Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strikers Chris Curtis and Nassourdine Imavov will throw down this weekend (Sat., June 10, 2023) at UFC 289 inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Curtis took the scenic route to his UFC debut, fighting all over the country in a variety of organizations. Since joining the roster, he’s advanced into the Top 15 and scored some incredible knockouts, but he’s yet to break into those more elite ranks. On the other hand, Imavov has significantly less experience. He enters this bout following a main event loss to Sean Strickland, a long time sparring partner of Curtis, which adds an additional layer of intrigue to this “Prelims” headliner.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Brendan Allen (UFC Vegas 54), Joaquin Buckley (UFC 282), Rodolfo Vieira (UFC Vegas 57), Phil Hawes (UFC 268)
Key Losses: Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 287), Jack Hermansson (UFC London), Ray Cooper III (PFL 7 2019)
Keys to Victory: Curtis has 40 professional bouts on his record, and he fights like it! “Action Man” is plenty comfortable in the pocket, content to stand his ground and pick up reads until the moment he finds the perfect shot to sleep his foe.
He’s stopped 17 foes via knockout.
I’ll be honest: I really like how Curtis fought against Kelvin Gastelum. I also think he won two of three rounds, especially when the clash of heads is considered. In that bout, Curtis was always hunting for his counter shot, but he also initiated plenty of exchanges, kept up on the volume game, and landed a ton of shots to the mid-section.
In this fight, Curtis should be employing a similar game plan. Imavov is likely to try to capitalize on a height and reach advantage by working his distance kickboxing, so the onus is on Curtis to push forward and fire in combination. If he can do so while touching the body, Imavov is more likely to fatigue, and his 18th knockout is more likely to land.
Key Wins: Joaquin Buckley (UFC Paris), Edmen Shahbazyan (UFC 268), Ian Heinisch (UFC Vegas 32)
Key Losses: Sean Strickland (UFC Vegas 67), Phil Hawes (UFC Vegas 19)
Keys to Victory: Imavov is a really talented prospect. He’s a massive Middleweight with crisp boxing, and his takedown defense improved rapidly after being exposed as an early weakness.
In Imavov’s last bout, the tables were turned. Sean Strickland got in his face and bullied him, which fatigued the French athlete and kept him from every really getting going. Hopefully, that was a learning experience, because Curtis hits considerably harder than Strickland and cannot be allowed to find similar success.
Range is really the key here. Imavov has a strong jab and can back it up with crisp power shots. If he’s able to establish his lead hand and keep his feet moving, he should be able to prevent Curtis from building combinations. Then, he can look to walk Curtis into heavy punches.
Imavov has to use his range to pick and choose when to exchange. If he can stick Curtis and then move, he can set the pace and fight more comfortably.
This is a fun match between ranked Middleweights looking to bounce back.
Curtis has lost two of his last three bouts leading into this one. Gastelum controversy aside, “Action Man” is 35 years old, and those defeats cost him a lot of momentum. He’s still got an opportunity to fight up the rankings here, so if can rebound successfully, he’s right back in talks to break into the Top 10.
If not, his window to contend may be closing.
As for Imavov, it will be telling how he performs this weekend. Strickland beat him up and cost him much of his hype, so it’s time to rebuild. If he can take out a respected name in Curtis, the 28 year old will once again be viewed as a major Middleweight prospect. If not, he may fall out of the rankings entirely.
At UFC 289, Chris Curtis and Nassourdine Imavov will close the preliminary portion of the night. Which man will earn the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 289 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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This story originally appeared on MMA Mania