LAS VEGAS – The first UFC event of 2023 is getting a new look.
Promotion officials announced Monday that Kelvin Gastelum has been forced to withdraw from headlining Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 217. Instead, fellow middleweight Sean Strickland has agreed to step in at short notice and face Nassourdine Imavov in the night’s main event.
Strickland and Imavov will headline the map, which will be streamed live in full on UFC Fight Pass from UFC Apex.
Strickland (25-5 MMA, 12-5 UFC) currently sits 7th in the official UFC middleweight rankings. He last saw action on December 17, when he suffered a frustrating split-decision loss to fellow competitor Jared Cannonier. Strickland is now back in action four weeks later to try and get back in the winning column.
Meanwhile, Dagestan-born Imavov (12-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC), who currently lives and trains in France, enters the fray with three straight wins, defeating the likes of Joaquin Buckley, Edmen Shahbazyan and Ian Heinisch in the process. Imavov is currently No. 12 in the UFC’s official rankings and could see a big step up with another win.
A timeline for Gastelum’s return was not immediately available, but he took to Twitter to express his frustration.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto said a mouth injury was to blame for Gastelum’s withdrawal.
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