In the first UFC event of 2023, former middleweight interim title challenger Kelvin Gastelum (16-8) will look to start the year off with a bang when he meets upcoming contender Nassourdine Imavov (12-3) in the main event of UFC Fight Night 217 on January 14. 

Below is a UFC weekend preview on this opening event of the 2023 fight schedule. With the co-main event fight between Geoff Neal and Shavkat Rakhmonov probably being canceled, look for a replacement to come in for Neal, who is injured. If not, there are still many great fights with upcoming prospects in the UFC involved. 

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  • Kelvin Gastelum is 1-4 in his last five appearances in the UFC octagon. 
  • Nassourdine Imavov is 4-1 in his last 5 UFC appearances. 
  • Gastelum will be the betting underdog for the 9th time in his UFC career and the biggest underdog since his fight with Tyron Woodley in 2015. 
  • Imavov has been the betting favorite in 4 out of his 6 UFC fights. 
  • Gastelum has ten finishes in his career and hasn’t been knocked out, but he has been finished twice by submissions. 
  • Imavov has nine finishes in his professional career, with 5 TKO/KO and four submissions.  

How To Bet on Gastelum vs Imavov

If you are trying to figure out how to bet on this middleweight main event matchup, let’s break down both fighters. 

The odds are currently in Imavov’s favor as he is the -200 betting favorite. His only UFC loss has been to the dangerous Phil Hawes back at the beginning of 2021. Since then, Imavov has rattled off three wins in a row against some of the most notable upcoming names in the division. 

Imavov’s last fight against Joaquin Buckley can give a lot of information on how this matchup might play out. Buckley is a short, powerful fighter, much like Gastelum. Imavov did a very good job staying at range and counterpunching the aggressive Buckley.

One of the big things to look for is if Imavov can turn on the dog inside him. He showed it a little bit against Buckley when he got mad, and things got a little chippy inside the octagon. Gastelum will be the biggest test Imavov has ever had in the cage. 

Kelvin Gastelum has had such an interesting career. Even though his record doesn’t show it, he is clearly one of the top fighters in the middleweight division. His willingness to fight anyone at any time has been the only downfall of his career on paper, but Gastelum has earned the respect of the MMA community and the UFC. 

Gastelum has been doing this for a long time. He has been headlining events since 2015 when he was a welterweight struggling to make the weight limit. 

Look at Gastelum’s resume of fighters he has met in the octagon: Woodley, Magny, Hendricks, Kennedy, Belfort, Weidman, Bisping, Souza, Adesanya, Till, Hermansson, Whittaker, Cannonier. If you know MMA before betting on this event, you will know this is one of the most impressive resumes in the UFC. 

Gastelum will come into this fight with very technical boxing abilities, a granite chin, and an endless gas tank. He also has a very solid wrestling foundation he can use to his advantage against someone that stands as tall as Imavov. 

When you’re figuring out how to bet on this fight, the biggest thing to know is that Gastelum is the last fighter you want to look at analytics for. It doesn’t make sense with his size and how good he is. It also doesn’t get portrayed well in his win/loss record. 

Gastelum is serving as a gatekeeper for the top of the middleweight division right now for Imavov. Gastelum will have a chip on his shoulder, and he will be prepared to get his hand raised at the end of this one, not just the respect of the MMA community. 

Gastelum vs Imavov Betting Picks

Our official betting pick for this main event matchup is going to be Gastelum coming away with the big upset win. 

Gastelum has had some time off to train and level up his game. He took all the fights he needed and has been in some wars. This is now the part of his career where he needs to start winning fights. His team knows that. 

Entering his prime at 31 years of age, be prepared to see the best Gastelum we have ever seen in the octagon. Even though he has a big size disadvantage, his boxing and pressure will steal rounds away on the scorecard. He also has 10x the experience in five-round fights. 

This is the chance of a lifetime for Gastelum to get his career back on track. He will be able to use the wrestling skills he has learned from his vast experience in the octagon. 

Top Sportsbooks Odds 

BetOnline: Gastelum +170

Bovada: Gastelum +175

MyBookie: Gastelum +161

BetUS: Gastelum +165

DraftKings: Gastelum +170

SportBet: Gastelum +145

FanDuel: Gastelum +172

Bonus! Other Fights Worth Placing a Bet On

UFC Main Card Bout: Dan Ige (-120) vs Damon Jackson (+100)

  • These two featherweights are some of the most exciting fighters on the roster. Dan “50K” Ige is almost always in the most exciting fight of the night, and he gets to have a great dance partner in Damon Jackson. 

UFC Preliminary Bout: Umar Nurmagomedov (-500) vs Raoni Barcelos (+390)

  • This is probably the biggest lock on this UFC event. We have an upcoming young stud in Nurmagomedov who will be able to maul someone like Barcelos. Not a knock on Barcelos, but Umar is on a different level and is destined for championship experience soon. 
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