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Middleweights with points to prove take center stage at UFC Fight Night. Jared Cannonier and Nassourdine Imavov collide on Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky. The winner is unlikely to earn a title shot but will enter the title picture.

Cannonier (17-6) was building legitimate momentum to a second UFC middleweight title shot but a crowded division and a knee injury pushed him aside. Cannonier is coming off consecutive decision wins against Marvin Vettori and Sean Strickland. He set a middleweight striking record (241) against Vettori and handed Strickland his last loss before Strickland became champion. "The Killa Gorilla" was scheduled to fight Roman Dolidze last year, but an MCL tear sidelined him. 

UFC middleweight champion Dricus du Plessis vs. Israel Adesanya appears to be in the works, Robert Whittaker vs. Khamzat Chimaev is labeled a title eliminator and Strickland has a fair claim to a title shot after beating Paulo Costa. At 40-years-old, the clock is ticking for Cannonier. A statement win is imperative if he wants to add a UFC title to his resume.

"I didn't want to wait. I'm not big on waiting and picking or choosing opponents," Cannonier told CBS Sports. "Before Imavov, I was scheduled to fight Dolidze after beating the No. 3 ranked guy [Vettori] in a record-breaking, Fight of the Night fashion. I was still reluctant to take the fight but that's all they had to offer me so I took it. I guess it's the same situation with this one. So here I am, ready to fight. I'm always ready to fight as long as it allows me to get closer to the title and be a better fighter."

Imavov (13-4, 1 NC) looks to prove he's ready for the elite against an opponent out to demonstrate he's still among the best. Imavov's stock took a hit following a loss to short-notice replacement Strickland up a weight class, a loss that aged well thanks to Strickland's surprising title win. Imavov looked sharp against Chris Curtis and leveled up against Dolidze. Imavov -- a teammate of heavyweight Ciryl Gane -- is an unfinished product. A clash of heads caused a no-contest against Curtis and an illegal soccer kick almost cost Imavov the Dolidze fight. But he's on the cusp of breaking into the UFC's official middleweight top five. Imavov has the highest significant striking defense among all active middleweights but is confident his undefeated chin can handle Cannonier's power.

"I'm very confident in my chin," Imavov told CBS Sports through an interpreter. "Especially because once someone hit me with a high speed, high power head kick. I've never been knocked down in training or even felt dizzy. I'm very confident in my ability to take shots."

Check out the full interview with Nassourdine Imavov below.

It's slim pickings for name value or career progression outside the main event. Dominick Reyes looks to snap a four-fight losing streak that started with a heavily disputed decision loss to UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones before flying off the rails. Reyes suffered knockout losses in his subsequent three fights and now fights Glory kickboxing veteran Dustin Jacoby. UFC's youngest signee Raul Rosas Jr. meets "The Ultimate Fighter" alum Ricky Turcios; meanwhile, Bruno Ferreira looks for his 12th stoppage in as many wins against Dustin Stoltzfus.

Below is the rest of the fight card for Saturday with the latest odds before we get to a prediction and pick on the main event.

UFC Fight Night card, odds

Weight class
Nassourdine Imavov -125 Jared Cannonier +105 Middleweight
Dustin Jacoby -240
Dominick Reyes +200
Light heavyweight
Raul Rosas Jr. -240
Ricky Turcios +200Bantamweight
Bruno Ferreira -270
Dustin Stoltzfus +220
Julian Marquez -135
Zachary Reese +115Middleweight
Miguel Baeza -205
Punahele Soriano +170

UFC Fight Night viewing information

Date: June 8 | Start time: 8 p.m. ET (main card)
Location: KFC Yum! Center -- Louisville, Kentucky
TV channel: ESPN+


Jared Cannonier vs. Nassourdine Imavov: Do not expect fireworks here. Cannonier has wicked power that hasn't served him reliably against the middleweight elite. Imavov has fantastic striking defense thanks to his movement and angles. Cannonier isn't impressed with Imavov's 66% significant striking defense, chalking up the division-leading stat to Imavov's lack of quality opponents. I'm leaning toward Cannonier despite Imavov's frustrating style and the 12-year age gap. Cannonier can keep the pace going for 25 minutes. His superior power, ability to win five-round fights and experience against elite opposition give me confidence in the underdog. Cannonier via UD

Who wins UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Imavov, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on UFC Fight Night, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $1,500 on his UFC main-card picks in 2023, and find out.