Roman Dolidze and Nassourdine Imavov will face off in this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 235 main event.
The fight card will take place at the UFC Apex facility in Nevada and will feature 13 fights on the night.
Nassourdine Imavov’s a decent-sized favorite before the UFC Fight Night 235 main event. But this presents an exciting opportunity to take Roman Dolidze at + odds, especially if you agree with the majority of our staff picks below.
Both Roman Dolidze and Nassourdine Imavov are well-rounded and educated fighters. Almost equal in height and reach, the ability to dictate the distance they fight at will be a huge asset. Dolidze is an excellent kicker from the outside, however throughout his UFC career thus far he has made huge strides in his boxing game.
As is fairly common, fighters who come into the sport and make quick improvements with their hands can have a tendency to fall in love with them, and in his latest fights we have seen Dolidze look to put on more forward pressure and depend less on his kicking game than he had earlier in his career. That being said, because Imavov is such a footwork focussed fighter, it would be at Dolidze’s detriment if he does not try to work on Imavov’s legs with low kicks especially early in the fight.
If we do see a Dolidze who is zeroed in on boxing his way forward, Imavov has some of the best fade-back counters at middleweight. I can see Imavov maintaining range with his bounce in and out jab and his long kicks to force Dolidze to make bigger movements to close the distance allowing for clean counters. Part of the reason that Dolidze doesn’t mind crashing forward at points is he is comfortable throwing himself into a clinch, he has a vice grip body lock that allows him to maintain good control on the cage and very fluid transitions from his takedowns to submissions when he gets it to the mat.
It is notable that Dolidze has a significantly lower takedown defense stat than Imavov, however less so because he cannot defend takedowns and more so because he is more willing to bail on wrestling exchanges to attack submissions off of the bottom.
Compared to Imavov, I would say that Dolidze has a more educated straight submission game, with his leg entanglements; however, at the highest level in the UFC, his style can be more risky. Although Imavov is primarily a striker, he has very good wrestling awareness, plus knowing if they get into a wrestling exchange on the feet he is likely going to end up on top if he goes down, he has to commit to the idea of being the safer grappler. I
nstead of getting into a grappling match with Dolidze, look for Imavov to deny submission danger and punish Dolidze with ground and pound in static positions until Dolidze abandons his submission attempts. It’s not enough for Imavov to just defend submissions and re-engage in the grappling exchange, I think he has to do something to cause damage in these scenarios.
Ultimately, I think Imavov is the slicker fighter on the feet and will at least make the better decisions on the mat. If the fight is to end I could see Dolidze clipping Imavov, but even more so I can see Imavov getting the better of the majority of the fight.
Pick: Nassourdine Imavov to win (-160 at MyBookie)
Nassourdine Imavov, 28, is a rising contender in the middleweight division. He is a sharp boxer with solid power who uses technical footwork and unexpected strikes to bait his opponents into vulnerable positions where Imavov can land with precision and damage.
He tends to fight methodically, rarely overextending on his strikes, overcommitting to a combination, and rarely making poor choices in the cage. Imavov seems to strike with an ability to see what his opponent will do in slow motion.
Because of his style, intelligence, and striking acumen, Imavov is rarely in a dangerous position in the cage. But, in the abnormal instances where he is, we’ve seen him struggle to get out of a compromising spot. Imavov, if backed against the cage can get trapped there and kept on his back foot.
Recently, Imavov has incorporated more offensive wrestling and grappling in his game. This new wrinkle aids him if and when he is pushed on his back foot because he can shoot or even just feint a takedown to regain the center of the age. Ultimately, Imavov is an impressive boxer with improving cardio and wrestling, which gives him the additional skills to make a run at the title.
Roman “The Caucasian” Dolidze, 35, might be one loss away from never getting a title shot. Conversely, he may only be 2-3 wins away from earning that shot. Needless to say, his fight on Saturday night comes with pressure and opportunity.
Dolidze burst into and through the rankings between 2021-2022. He demonstrated how his power, both in striking and grappling, can propel him to and through respectable fighters. Dolidze likes to bring the fight to his opponents and overwhelm them early.
He often uses heavy and frequent calf kicks to slow his opponent down. Then, when he has a stunned foe, he’ll let his hands go. Dolidze doesn’t overwhelm with volume, rather his presence and power in the cage can threaten and truly damage an opponent.
