2023 has only just begun, but the UFC has already experienced it’s first major injury blow of the year ahead of it’s first event on Saturday Night with the news that Kelvin Gastelum is out of his main event fight with Nassourdine Imavov due to an injury.
However, the UFC have managed to pull a rabbit out of their hat on extremely short-notice by drafting in Sean Strickland to fight Imavov instead at 205lbs, which could in some ways be regarded as an upgrade to the headliner given that Strickland is currently ranked No.7 in the middleweight division, while Gastelum is No.13.
For those wondering, the 31-year-old Gastelum certainly has a valid reason for his late call-off from the event as he’s since revealed that accidental damage received in training left him undergoing emergency dental treatment to reattach dislodged teeth back into his gum.
Gastelum’s exit gives Strickland an opportunity to try to get back to winning ways after he suffered a split decision loss in the final UFC event of last year against Jared Cannonier.
That was actually Strickland’s second loss in a row, having been KO’d by Alex Pereira a few months earlier, so it’s actually quite a risky decision for him to come in to fight a quality opponent in Imavov less than a month after his last fight.
As for Imavov, he’s currently on a three-fight winning streak and is 5-1 overall in his UFC campaign so far, but this is certainly a big step up in competition and with little time to prepare.