After nearly scoring a first-round finish to start the fight, Imavov remained the superior striker over all five rounds but a head kick that landed when Roman Dolidze still had his hand on the canvas nearly cost him the fight. Referee Herb Dean immediately paused the action but as he tended to Dolidze in the cage, Imavov turned his attention to Chris Curtis in the corner as the former opponents started jawing at each other.
That forced Dean to drag Imavov back across the cage and threaten to disqualify him before cooler heads prevailed. Dean took a point away for the illegal strike, which only further complicated the scoring but the end result was still the same with Imavov getting the nod.
The final scorecards read 49-44, 48-46 and 47-47, which results in majority decision victory for Imavov. Afterwards, he addressed his war of words with Curtis as he also referenced their fight, which ended in a no contest following an accidental clash of heads at UFC 289.
“He talks too much,” Imavov said about Curtis. “When he was in the cage with me, he didn’t do anything. He complained about a head butt and he couldn’t fight anymore. If you want to fight, it’s in the cage. Outside the cage, shut up.
“Huge respect to Roman Dolidze because he got head kicked and he kept fighting. Chris Curtis wouldn’t have done that and Dolidze is the man.”
All the bad blood aside, Imavov put on a largely memorable performance while Dolidze just couldn’t get much going during the five round fight.
Displaying laser accuracy with his striking, Imavov just kept aiming and firing at Dolidze, who was stuck trying to close the distance and looking for the clinch to slow the action down. With his opponent backing up against the cage, Imavov unleashed a vicious combination capped off with a well-placed uppercut followed by a knee that put Dolidze down on the canvas.
Imavov followed him to the ground where he began hammering away with punches looking for the finish but Dolidze kept moving and scrambling enough to prevent the referee from stopping the fight.
Following a rough first round, Dolidze once again turned to his clinch game to slow things down with Imavov not moving with nearly as much urgency. Still whenever Imavov broke free from Dolidze’s grip, he unleashed punches in succession and he was still connecting with much better power and accuracy.
In nearly every exchange on the feet, Imavov continuously tagged Dolidze with his combinations and it appeared he was always just one shot away from scoring the knockout. Dolidze countered with his grappling but he just couldn’t drag Imavov to the canvas.
Whenever he found separation, Imavov’s right hand was on a rope with direct connection to Dolidze’s chin and he just couldn’t get out of the way. Still, Dolidze somehow stayed alive and forced Imavov back into the clinch again and again to prevent absorbing further damage.
As the fight moved into the fourth round, Dolidze had his hand down on the canvas with Imavov on his back when the France-based middleweight threw a vicious kick to the head. Dolidze crumbled to the canvas but the kick was deemed illegal because his hand was down when the foot connected with his head.
Dean paused the action and then threatened to disqualify Imavov as he argued with Dolidze’s coaches in the corner — in particular taking aim at Curtis. Once Dolidze recovered, Dean penalized Imavov with a point deduction for the illegal kick as the fight resumed.
With five minutes remaining, Dolidze knew he needed a finish to ensure victory but it was clear both fighters were exhausted. The resulted in a grueling pace with some sloppy exchanges until the fight came to a close but it was still enough for Imavov to get the win.
Now 4-1 with one no contest in his past six fights, Imavov remains a tough out for anybody in the middleweight division and now he wants to avenge the most recent loss on his resume.
“Regarding my performance and my next fight, I want to fight against Sean Strickland,” Imavov said.
Imavov lost a decision to Strickland in a light heavyweight bout back in January 2023 and he would love nothing more than to run that back, although it’s entirely possible he might see Curtis instead given the way those two were going after each other on Saturday night.