Early in his career. Dolidze’s bulldozing style resulted in him getting hit often as he closed distance. Lately, though, “The Caucasian” seems to have reigned in his recklessness while maintaining his danger factor. A significant aspect to this evolution is Dolidze’s offensive wrestling and impressive grappling.
If and when Dolidze finds himself in a firefight against an opponent who is able to take his best shot, Dolidze has turned to grappling to find another path to victory. Like his striking, Dolidze’s grappling isn’t volume-based, overly fluid, or even ideally technical, but he has the raw power and willingness to “go for it” necessary to overcome his technical gaps.
Both of these fighters share similar attributes and struggles. Both are dangerous strikers, adept grapplers, and can win emphatically or over the course of 15 minutes. Simultaneously, both fighters have struggled with consistent cardio and defensive movement. Both men typically exploit the weakness of their opponents- out-strike grapplers and out-grapple strikers but struggle against well-rounded and ranked-level opponents.
Because of their similarities, I handicapped the fight as a near pick’em, with a slight edge toward Imavov for being the younger fighter. If they fought ten times, I would expect Imavov to win 5 or 6 out of 10, giving him around a 55% implied win percentage or a -120.
However, currently, Imavov is sitting at a -170 and growing. I think Imavov’s pace and accuracy could cause problems for Dolidze, especially over 25 minutes. But I also think Dolidze’s offensive wrestling, power, and versatility on the feet could challenge Imavov. At -170, the price on the Frenchmen is too high. I’ll take the value in the underdog to win on Saturday night.
Best Bet: Dolidze to win (+140 at MyBookie)
Roman Dolidze (12-2), known for his heavy hands and willingness to exchange, saw his four-fight win streak snapped by a decision loss to perennial contender Marvin Vettori in March 2023. Despite the setback, Dolidze remains a force to be reckoned with, showcasing impressive striking power and underrated grappling in his previous victories.
The grappling attack has been less of an offensive takedown method, rather, a tool used to threaten opponents from shooting takedowns on him, and if taken to the mat, a tool used to throw up threatening attacks which enables him to work back to his feet.
On the feet, Dolidze is comfortable from a variety of ranges, finding his best success when he can control the pace to land his powerful attacks, both with hands and kicks. In total, Dolidze’s main threat as a fighter is just that, being threatening wherever the fight is. When he can establish himself early as a fight-ending danger, then he is his best self, and a Dolidze fighting to his potential is one that can beat just about any contender.
Dolidze’s opponent, Nassourdine Imavov (11-3-1), is a dynamic, fluid striker with sneaky wrestling at his disposal. While he has faced tougher competition lately, going 1-1-1 in his last three outings, he has looked improved and given his age, is seemingly just now entering his prime.
A prime Imavov utilizes what his teammate, Ciryl Gane, does extremely well, that is, utilize footwork and distance management to stay on the outside and land with technical strikes. Imavov has done well with this approach in the past and holds victories over powerful challenges, so I anticipate him leaning on his striking acumen more in this fight compared to the newly integrated tool he has shown being his wrestling. I anticipate this for two reasons. First, shooting a takedown from distance is a dangerous strategy against someone as powerful as Dolidze, and second, methodically working the way to the ground via the clinch enables Dolidze to leverage his natural strength and in-the-pocket striking to take the better of the close-range fight. Because distance is key here, Imavov will likely look to his bread and butter technical attack here, and if he can do so without tiring, a concern of his in the past, then he can secure a victory and begin to climb the deepening Middleweight division.
This fight promises to be a clash of styles. Dolidze will likely look to close the distance, smother Imavov with his powerful strikes and natural strength, and potentially bring this to the ground. Imavov, on the other hand, will try to utilize his superior footwork and crisp boxing to keep Dolidze at bay and counter with precise strikes. The outcome of this fight likely boils down to who can control pace and distance. While Imavov has shown the ability to effectively do so in the past, I believe he naturally fights at a slower-than-ideal pace, and that pace plays right into the hands of Dolidze to eventually find power shots, one of which can end the night for Imavov. So, I am electing to back the Georgian fighter here in a very close, but exciting fight.
Bet: Dolidze to win (+140 at MyBookie)
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