Roman Dolidze and Nassourdine Imavov have their sights set on the middleweight elite. The skilled fighters reside in the bottom half of UFC’s official rankings for 185 pounds. Dolidze and Imavov headline UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday with hopes of lining up a major fight.
Dolidze (12-2) is a late bloomer. The Georgian athlete started training in mixed martial arts at age 28 after playing professional soccer and competing in grappling tournaments. He was signed to UFC two years later with only six MMA fights to his name. Dolidze’s fast rise is remarkable and he won’t let a recent loss to former middleweight title challenger Marvin Vettori deter him.
“You’re talking to the person who wasn’t thinking he would be a fighter at all,” Dolidze told CBS Sports. “I had different thoughts in my mind. A different lifestyle. Different things going on in my life. Nobody even expected this. If you were to talk even two years ago, nobody would have thought that I’d be ranked… Power of will. All my life it’s been like this.”
Check out the full interview with Roman Dolidze below.
Imavov (12-4, 1 NC) is on an admittedly bothersome run. Winless in the last 17 months, Imavov was outclassed by short-notice replacement Sean Strickland and drew a no-contest against Chris Curtis. Recent developments have helped remedy the French fighter’s frustrations. Imavov looked sharp against Curtis early and he was rewarded with a Top 10 opponent in Dolidze despite the inconclusive finish. His recent loss has also aged well considering Strickland’s surge to UFC middleweight champion.
“I was very happy he took the belt because my plan from the very beginning was to fight him again,” Imavov told CBS Sports through a translator. “Even though he doesn’t have the belt anymore, I still want to fight him. He’s still a good opponent and I want to show him — because he talked trash a lot — what I can do against him.”
Check out the full interview with Nassourdine Imavov below.
There isn’t much meat on the bones of UFC Fight Night. Saturday’s card lacks stakes and even dedicated fans might not recognize the first four fighters on the main card. The most appetizing servings are the action-packed co-main event of Renato Moicano vs. Drew Dober and Natalia Silva looking to extend her winning streak to 11 against Viviane Araujo.
Below is the rest of the fight card for Saturday with the latest odds before we get to a prediction and pick on the main event.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
|Nassourdine Imavov -165
|Roman Dolidze +140
|Renato Moicano -180
|Drew Dober +155
|Randy Brown -260
|Muslim Salikhov +210
|Natalia Silva -360
|Viviane Araujo +280
|Aliaskhab Khizriev -145
|Makhmud Muradov +122
|Gilbert Urbina -210
|Charles Radtke +170
UFC Fight Night viewing information
Date: Feb. 3 | Start time: 7 p.m. ET (main card)
Location: UFC Apex — Las Vegas
TV channel: ESPN+
Roman Dolidze vs. Nassourdine Imavov: Saturday’s fight is tough to predict. Each man excels where their opponent struggles most. Dolidze is an accomplished grappler with unrefined albeit powerful strikes. Imavov is a technical boxer whose offensive wrestling needs work. Both men are also very durable. They have one stoppage loss between them — a submission in Imavov’s 2016 debut — in 31 combined fights. Dolidze’s power has served him well but he’d be wise to grapple an opponent nicknamed “The Sniper.” Dolidze could dirty box in the clinch and try to catch Imavov with hard shots entering and exiting range. Even if his takedowns are unsuccessful, the entries should lead to other opportunities. Imavov will find the most success by picking apart Dolidze at range and employing his 72% takedown defense when needed. Movement is Imavov’s key. If Dolidze doesn’t find the finish inside three rounds, I suspect Imavov will tally three rounds on the scorecards. Imavov via Unanimous Decision