UFC Fight Night 217: Quick picks and prognostications

MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main card for UFC Fight Night 217.

UFC Fight Night 217 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card streams on ESPN+.-

Last event’s results: 0-0

Overall picks for UFC main cards in 2023: 0-0-0

Welcome to MMAJunkie’s Quick Picks and Prognostications, where I’ll be giving brief, fight-day breakdowns for UFC main cards.

With that in mind, I hope these write-ups don’t come off as curt or dismissive, as my goal here is to offer quick picks and analysis in a digestible format. All odds listed are provided by Tipico Sportsbook.

If you’d like more detailed analysis from me, then feel free to check out my weekly show, The Protect Ya’ Neck Podcast.

So, without further ado…

Umar Nurmagomedov (-900) vs. Raoni Barcelos (+600)

Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Raoni Barcelos

Saturday’s main card opens up with a quality bantamweight matchup between [autotag]Umar Nurmagomedov[/autotag] and [autotag]Raoni Barcelos[/autotag].

Despite my official pick, the inflated betting lines attached to this fight are outright disrespectful to the chances of Barcelos – who is a quality fighter.

Not only is Barcelos a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a fully-fledged striking game, but the 35-year-old is also a five-time national wrestling champion (in Brazil) who shows the defensive savvy to stymie a lot of Nurmagomedov’s attacks.

That said, Nurmagomedov’s persistence, cardio and kicking game will likely produce enough output down the stretch to get him a win on the scorecards.

Ketlen Vieira (-125) vs. Raquell Pennington (+105)

Ketlen Vieira vs. Raquel Pennington

Filling out the main card is a battle between ranked bantamweights, [autotag]Ketlen Vieira[/autotag] and [autotag]Raquell Pennington[/autotag].

Although the narrative will tell you that Vieira is title bound, it’s nice to see some respect on the betting lines for Pennington.

For those who’ve been paying attention, Pennington has been having a bit of a late-career renaissance as of late, winning four straight fights. Pennington still shows some susceptibility to counters when she blitzes but she’s ultimately the more skilled striker whether she’s coming forward or fighting off of the counter.

Pennington has also been quietly out-striking larger counterparts in the clinch in recent outings, which I believe will be key against a fighter like Vieira (who can be a bit too lackadaisical for my liking). The pick is Pennington by decision.

Punahele Soriano (-145) vs. Roman Kopylov (-155)

Punahele Soriano vs. Roman Kopylov

Serving as a solid action fight at 185 pounds is a showdown between [autotag]Punahele Soriano[/autotag] and [autotag]Roman Kopylov[/autotag].

Although I have an admitted and inherent bias toward Xtreme Couture fighters (which is something that I always state in my work), I ended up siding with Soriano in this spot.

Not only is Koplyov 0-1 opposite UFC-level lefties (Karl Roberson), but the Russian fighter demonstrated weaknesses in that fight and others that could play right into the hands of Soriano.

Showing a propensity to eat left hands and kicks from the power side of southpaws, Kopylov also has a tendency to back himself in between the fence and inner-black octagon lines ––– which happens to be Soriano’s kill zone.

Kopylov’s check hooks will be live for as long as this fight lasts, I just suspect that Soriano takes his head off in the first with another stunning knockout.

Dan Ige (-125) vs. Damon Jackson (+105)

Dan Ige vs. Damon Jackson

The co-main event in Las Vegas features a fun featherweight affair between [autotag]Dan Ige[/autotag] and [autotag]Damon Jackson[/autotag].

Although I have a known bias toward Xtreme Couture, I’m also a big fan of Fortis MMA (whom I awarded as MMA Junkie’s 2022 Gym of the Year).

Jackson has been making his Texas-based team proud with his inspiring late-career resurgence, while Ige is trying to right the proverbial ship after suffering three straight losses.

Both fighters seem to struggle with similar things from a defensive standpoint (e.g. body shots and uppercuts), but Ige’s offensive initiative in those departments could make the difference.

Jackson is a talented grappler who has worked diligently to steadily improve his striking, I just suspect that his shelling nature will open up lanes for Ige bodywork and uppercuts. Although a surprise stoppage could be in the cards, I’ll officially take Ige to edge out a decision.

Sean Strickland (+115) vs. Nassourdine Imavov (-135)

The main event on ESPN+ features an impromptu fight at 205 pounds between middleweights [autotag]Sean Strickland[/autotag] and [autotag]Nassourdine Imavov[/autotag].

As stated in my in-depth breakdown, this is a deceptively tricky fight to call despite the short notice context.

Strickland is the more proven product and can be a difficult fighter to deal with over five rounds, especially if you don’t have the cardio and skills to confidently outpace him.

Imavov has shown to flag in past three-round affairs, but he was ultimately the man preparing to fight this Saturday (while Stickland is coming in on a week’s notice after going 25 minutes with Jared Cannonier just last month). For that reason, I’ll semi-reluctantly side with Imavov to edge out a decision over the American.

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie