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UFC Fight Night 209 picks: Odds and ends on 3 must-watch fights

MMA Bobbleheads CEO and creator Dave Manley offers up his selections for Saturday's card at Accor Arena in Paris.

Hey guys! In my last column, we chose three fights. One was canceled, we had one winner and one loser. The loser was a heavy underdog, so we broke even. Can't wait for this card!!


1. Top 10 welterweight Nassourdine Imavov (11-3 MMA, 3-1 UFC) takes on Joaquin "Please let me hurt you" Buckley (15-4 MMA, 5-2 UFC). Holy hell, what a dynamic matchup. This is your old-school ground-and-pounder vs. violent striker contest. 

Buckley showed resilient takedown defense in his last fight where he dominated heavy grappler Albert Duraev. There was a ton of crap talked by Duraev, how he was going to control his former sparring partner. He couldn't have been farther from the truth. He whiffed on seven of nine takedowns, and Buckley landed paralyzing head shots in return. He brutally closed the eye of Duraev, forcing a doctor stoppage in between rounds. That type of showing bodes well for a fight against another heavy grappler. On the other hand, Imavov ground-and-pounded the hell out of his last two opponents, hype boys Ian Heinisch and Edmen Shahbazyan.

Interesting fact: Imavov, known as the "Russian Sniper," hails from Dagestan. Imavov started boxing at the sprite age of 10 and unofficially transitioned to MMA at 19 when he and his brother moved to France. They started training at Fernand Lopez's MMA Factory.

Dave's pick: Imavov is a heavy favorite, and I'm not too sure why. I put this fight at a pick'em. Yes, Imavov is on a bit of a win streak, but let's take a quick peek at his opponents records. The last three victories Imavov has had have been against guys that have been on an absolute free fall. Shahbazyan had lost two in a row before losing to Imavov. Heinisch was 1-3 in his last four before losing to Imavov, and Jordan Williams went on to lose two more in a row after losing to Imavov. Not great. 

If you guys have been following my picks for a while, then you know that I will always take the underdog when I think a fight should be close to a coin flip. I'll take Buckley here at +200.


2. Fireworks! That's the first image that comes to mind when picturing the potential war between Charles Jourdain (13-5-1 MMA, 4-4-1 UFC) and Nathaniel Wood (18-5 MMA, 5-2 UFC). 

These are some of the most exciting featherweights on the UFC roster. Jourdain shined in his last fight, a heroic battle with "Hurricane" Shane Burgos. He loss the first two rounds scrambling for position, then dominated the last round with the fastest striking you could ever hope to see. This guy is the real sniper. His opponent, Wood, was on a nine-fight winning streak before snaking his last four results between wins and losses. He got right back on the horse though, and man was it scary to witness. This guy looked certifiably crazy (in the best way) as he kicked the ever living hell out of Charles Rosa's left leg. To the point where Rosa fell down in pain multiple times and the doctor expended every last ounce of patience he had to not stop the fight. Wood was screaming in victory, letting everyone in the arena know how happy he was to be back in the octagon, not having fought since 2020 before that. 

Way too interesting to ignore: We might first think of Wood as a brilliant striker, but he has trained grappling for over 13 years. He won his UFC debut by D'Arce choke in the second round, and seven of his 18 professional wins have come by submission.      

Odds: Jourdain is -150, with Nathaniel Wood coming back at +130. Total is Over 2.5 rounds, -150. 

Dave's pick: Wood had gone the distance in his last three and has gone over 2.5 rounds four of his last six fights. He has seen the decision in two of his last three fights. Jourdain has gone over 2.5 rounds in seven of his last nine fights. I'll lay the money on this one and go Over 2.5 rounds at -150      


3. The old guard of lightweight vs. the new breed. John "The Bull" Makdessi (18-7 MMA, 11-7 UFC) takes on German born Nasrat Haqparast (13-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC). What to make of this fight? 

Well, Makdessi started his pro career around 2008, he was considered a very dangerous striking prospect. Seven years later, Donald Cerrone broke his jaw with a perfectly timed head kick. He did receive successful surgery on the jaw, but that wasn't going to stop him from fighting. A year later he got spinning wheel kicked in the face by Lando Vannata – double ouch! Yeah, he's still fighting. 

This guy has won four of his last five and may have stumbled upon a veteran savvy way to stay alive while avoiding getting his whole face broke. His opponent, Haqparast, started his UFC campaign on very short notice, just barely losing a thrilling fight in which either man could have received the nod. He then won five of his next six fights before dropping his last two to absolute killers Dan Hooker and Bobby Green

Way too interesting to ignore: Haqparast trains under George St-Pierre's legendary head coach, Firas Zahabi. He is the son of two Afghan immigrants who fled to Germany for greener pastures, we have them to thank for his current presence in the UFC. He had many visa issues before luckily ending up in Canada to train with Zahabi and his elite stable of savage grapplers. Possibly the most interesting note is that this fight has been booked three times in the past three years. Maybe Saturday we can finally get a result. Maybe we will find out who is on their way out and who is here to stay. 

Odds: Haqparast is -220, and Makdessi is +180. Total is Over 2.5 rounds, -200, under +165

Daves pick: These guys both need a win in the worst way. Now is not a time to play fast and loose with their careers in the UFC potentially on the line. This fight screams decision to me, as both fighters like to go long. In fact, in Makdessi's last five fights, all five went to a decision. In Haqparast's last four fights, all four have gone to a decision. I'll lay the juice and take the Over 2.5 rounds all day here. 

Dave Manley is the creator and CEO of MMA Bobbleheads, a California-based company making handmade, high-quality, high-artistry bobbleheads of your favorite MMA personalities. A 25-plus year fan of MMA, Manley saw a need for high-end, handcrafted memorabilia for fans and decided to create the best bobbleheads that have ever been made for any sport. Learn more on Twitter and Instagram.