UFC Fight Night Sean Strickland vs. Nassourdine Imavov was a great way to kick off the new year, and it provided the fans with a lot of exciting fights. I found success in the card as well by starting the year with a 9-2 record on my predictions. In this article, I will be ranking how impressive each of the winners were from worst to best, so let’s jump right in!
#11 Raquel Pennington’s split decision win over Ketlen Vieira
Every fight card recently seems to have one fight where the judging is a cause for concern, and this was the one on this card. Round one was clearly won by Vieira, as she landed the more damaging strikes and was countering whatever Pennington threw at her, but still judge Michael Bell gave the round to Pennington. I will give credit where it is deserved though, as Pennington did enough in the second round to earn the round on all three scorecards, which I agree with as she seemed to be controlling the pace of the fight in that round. In round three I thought that Vieira had done enough to earn the round, especially with her control time along the fence, which would have had her winning on my scorecard. For that reason, Pennington finds herself last on this list because I do not believe she should have won the fight.
#10 Mateusz Rebecki’s unanimous decision win over Nick Fiore
If I was judging this fight solely on round one, Rebecki would be high on this list, but unfortunately for him, I am not. In the first round, Rebecki looked explosive and was landing strikes at will before getting the fight to the ground easily. This pace was not sustained though, as Fiore looked decent in parts of the later rounds and was able to land some shots of his own as Rebecki slowed down. Rebecki should still be proud of himself as he won a deserved unanimous decision, but he did not look like the 8-1 betting favorite that he was billed as.
#9 Javid Basharat’s unanimous decision win over Mateus Mendonca
This is where it gets very tough, as from this point on all the winners were impressive. Unfortunately for Basharat I believe he was the worst of the best, which may also have been because of my high expectations of him. Basharat clearly did what he needed to do to win this fight, but I thought he’d be a bit more dominant. There were times Basharat was fighting a bit too much off his back foot for my liking, but once he engaged and set up his own offense, especially when the fight was on the ground, he looked like he deserved every bit of his -330 odds.
#8 Daniel Argueta’s unanimous decision win over Nick Aguirre
This win for Argueta was a case of him knowing that he had an inexperienced, short-notice opponent and went out there with a game plan of knowing he could coast his way to a decision win. That’s exactly what he did. Other than a scary moment midway through round one where Aguirre was almost able to lock in a rear-naked choke, Argueta was able to blanket Aguirre on the mat and coast his way to a decision win. He is only this low on the list because he did not seem like he was looking for a finish and as previously mentioned was just coasting his way through the fight.
#7 Abdul Razak Alhassan’s TKO win over Claudio Ribeiro
Introducing our first finish on the card, coming in at number seven on the rankings, is Alhasssan’s second round TKO over Ribeiro. The reason I had to put this in the bottom half of the rankings is because it took Alhassan some time to find his rhythm. To start the fight, Ribeiro was landing leg kicks at will and connecting with his jab, making it harder for Alhassan to close the distance. Once Alhassan got the fight to the fence later in the first round, he looked fully in control and ended the round with an impressive flurry of punches. It didn’t take him long to pick up where he left off because 28 seconds into the second round Alhassan floored Ribeiro with a combination of five strong punches, earning him the TKO win.
#6 Sean Strickland’s unanimous decision win over Nassourdine Imavov
Sean Strickland’s win marks the midway point of my list, but that doesn’t mean his win was mediocre. This win proved a lot to me about Strickland, especially regarding his toughness. Strickland took this fight against a surging contender, in a five round main event, up a weight class, coming off back-to-back losses, on less than a week’s notice, only four weeks after his last loss, and still won an unquestionable decision. After absorbing a few shots early from Imavov, Strickland did exactly what he needed to do by keeping his distance while mixing in some fence control and a takedown to tire Imavov out. As the fight went on, Strickland’s superior cardio showed as he was able to land the cleaner and more significant strikes, allowing him to win via decision. The only knock on his performance is that he was yet again unable to finish his opponent, but overall, it was a great win for Strickland.