Jared Cannonier (Mike Sloan/Sherdog)

UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Imavov Preview and Predictions

The UFC keeps the show rolling this week as they head from New Jersey to Louisville, Ky. for UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Imavov. The main event pits two middleweight contenders against one another, as they look to climb the ladder and move closer to a shot at current champion Dricus Du Plessis. Jared Cannonier has gotten close to the title before, losing a unanimous decision to then-champion Israel Adesanya. Since that loss, he has won two consecutive bouts – over former title challenger Marvin Vettori and former champion Sean Strickland. Imavov has also fought Strickland, coming up short against the brash American and losing a unanimous decision. A win over Cannonier would be the most noteworthy victory in Imavov’s career to date.

The co-main event takes place in the light heavyweight division with two fighters who need to get back in the win column. Dominick Reyes hasn’t won a fight since beating former middleweight champion Chris Weidman, as the “All American” unsuccessfully tried to move up in weight. Since that fight, Reyes has lost four in a row and has looked less-than-stellar in all of those outings, except his close decision loss to Jon Jones with the belt on the line. Dustin Jacoby has lost three of his last four, though his decision loss to Khalil Rountree Jr. was highly controversial, and most people with two eyes clearly saw Jacoby win that fight. Regardless, he, too, needs a victory this weekend to get back on track and prove that he is very much a relevant player at 205 pounds.

The main card also has a bantamweight clash featuring highly touted prospect Raul Rosas Jr., who will take on Ricky Turcios. Rojas is making his fourth walk to the Octagon, and he has still not yet celebrated his 20th birthday. Twelve years his senior, Turcios will also be fighting inside the UFC for the fourth time, and both men sport 2-1 records with the promotion.


UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Imavov airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 5 p.m. ET, with the main card also airing on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

It has been just under a year since Jared Cannonier stepped into the cage; can he keep up his momentum and notch a third consecutive win by defeating Nassourdine Imavov?

Kuhl: I’m going with the durability and experience of Jared Cannonier to be the deciding factor in his battle against Nassourdine Imavov. Don’t get me wrong, Imavov has had an impressive few years in the UFC, but he is 2-2-1 against his five highest level opponents, but all of those fights went the distance, except for the one against Chris Curtis, which ended in a no contest due to a head clash. He will have a height advantage over Cannonier, but Cannonier has really long arms for his height. And, he uses his striking to put opponents away.

Cannonier has only lost twice in the last six years, which were to former middleweight champions Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker, and both of those fights went the distance. One the win side, he has knockout wins of various forms over former champ Anderson Silva, Jack Hermansson and Derek Brunson, and he also holds decision wins over Sean Strickland and Marvin Vettori in his last two outings. The level of experience and guys he was able to put away are far above the level that Imavov has been at thus far.

I see Cannonier putting it to Imavov from the beginning, being cautious not to get taken down, and winning this one by decision to cement his No. 4 spot in the rankings, earning an eventual title shot.

Petela: I too, think this one will go in the favor of Jared Cannonier, but I think it will be his gas tank that helps him secure the win more than any tangible skills. Even in his two main event fights that went the distance, there was a glaring difference between the level of output that Nassourdine Imavov had in the latter portions of the fight. Going back to his win over Joaquin Buckley in Paris he was visibly gassed out by the third round. That is going to be a problem against an experienced veteran like Cannonier.

I agree with Dan that Cannonier is going to take the fight to Imavov from the opening bell. His pressure and power are going to cause all sorts of problems. Imavov is going to be backing up most of the time and that will zap his energy. By round three, his gas tank will be empty and Cannonier will land a flurry of punches that cause Imavov to wilt and the referee to wave off the contest. Cannonier by TKO late in the third.

Since losing a controversial split decision in a title fight to Jon Jones, Dominick Reyes has lost all of his fights via knockout; can he avoid the dangerous striking of Dustin Jacoby and score his first win since 2019?

Petela: Short answer: no. Dominick Reyes is a shell of himself. Something must have happened to him on the heels of that title loss to Jon Jones because the guy who gave, arguably, the greatest fighter of all time all he could handle is long gone. Perhaps it was the hellacious beating he took from Jan Blachowicz, when the pair met for the vacant title, that ruined Reyes, but there have been no indications that he will ever return to his best form.

Dustin Jacoby is the wrong opponent for a get-right fight. With one of the most intelligent striking attacks in the UFC, Jacoby is dangerous. He can pick opponents apart from range or grind away and maul them in the clinch with short elbows and knees. He may not have a robust grappling and wrestling pedigree but that isn’t what he is going to need to defeat Reyes. This fight is going to take place largely at distance and almost entirely on the feet. Expect Jacoby to wear down Reyes with a high volume of strikes as he moves forward and cuts angles, always keeping Reyes on the backfoot. By the third round it will be just too much for Reyes to handle and he will wilt from a barrage of strikes that land flush from Jacoby.

