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UFC Fight Night: Cannonier v Imavov Predictions

Grizzled power puncher Jared Cannonier continues his pursuit of another middleweight title shot when he collides with rising contender Nassourdine Imavov in the main event of UFC.


Grizzled power puncher Jared Cannonier continues his pursuit of another middleweight title shot when he collides with rising contender Nassourdine Imavov in the main event of UFC Louisville on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Hard-hitting light heavyweights Dominick Reyes and Dustin Jacoby throw down in the co-headliner at the KFC Yum! Center, while teen prodigy Raul Rosas Jr takes on Ricky Turcios in a bantamweight bout.

Aside from the headliner, there are three other middleweight match-ups on the main card, which will see Brunno Ferreira square off with Dustin Stoltzfus and Julian Marquez meet Zachary Reece, while Miguel Baeza battles Punahele Soriano at welterweight.

MAIN CARD (from 2 AM Sunday SA time):

Jared Cannonier (2.02) v Nassourdine Imavov (1.81) (Middleweight)

Obsessed with gold, two of the best 185-pounders on the planet share the same goal of advancing their title aspirations in the five-round headliner.

Feared veteran Cannonier (17-6) has come close before, earning a shot at the championship in 2022, but it was not to be as he was outpointed by then-king Israel Adesanya.

He’s scored two consecutive headlining victories since, defeating Sean Strickland – who’d go on to win the title a few fights later – by split decision and producing a record-setting performance in his decision win over Marvin Vettori last June, in which he landed 241 significant strikes, the most ever in a middleweight fight.

His sterling showing last time out underscored that despite being at the tail-end of his career, fourth-ranked Cannonier is as good as he’s ever been. The 40-year-old has fought at heavyweight and light heavyweight but it’s at middleweight where he’s always belonged.

“The Killa Gorilla” is 7-2 at 185 pounds since 2018, with his only losses coming against the two best middleweights of his generation in former champions Robert Whittaker and Adesanya.

Able to finish fights with his hands, elbows and even leg kicks, the legendary Anderson Silva, Derek Brunson and Jack Hermansson are among his 10 knockout victims.

Imavov is a fighter on the rise. The 29-year-old is 5-2-1 NC in the UFC and his only setback since mid-2021 was a decision loss to Strickland at 205 pounds. Last time out, he beat Roman Dolidze by decision in what was his maiden main event in February.

Ranked eighth, “The Russian Sniper” is an accurate striker as his nickname suggests. More importantly when it comes to this clash, however, he has a more balanced style than Cannonier, who’s primarily a stand-up fighter. Having said that, Cannonier is tough to take down, so expect this one to mostly play out on the feet.

At 6’3″, Imavov is four inches taller than his foe but it’s Cannonier, crucially, who’ll have a two-and-a-half-inch reach advantage. Imavov’s talented, no doubt about it, but he’s yet to beat a top contender.

Cannonier’s elite-level experience is invaluable and while he’s known for his power, he’s a crisp striker whose fight IQ is underrated because he’s such a physical specimen.

That combination of experience, power and technique makes him a solid underdog pick.

Prediction: Cannonier by decision.

Best Bet: Cannonier at 2.02.

Alternative Bet: Cannonier by decision at 3.25.

Dominick Reyes (2.90) v Dustin Jacoby (1.43) (Light Heavyweight)

Dangerous light heavyweights driven by desperation collide in the co-main event.

Reyes (12-4) has endured one of the harshest falls from grace in recent memory. After rattling off six straight wins in the UFC to take his record to 12-0, he got a title shot with many believing he’d done the impossible by beating the GOAT Jon Jones for the gold back in 2020. However, the decision went against him.

“The Devastator” received an immediate second shot at the strap after Jones had vacated it and was favoured to become the new king but was knocked out by Jan Blachowicz and hasn’t been the same since. He was flatlined by Jiri Prochazka in 2021 and stopped by Ryan Spann in his last fight in November 2022.

He’s now back for a make-or-break bout. His losses mentioned were all against top-of-the-food-chain fighters; this time, he’s facing a journeyman and has lost so much steam that he’s entering the clash as the underdog.

Jacoby (19-8-1) is on a slide of his own. He’s 1-3 in his last four fights and is looking to bounce back from a decision defeat to Alonzo Menifield in December. His recent losses were all in competitive fights but also came against weaker opponents than Reyes has faced.

“The Hanyak” is a veteran and the more technical striker, whereas Reyes is a significantly better pure athlete. For what’s set to be a stand-up battle, I understand why Jacoby’s the favourite, but I haven’t lost all hope in Reyes.

