With its third fight card of the year, the UFC gives fans a second middleweight main event in three weeks.
While not holding the same amount of stake as the last main event, Roman Dolidze and Nassourdine Imavov will be fighting for the right to enter the title conversation amid simultaneous rough patches in their careers. Dolidze enters the fight with the higher ranking but it will be Imavov closing as the betting favorite on Feb. 3.
Neither man has won a fight since 2022, though Imavov was on his way to a definitive decision victory over Chris Curtis before a clash of heads caused a no-contest. Before that matchup, Imavov lost his three-fight win streak to eventual champion Sean Strickland.
The odds have this fight near 50/50, but with lines constantly moving in MMA, anything can change. Let's get on this one early!
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View the rest of my picks for UFC Vegas 85 here.
Roman Dolidze vs. Nassourdine Imavov best bet
Roman Dolidze ML +145
The line on this fight opened with Imavov as a slight favorite and has continued to shift in the Russian's direction as most of the money comes in on the Dagestan native. However, I am going fully on the other side with almost all signs pointing me in Dolidze's direction.
Before losing to Marvin Vettori — an incredibly consistent fighter at the top of the middleweight division — Dolidze tore his way into the top 10 with three knockout wins. To this day, his calf slicer to ground-and-pound win over Jack Hermansson on short notice remains one of the most underrated performances I have seen in the modern UFC era.
To this point in the UFC, Dolidze is 6-2 with four wins by finish. As an underdog, Dolidze is 3-1 and arguably 4-0 with his slightly controversial loss to Vettori resulting in 50% of media outlets scoring the fight in his favor on MMA Decisions.
As an elite BJJ practitioner, Dolidze may be the best grappler in the division. At 35, many forget his late entry to MMA after spending the majority of his 20s in BJJ, winning titles in ADCC and FILA Grappling. Needless to say, his skills have transitioned extraordinarily to MMA.
Imavov remains the better striker, having a background in boxing. As an excellent grappler himself, Imavov's ability to mix in wrestling with his striking has led to his success, but the wrestling aspect of his game will be almost completely nullified by Dolidze. As a pure striker, Imavov is less dynamic without the takedown threat.
Dolidze's takedown defense looks questionable on paper at just 33%, but his confidence in grappling exchanges almost accepts takedowns attempted on him. Dolidze is rarely in the bottom position and has one of the best reversal games in the UFC with elite leg attacks in transitions.
At 6'3" Imavov also loves to use his size and physicality to his advantage but Dolidze will be one of the few fighters he has faced thus far who can match him in that aspect. Dolidze's transformation as a striker and finisher late in his career has turned him into one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC. A new title contender will be made on Feb. 3.
Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change