The UFC kicks off its 2023 with a home game, and a short-notice light heavyweight fight tops the lineup.
UFC Fight Night 217 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card streams on ESPN+.
(Click here to open a PDF of the staff picks grid in a separate window.)
In the main event, Nassourdine Imavov (12-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC) takes on Sean Strickland (25-5 MMA, 12-5 UFC). The fight is taking place at 205 pounds instead of middleweight after Strickland stepped in for Kelvin Gastelum on just five days’ notice. Strickland lost to Jared Cannonier in the UFC’s final event of 2022 a month ago.
Imavov is just a slight favorite at -130 at Tipico Sportsbook; the comeback on Strickland is +110. But Our 11 editors, writers, radio hosts and videographers have Imavov with a near-unanimous picks lead at 10-1.
In the co-feature, Dan Ige (15-6 MMA, 7-5 UFC) meets Damon Jackson (22-4-1 MMA, 5-2-1 UFC) at featherweight. Ige is a slight -125 favorite at the betting window, and it’s close with our pickers, too. They’ve got Ige with the narrowest possible lead at 6-5.
Also on the main card, Punahele Soriano (9-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) is just a -150 favorite at middleweight against Roman Kopylov (9-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC), but he’s one of our two unanimous picks at 11-0.
Raquel Pennington (14-9 MMA, 11-5 UFC) takes on Ketlen Vieira (13-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) in a key women’s bantamweight bout. Vieira is a slight favorite at -125, but she’s got a decent 7-4 lead from our pickers.
And to open the main card, bantamweight Umar Nurmagomedov (15-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) is the biggest favorite on the entire event at nearly 10-1 against Raoni Barcelos (17-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC). Not surprisingly, Nurmagomedov is our other unanimous pick at 11-0.
In the MMA Junkie reader consensus picks, Imavov (51 percent), Ige (62 percent), Soriano (68 percent), Vieira (67 percent) and Nurmagomedov (88 percent) are the choices.
Check out all the picks above.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 217.
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