He’s so explosive and having had time outside of the Octagon to work on the mental aspect of fighting, I’m willing to back him as an underdog.

Prediction: Reyes by knockout.

Best Bet: Reyes at 2.90.

Alternative Bet: Reyes by KO/TKO/DQ at 5.50.

Raul Rosas Jr (1.43) v Ricky Turcios (2.90) (Bantamweight)

The pair of bantamweights were meant to collide in February, but the fight was suddenly minutes before the walkouts due to Rosas (8-1) being struck down with illness.

At 19, Rosas is the youngest fighter on the UFC roster. Signed when he was just 17, the prodigy rebounded from his first loss with a 54-second TKO of Terrence Mitchell last September and seeks to build on that momentum.

“El Nino Problema” has power for a bantamweight but it’s his high-level grappling, which has earned him five wins by submission, that’s his bread and butter. 

Turcios (12-3) is more technical than he is a threat with two-thirds of his wins coming by decision. The Ultimate Fighter Season 29 winner has been hot and cold inside the Octagon and is coming off a career-long layoff with his last fight, a split decision win over Kevin Natividad, dating back to November 2022.

Expect a much sharper Rosas to put “Pretty Ricky” on his back and force him to tap out.

Prediction: Rosas Jr by submission.

Best Bet: Rosas Jr by submission at 3.00.

Alternative Bet: Under 2.5 rounds at 2.24.

Brunno Ferreira (1.37) v Dustin Stoltzfus (3.15) (Middleweight)

Ferreira (11-1) is a fighter who always comes out firing. Not one for a feeling out process, “The Hulk” is fuelled by a kill-or-be-killed mindset and has a 100% finish rate (eight knockouts and three submissions).

What’s more, none of his three fights inside the UFC got out of the first round, with knockouts of Gregory Rodrigues and Phil Hawes bookending his only career loss to Nursultan Ruziboev.

Stoltzfus’ submission win over Punahele Soriano last time out was just his second in six outings inside the Octagon and took his record to 15-5. With six wins by tap out, it’s no secret that he’ll try to take the fight to the ground.

If Stoltzfus can weather the storm and extend the contest into the later rounds, he might have a cardio advantage. However, I’m not continuing my underdog streak in this one. Ferreira is a Brazilian wrecking ball and Stoltzfus leaves openings on the feet, so I’m expecting a knockout. 

Prediction: Ferreira by knockout.

Best Bet: Ferreira by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.68.

Alternative Bet: Under 1.5 rounds at 1.76.

Julian Marquez (1.74) v Zachary Reece (2.14) (Middleweight)

The judges won’t be needed in this one as both men boast a 100% finish rate.

This was a pick ‘em up until the start of the week when the line began to move more in Marquez’s favour. Experience, both inside the Octagon and overall, is the main reason why money is coming in on the man known as “The Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Back-to-back losses have seen him slip to 9-4 and to turn the tide, he’s linked up with The MMA Lab – the fighting home of headliner Cannonier among others. Expect him to still be as aggressive as ever but less reckless.

Reece (6-1) has never seen a second round in his young pro career. Unfortunately for him, his UFC debut in December brought with it his first loss as he was knocked out by a slam from Cody Brundage. That won’t deter him from fighting fire with fire with Marquez, though, especially considering he has a five-inch reach advantage.

Reece is still unproven and while this one could go either way, the more experienced and refined Marquez should be the last man standing.

Prediction: Marquez by stoppage

Best Bet: Marquez by KO/TKO/Submission/DQ at 2.10.

Alternative Bet: Marquez at 1.74

Julian Marquez (1.74) v Zachary Reece (2.14) (Middleweight)

A returning fighter faces one looking to reinvent himself in a new weight class in the main card opener.

Baeza (10-3) is back after two years away seeking a fresh start after having lost his last three fights. He’s not a bad fighter with the legendary Matt Brown being among his seven knockout victims, and the time away might be just what he needed to taste victory again.

Soriano (9-4) has won just one of his last five fights and finds himself as the underdog as a result. “Puna” is a power puncher with little else going for him, so if he’s unable to land a big shot, he either gets outpointed or fatigues and gets finished.

As a faster and more fleet-footed striker, Baeza has more strings to his bow plus he has the grappling ability to ground Soriano and sap his energy. It also remains to be seen how much the drop from 185 to 170 pounds takes out of Soriano. With that in mind, “Caramel Thunder” should make a successful comeback. 

Prediction: Baeza by knockout.

Best Bet: Baeza at 1.52.

Alternative Bet: Baeza by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.80.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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