After a four week hiatus the UFC returns to kick off 2023 with a fight night headlined by Sean Strickland and Nassourdine Imavov. This card also features a co-main event between featherweights Dan Ige and Damon Jackson who are looking to make noise in a stacked Featherweight Division. *Odds Presented By Betfred Sportsbook.
Fight One: Jimmy Flick (16-5) (+290) vs Charles Johnson (12-3) (-380)
Winner: Charles Johnson by Decision
A difficult matchup to make a prediction on here due to the number of unknowns regarding Jimmy Flick. Nearly two years ago, Flick had one of the most impressive submissions I had ever seen by catching Cody Durden with a flying triangle choke to win his UFC debut. Flick looked to be on the path to become a contender in the Flyweight Division. But soon after his win, he announced his retirement from MMA by basically saying that fighting wasn’t a smart life decision due to the amount of damage they take compared to the money they make. This retirement is one of the primary reasons I believe that Charles Johnson is going to walk home with the victory. Both of these fighters are going to want to take the fight to the ground, but I believe the edge in striking belongs to Johnson. I think Johnson will use his striking to set up his chances at getting the fight to the ground, where his grappling background will allow him to stay out of the danger of Flick’s submissions. This should be an entertaining fight, but I believe that Johnson will prove to be too tough of a test for Flick in his first fight back to the Octagon. Johnson’s striking and ground and pound will allow him to earn his second UFC win.
Fight Two: Daniel Argueta (8-1) (-530) vs Nick Aguirre (7-0) (+385)
Winner: Daniel Argueta by Decision
This was originally scheduled to be a fight between Daniel Argueta and Isaac Dulgarian, but unfortunately Dulgarian had to pull out of this fight and is now being replaced by UFC debutant Nick Aguirre. Argueta made his UFC debut close to seven months ago and was put up against a tough test in Damon Jackson to prove himself, which he was unable to win. Now, he is being given the opportunity to take on an unproven opponent, where he should be able to showcase his talent and get his first win inside the Octagon. Quite honestly, I had never heard of Aguirre coming into this fight but after watching some tape of his fights I was impressed by his grappling talent, but there are definitely reasons why I am not backing the heavy underdog. Aguirre has competed in seven professional MMA fights, giving him experience in the sport, but he has only faced two fighters in his last five fights with winning records which were 4-2 and 2-1. Along with that, two of his other wins in his last five fights came over fighters with zero wins. I do believe that Aguirre has talent, but coming in on very short notice with little experience against winning competition I believe that his debut will end in a loss.
Fight Three: Allan Nascimento (19-6) (-345) vs Carlos Hernandez (8-1) (+270)
Winner: Allan Nascimento by Decision
Next up is a bout in the Featherweight Division between Allan Nascimento and Carlos Hernandez, where both men are trying to get their second UFC win in a row. In this matchup, I believe the favorite, Nascimento, will come away with the win. Both fighters have the ability to make this an entertaining fight wherever it goes, and I believe they will. When both guys are at their peak energy levels, I expect this to be a fire fight on the feet where both have their moments, but Nascimento will have the advantage because of his two and a half-inch reach advantage. As the fight goes on, I think that Nascimento will be able to get this fight to the ground where he has the advantage and win the later rounds with control time and submission attempts. Ultimately, the close battle on the feet mixed with the control on the ground should be enough for Nascimento to come away with his second win in a row.
Fight Four: Mateus Mendonca (10-0) (+270) vs Javid Basharat (13-0) (-345)
Winner: Javid Basharat by Decision
In an intriguing bantamweight matchup, two undefeated fighters, Mateus Mendonca and Javid Basharat, look to prove themselves inside the Octagon by keeping their zero on their record. These two fighters are in different spots in their careers as the younger of the two, Mendonca, comes into this fight making his debut after a win on Dana White’s Contender Series. His opponent, Basharat is 2-0 already inside the UFC and looking to make a case to get into the rankings soon. Here I will be backing the more experienced and more proven Basharat to stay undefeated. Mendonca specializes in unorthodox striking which can be effective against lesser skilled opponents and fighters who like to engage in a brawl, unfortunately for him, neither of those are Basharat. Basharat is a very technical fighter who will feel out Mendonca early, but as the fight progresses, and he finds the holes in Mendonca’s defense he will find ways to exploit them. Using his technical striking advantage, Basharat should be able to keep the fight at the range he wants it and out-point Mendonca on a win to a decision victory.
Fight Five: Mateusz Rębecki (16-1) (-815) vs Nick Fiore (6-0) (+540)
Winner: Mateusz Rębecki by KO/TKO
This is a fight that, I believe, is relatively easy to predict, despite the perfect record of Nick Fiore. The odds truly tell the story in this one as Mateusz Rębecki is over a 7-1 favorite and for good reason. Fiore comes into this fight undefeated but after facing very low-level professional competition, which to me shows that he has yet to prove anything against opponents who have accomplished anything. When going against someone as experienced as Rębecki, that is not something that is encouraging. Rębecki is coming into his UFC debut off a very impressive submission win on Dana White’s Contender Series and wins over higher level competition, making him the very heavy favorite. Both of these fighters are primary grapplers so this fight will most likely be spent on the mat, but I give the advantage on the feet and in pressure to Rębecki. This should give him the ability to dictate where this fight ends up and how it ends, which is with him being the victor.
Fight Six: Abdul Razak Alhassan (11-5) (-115) vs Claudio Ribeiro (10-2) (-105)
Winner: Abdul Razak Alhassan by KO/TKO
The featured prelim of the UFC’s opening card of the year is definitely a tough one to choose, as UFC veteran Abdul Razak Alhassan tries to end his losing streak with a win over newcomer Claudio Ribeiro. I believe that many if not all of the previous fights on this card are destined for a decision, but this is surely not one of them, as a knockout is all but guaranteed. That also makes this a tough fight to predict because both of these power punchers are going to throw caution to the wind and look for a finish. Although Ribeiro looked impressive in his fight on Dana White’s Contenders Series, I am backing Alhassan in this fight. After being dominated by Jacob Malkoun, Alhassan has been on a bit of a resurgence with a brutal head-kick knockout and a very close decision loss to the previously ranked fighter Joaquin Buckley. What I was most impressed with in Alhassan’s fight against Buckley was how he showcased an ability to grapple and how he still had enough cardio to win the third round. I believe that as long as Alhassan can avoid Ribeiro’s one-punch power, his experience should allow him to fight a more technical fight before setting his own knockout blow.