Preview: UFC on ESPN 27 Prelims - Heinisch vs. Imavov

By: Tom Feely
Jul 22, 2021

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Middleweights

NR | Ian Heinisch (14-4, 3-3 UFC) vs. NR | Nassourdine Imavov (9-3, 1-1 UFC)

ODDS: Heinisch (-150), Imavov (+130)

Heinisch’s career may have plateaued at the moment, but he still has the potential to retool and start another charge up the middleweight ladder. After a crazy life that involved prison stints on multiple continents, Heinisch turned to mixed martial arts and became an immediate contender upon hitting the UFC, scoring upset wins over Cezar Ferreira and Antonio Carlos Jr. to kick off his Octagon career. In retrospect, that may have been some perfect stylistic matchmaking for “The Hurricane” to enjoy a rapid rise. Heinisch is at his best in wrestling exchanges, and both Ferreira and Carlos Jr. were opponents that would pursue that losing approach and then crumble in the face of the American’s eventual pressure. However, Derek Brunson and Omari Akhmedov were each able to stifle Heinisch’s approach, thanks to a combination of strong wrestling and forcing him to lead, exposing his somewhat slow-paced and offensively void style. Heinisch does seem to be taking steps to address that weakness based on his last two fights, but after a quick knockout of Gerald Meerschaert, Heinisch got little done against Kelvin Gastelum. His approach was not particularly poor, but Gastelum used the fight as an opportunity to remind everyone that he is an immensely talented wrestler in his own right, even if he rarely leans on that aspect of his game.

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Heinisch looks to rebound against Imavov, a talented prospect who gets a rough matchup here. Born in Dagestan but fighting out of France, Imavov lives up to his “Sniper” nickname. All things being equal, Imavov would rather stay at range and pick off his opponent while remaining slick defensively. He poured on the damage against Jordan Williams, and his last loss to Phil Hawes showed some promise. If nothing else, it proved his durability against someone with shocking power, and he nearly staged a late comeback against an exhausted Hawes. However, it is difficult to see how he takes this without a huge step forward. Heinisch is powerful, does not tire and is beginning to show some aggression in his game, and Imavov’s usual backup plan of choosing to wrestle figures to only make things worse. This should not be an easy win in practice, but there is also not really anywhere that Imavov has a clear advantage. The pick is Heinisch via decision.

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