Sean Strickland (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Magomedov Preview and Predictions

The UFC returns home to Las Vegas this weekend for UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Magomedov. The main event is a showdown in the middleweight division between perennial contender Sean Strickland and prospect Abus Magomedov. Strickland snapped a two-fight skid the last time he fought, beating Nassourdine Imavov by decision in a headlining affair back in January. He takes on Magomedov, a former PFL and KSW standout in only his second bout under the UFC banner. The 32 year old veteran finds himself in the biggest position of his career, looking to take out a highly ranked opponent in the world’s premiere MMA promotion.

The co-main event takes place in the world’s deepest MMA division, lightweight. Grant Dawson and Damir Ismagulov both find themselves in the bottom third of the UFC’s rankings and are looking to make a statement that they belong with a single digit number next to their names. The winner of this showdown should find himself climbing the ladder and in line for a high profile showdown with the best of the best at 155 lbs.

The event airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 4 p.m. ET.


Sean Strickland snapped a two-fight losing streak in his last bout; can he get past the highly touted prospect Abus Magomedov?

Kuhl: There was a time in recent history where the last name Magomedov almost guaranteed victory in MMA. However, that could obviously not go on forever, and if there is one person who can put that stereotype to rest, it is Sean Strickland. Now, don’t get me wrong. Dagestan’s Abus Magomedov trains out of UFD Gym in Dusseldorf, Germany, which is home to an amazing fight team, including the Croatian-Bosnian standout Roberto Soldic. However, everyone who pays attention knows how Strickland rolls.

If you can get past the weird cringy stuff that is constantly coming out of his mouth, Strickland is a fighter’s fighter, and then some. He quite literally trains how he fights, and every sparring session is basically a real fight. He uses relentless pressure on his feet, and his wrestling is pretty damned good for a guy who never wrestled as a kid. In fact, he has been training MMA since he was a young teenager.

This one should be fairly straight forward. Magomedov has only fought once in the UFC, which ended in a first-round waxing of Dustin Stoltzfus. Since then, visa issues and an opponent injury have kept him sidelined. Meanwhile, Strickland has just been doing gangster shit in the cage, per usual, for several years, and tonight, he will drag Magomedov into deep waters, causing a ton of frustration en route to a decision victory.

Petela: Sean Strickland is confusing. He talks a great, if somewhat weird game, but as of late he seems to be content going the distance and taking his foot of the gas rather than pushing for a finish. That cost him dearly in the Alex Pereira fight and it is the reason he came up short against Jared Cannonier. He kind of snuck by Nassourdine Imavov but I don’t see that gameplan panning out well for him this weekend.

It will be a major upset but I have to go with the up and comer on this one. Abus Magomedov won’t allow Strickland to get comfortable and set a rhythm. It is going to be an awkward fight as long as it lasts, which won’t be long. This one ends before the end of the second round with Magomedov landing a clubbing shot that wobbles Strickland as he runs his mouth and throws a punch at the same time. A few more follow up shots and come next Wednesday Magomedov will find himself with a number next to his name in the UFC’s official rankings.

Two rising lightweights meet in the co-main event; will it be Grant Dawson or Damir Ismagulov who comes away victorious?

Petela: Sometimes you have to give a tip of the cap to the UFC matchmakers. They nailed it with this one. Both of these guys have the potential to make major noise in the loaded lightweight division. They’re both still improving, and, despite coming off a loss to Arman Tsarukyan, Damir Ismagulov is an absolute terror.

Grant Dawson has the pace and skill set to cause problems for most, if not all, of the fighters in the weight class. The later that the fight goes, the more likely Dawson will be able to use his pressure to control Ismagulov and find advantageous positions to win a decision. But, if he winds up on his back early, he might fall prey to a ground-and-pound TKO stoppage. I’m thinking that Dawson weathers an early storm and takes over the fight midway through and squeaks out a win.

Kuhl: When a fighter switches up camps, it can go one of two ways. An example of the bad way is Mirsad Bektic. He did awesome when he was at Mid-America Martial Arts in Omaha, Neb., he did okay out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., and he completely lost all hope, and eventually retired, after moving to Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec.

Grant Dawson also got his start in Nebraska, eventually moved to Glory MMA & Fitness in Kansas City, and, after getting off to an undefeated UFC start, also moved to ATT in Coconut Creek. However, unlike Bektic, Dawson has continued his successes in Florida. Although, unlike many Glory athletes, his move out of the gym was well before the whole James Krause betting scandal broke out.

Dawson has proven over and over again that he is a legit contender in a loaded division. The only UFC fight he didn’t win was a majority draw against Rick Glenn almost two years ago, and of his seven Octagon wins, he holds four submissions and a knockout. He has certainly proven to be a tough out for anyone.

