UFC 289: Nassourdine Imavov Vs. Chris Curtis
Updated: Jun 10
The bet: Nassourdine Imavov -145
Nassourdine Imavov is coming off a loss in the main event of UFC Fight Night 217, during which Sean Strickland dominated the Frenchman for the first four rounds of action, to coast to a unanimous decision victory. After suffering disappointment in his sole stab at cracking the light heavyweight division, Imavov is dropping back down to middleweight to seek redemption versus veteran fighter Chris Curtis on the UFC 289 undercard.
35-year old Curtis has competed professionally since 2009 but has fought under the UFC banner for only the last five years. True to his nickname, "Action-Man", four of Curtis' five wins with the promotion have materialized via KO/TKO. Most recently though, Curtis is 1-2, with decisive unanimous decision losses to Jack Hermansson and Kevin Gastelum bookending a KO win over Joaquin Buckley.
We expect that Curtis' performance of late marks the beginning of a decline that is typical of fighters in their late-30s. The average UFC fighter age was 29.5 in 2022, according to an examination of this topic by MMA Insight. As such, as fighters advance meaningfully beyond that benchmark, it becomes increasingly likely that they face younger combatants. This matters, as, generally speaking, combat sports are a younger man's game. Per the BetMMA.tips database, which chronicles action since April 2013, the probability of success in mixed martial arts has demonstrated a clear and consistent decline as relative age increases.
Male fighters 7-9 years younger than their opposition are 547-319 over roughly the last decade, for a 63% win rate, from the chart shown above. When both are coming off losses, fighters with an age advantage in this range boast a remarkably similar 60% win rate, on a record of 48-32. This latter observation implies -150 represents fair odds for Imavov's moneyline versus the aged Curtis.
This contest is likely to play out as a stand-up affair, as Curtis' bread and butter is finishing opponents with his hands rather than attempting takedowns. Further, Imavov has, on ocassion, tried to move fights to the mat, but his 22% takedown rate suggests a lack of proficiency, while Curtis' takedown defense has proven absolutely infallible. That this fight sports a high probability of playing out with both competitors on their feet is relevant because the striking game is where older fighters' vulnerability tends to get exposed.
Research by Patrick Wyman, for the Bloody Elbow, suggests that after age 34, reduced hormone levels, longer required recovery periods and diminished reflexes tend to become factors that, we suspect, lend to decreased abilities to avoid and fight through incoming strikes. Relatedly, this same report cites the observation by Fightnomics that, "fighters experience a drastic spike in the likelihood of getting knocked out after age 34".
We give Imavov's striking game a fundamental edge. On the one hand, in stark contrast to Chris' mainstay, power has never been Nassourdine's hallmark, however, per the tale of the tape shown above, Imavov has demonstrated better striking defense and a positive net significant strikes differential.
As such, we are comfortable laying the listed -145 with Nassourdine in his return to his familiar weight class, as we expect Imavov boasts a striking edge over a significantly older (and fading) Chris Curtis, in a fight that appears likely to be decided standing.