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Kelvin Gastelum’s misfortune may be Nassourdine Imavov’s meal ticket. The planned UFC Fight Night headliner pitting Imavov vs. Gastelum on Jan. 14 will no longer take place after Gastelum suffered a mouth injury in training camp. Sean Strickland will step up in his place to keep the main event alive.

Strickland, three weeks removed from a five-round split decision loss against Jared Cannonier in the final UFC card of 2022, has agreed to fight Imavov with only days to prepare, ESPN reports. Strickland and Imavov are both ranked fighters in the UFC’s 185-pound division, but their five-round main event will be contested at 205 pounds, likely due to Strickland’s inability to make the middleweight cut in time.

Gastelum expressed his disappointment in a social media post on Monday. He issued an apology to Imavov, Imavov’s team, the UFC and fans. Gastelum also shared a video of him getting stitches between his teeth.

The outcome of the fight may not have an impact on the middleweight rankings now that it is being contested at light heavyweight, but Imavov could make a strong impression on UFC brass and spectators. Imavov was defending his No. 12 ranking against Gastelum (No. 13) in exchange for Gastelum’s waning star power. Strickland (No. 7) pieced together six consecutive wins before losing to Alex Pereira, now the UFC middleweight champion, and highly-ranked contender Cannonier.

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