was just a shade under six years ago. Since that time, he fought in the Contender Series in the fall of 2020, fought in the spring of 2022, and now his no contest with Makmud Muradov that was stopped after just 11 seconds due to a brutal eye poke from Khizriev. Now 33, it appears Khizriev has spent a grand total of eight minutes professionally fighting during the years that most would consider to be his prime fighting years.
I don’t want to be too harsh on Khizriev. I have no doubt the eye poke was accidental and I’m even more certain no one is more frustrated with the outcome than Khizriev. But there may not be a person on the entire UFC roster who needs to be more active than Khizriev and this isn’t going to count for much, if anything. If he has other ways of making money and this is just supplemental income, he’s in fine shape. If this is his primary job and/or he’s looking to make a run up the division, he needs to get back in the cage as quick as possible.
Maksum making this list has less to do with his performance and more to do with him losing his zero. There is something mystical about a fighter who has yet to experience defeat, provided they’ve been tested. Maksum wasn’t fighting cans on the regional scene and managed to run up 16 wins prior to touching down. Maksum extended that to 17 against Tyson Nam, but that’s where his undefeated streak came to an end, despite a dominant opening round against Charles Johnson.
Not all is lost for Maksum. I have a hard time believing he won’t learn from this loss and become a better UFC fighter. However, it will also be harder for him to make a rapid ascent up the flyweight division now that he’s no longer promotable as being undefeated. Given the UFC’s flyweight division has silently been adding quality depth to the roster – especially when young guns like Muhammad Mokaev and Tatsuro Taira remain undefeated – it could add years to his prospective ascent to the top of the division. It might be wise to develop a loud personality about now….
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