Imavov rebounds to start 2024, defeats Dolidze

Nassourdine Imavov, once considered one of the top prospects in the UFC middleweight division, had a disappointing 2023.

He started the campaign with a loss and his only other outing resulted in a no contest. The Paris-based fighter got a measure of momentum back Saturday night — and continued rivalries with the two men he fought last year in Chris Curtis and Sean Strickland.

Imavov defeated Roman Dolidze via majority decision (49-44, 47-47, 48-46) in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. Dolidze is a teammate at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas with both Curtis and Strickland and Curtis was in Dolidze’s corner Saturday.

While Imavov mostly cruised to victory, there were some bizarre moments in the fourth round. Imavov threw a hard kick with Dolidze bent over and his right hand on the ground. The kick landed to Dolidze’s face, despite him being grounded courtesy of that hand on the mat, making the strike illegal.

Referee Herb Dean paused the action, but Imavov started to get into it with Dolidze’s corner, walking over to their direction and both sides jawing at each other. Imavov has bad blood with Curtis, who flipped Imavov a middle finger after the bout while Imavov was held back.

“Huge respect to Roman Dolidze,” Imavov said in his postfight interview through an interpreter. “He kept fighting. Chris Curtis wouldn’t have done that. “

Dean ended up taking a point from Imavov due to the illegal knee, because it was so blatant and caused damage. Dolidze ended up continuing on and he worked hard to try and finish the fight on the ground with leg locks after the foul. But Imavov was able to hold him off.

Imavov’s best round was the first, when he landed a combination — including a knee to the body — that dropped Dolidze. Imavov pounced with more punches on the ground, but Dolidze survived to the bell.

“I gave a lot during the first round,” Imavov said. “I thought I would get the finish. After that, I was a little bit tired.”

Also in the postfight interview, Imavov said he wanted a rematch next with Strickland, the former UFC middleweight champion who lost the title last month to Dricus Du Plessis. Imavov (13-4, 1 NC) went to a no contest with Curtis in his last bout, in June 2023. There was a clash of heads and Curtis was unable to continue.

Imavov, a 28-year-old Dagestan-born fighter who immigrated with his family to France as a child, lost to Strickland in January 2023. Imavov was on a three-fight winning streak in the UFC prior to those two results.

Dolidze (12-3) has dropped two straight. The 35-year-old Republic of Georgia native was on a four-fight winning streak before the current skid.

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