Kuhl: I agree with my colleague completely. There are levels to the striking game, and Dominick Reyes is just not at the same level as Dustin Jacoby. Jacoby is a former multiple-time GLORY Kickboxing tournament winner, and one-time GLORY middleweight title contender. He had a pro kickboxing record of 10-8 with nine knockout wins, before transitioning back into MMA. As Matt said, this is a bad stylistic match-up for Reyes, who doesn’t have much of a grappling game, and Jacoby should finish this one early.

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

Kuhl: Sticking with the above theme, I have to go with Dominick Reyes. It’s crazy that they are pitting him against Dustin Jacoby, while on a four-fight losing streak, when three were by knockout. Granted, three of those losses were to former champions, but five losses in a row is not a good look, and he could be the next candidate for another promotion.

Petela: Angela Lee. She needs a win in the worst way. It has been four losses in a row for “KGB” and she has lost six of her last nine. That is not a good formula for keeping a spot on the UFC roster, especially with the flyweight division seeing a surge in new talent. If she loses to Montana De La Rosa, who is also probably on the chopping block, it might be the end of the run for Lee.

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

Petela: Nothing can guarantee an exciting fight, but when two fighters have their backs against the wall it usually makes for an slobberknocker. With that said, I am going with the womens’ flyweight tilt between Angela Lee and Montana De La Rosa. Not only are both women desperately in need of a W but they have clashing styles. This is almost a throwback to the striker vs. grappler days of yesteryear. However this one plays out, it should be a fun fight to watch for fans.

Kuhl: The featured preliminary bout between Thiago Moisés and Ľudovít Klein should be a banger. Moisés is 3-3 in his last six fights, with all six ending in a finish. Klein is 4-1-1 in his last six fights, with one win and one loss coming by finish, and two decisions ending in split and majority. Both men are on the cusp of a potential lightweight ranking, which is saying a lot for that stacked division, and both will be coming for a statement finish.

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

Kuhl: 19-year-old Raul Rosas Jr. is a finishing machine, which he proved in his bounce-back fight against Terrence Mitchell last September, after suffering his first pro loss in a decision to Christian Rodriguez five months prior. He will be facing Ricky Turcios, after the two were supposed to meet in Feb. 2024, but Rosas suffered an illness. Rosas will put Turcios aways in the first round to earn that extra cash.

Petela: Punahele Soriano. Like many fighters on this card he really needs a win. Luckily for him, he has the power in his hands to secure a victory with one well timed punch. That will be the case this weekend when he stands opposite Miguel Baeza inside the Octagon. These two are going to want to stand and trade and with the power advantage, I see Soriano landing a highlight reel knockout that is good enough to earn him an additional $50K.

Pair this card with…

Petela: Talk about low hanging fruit here, but the venue is the KFC Yum! Center, so I am going with a family bucket of fried chicken. I don’t care who you are, fried chicken is an absolute can’t-miss meal. Grab a few buckets and enjoy the fights with friends and family.

Kuhl: I love Matt’s answer of KFC, but I’m going with something a bit more traditional. We will start with a late lunch of a Kentucky hot brown, which is an open-faced turkey, ham, and bacon sandwich, smothered in Mornay sauce, which is kind of like a cheese gravy, and then baked. After the lengthy digestion period, this card should be capped off with a Maker’s Mark old fashioned, using Kentucky’s finest straight bourbon.

Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
MW: Jared Cannonier vs. Nassourdine Imavov Cannonier Cannonier
LHW: Dominick Reyes vs. Dustin Jacoby Jacoby Jacoby
BW: Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Ricky Turcios Rosas Turcios
MW: Bruno Ferreira vs. Dustin Stoltzfus Ferreira Ferreira
MW: Julian Marquez vs. Zach Reese Marquez Marquez
WW: Punahele Soriano vs. Miguel Baeza Baeza Soriano
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 5 p.m. ET)
LW: Thiago Moises vs. L’udovit Klein Klein Moises
WW: Charles Radtke vs. Carlos Prates Prates Radtke
BW: Brad Katona vs. Jesse Butler Katona Butler
Women’s FlyW: Angela Lee vs. Montana De La Rosa Lee De La Rosa
BW: Daniel Marcos vs. John Castaneda Marcos Marcos
Women’s StrawW: Eduarda Moura vs. Denise Gomes Moura Moura
BW: Cody Stamann vs. Taylor Lapilus Lapilus Stamann
Women’s StrawW: Puja Tomar vs. Rayanne Amanda Amanda Amanda