Damir Ismagulov, as my colleague pointed out, is no walk in the park either. One of the serious regional promotions from across the pond is M-1 Global, and he was their lightweight champ before joining the UFC. The Kazakh fighter is gritty as hell, and he has only lost twice, having never been stopped. Before the Tsarukyan loss, he was on a whopping 19-fight winning streak, and had knocked out 12 opponents in 24 wins. The guy is a wrecking ball.

This one is a classic striker-vs.-grappler affair, which is a very cliche and played out term, but it is true. Ismagulov is more comfortable on his feet, Dawson is more comfortable on the ground, and, if I was a betting man, I would stay in line with my colleague and call this one a decision win for Dawson. Three rounds seems to go by fast in the cage, when an opponent is smothering you, and that is what I expect to see happen in this one.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Kuhl: Sometimes, life takes a fighter in a different direction, and that is what it is starting to look like for Yana Santos. Her and her husband, and fellow fighter, Thiago have built what appears to be a wonderful life together. They’re married, have a young daughter together, and life is great all around. She finally got back in the cage in March, after a nearly two year layoff, and was completely outclassed by Holly Holm. The Russian taekwondo black belt just looked like a shell of her former self, and that made two losses in a row. It’s likely time for her to move past fighting, and a loss to Karol Rosa could be her last fight, not just in the Octagon.

Petela: Kevin Lee needs to make a statement in his return to the UFC. His last victory came in a slop fest against Diego Sanchez in Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Eagle FC. He has dealt with a plethora of personal issues and hopefully for his sake he has all of that behind him but if he lays an egg in his return he might find himself looking for a new gig once again.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: I try to stay away from main card fights for my sleeper picks because it feels like the easy way out but the main card clash between Benoit Saint-Denis and Ismael Bonfim is getting very little attention. Saint-Denis had one of the most impressive UFC debuts I can remember and he did it in a loss. The beating he took without so much as flinching it seemed was wild. He took that fight on short notice and in his two fights since then he has been just as impressive in victory. Bonfim is another very impressive talent who blasted Terrance McKinney in his debut. These two are going to put on a show.

Kuhl: I generally try to stay away from heavyweight fights as sleeper match-ups, because, often, they can quite literally put you to sleep. However, the first fight of the evening between Alexandr Romanov and Blagoy Ivanov could be a banger. Both of these guys have only been stopped once, both hit hard as hell, and both can grapple. There is no way of knowing where this one could end up, which could make for a rarely exciting heavyweight war.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Kuhl: The 24-year-old Ecuadorian Michael Morales could see some extra cash after his fight with Max Griffin. Griffin is a gritty vet who has had some close split decisions in his last two fights against Tim Means and Neil Magny, but Morales is the next generation, and he is coming in hot. Griffin is 13 years the elder, and he has never really put together a big run inside the Octagon. I think Morales comes into this one like a ball of fire, and finishes Griffin in under seven minutes to pick up a bonus.

Petela: Benoit Saint-Denis. I have high hopes for his showdown with Ismael Bonfim and I think Saint-Denis gets it done by finish in round two. Halting the momentum of Bonfim will be a big enough statement but a crushing knockout victory should also add $50K to the Frenchman’s pocket.

Pair this card with…


Kuhl: This card showcases a good mix of veterans and newcomers. So, why not pair it with a classic like ground beef nachos and something newer like a coconut mojito. It’s summertime, and this card is red hot, so that seems like a great pairing on a Saturday evening.

Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ABC/ESPN3, 7 p.m. ET)
MW: Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov Strickland Magomedov
LW: Grant Dawson vs. Damir Ismagulov Dawson Dawson
WW: Max Griffin vs. Michael Morales Morales Morales
Women’s FlyW: Ariane Lipski vs. Melissa Gatto Gatto Lipski
LW: Benoit Saint-Denis vs. Ismael Bonfim Bonfim Saint-Denis
MW: Nursulton Ruziboev vs. Bruno Ferreira Ferreira Ruziboev
Preliminary Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 4 p.m. ET)
WW: Kevin Lee vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov Fakhretdinov Fakhretdinov
Women’s FW: Yana Santos vs. Karol Rosa Rosa Rosa
Women’s FlyW: Ivana Petrovic vs. Luana Carolina Petrovic Carolina
FW: Joanderson Brito vs. Westin Wilson Brito Brito
HW: Alexandr Romanov vs. Blagoy Ivanov Romanov Romanov
LW: Guram Kutateladze vs. Elves Brener Kutateladze Kutateladze