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UFC Fight Night 212 picks: One big favorite, and one big underdog

MMA Bobbleheads CEO and creator Dave Manley offers up his selections for Saturday's card at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
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We're just about to dive in the deep end of elite mixed martial arts. 

We're one week away from another Fight Island card, the home of UFC 280, a true top-to-bottom rager with 3 title fights and a contentious preliminary main event that will knock your socks off. But before all that, the rule of the dinner table says you must finish your plate and all the veggies before you get dessert. This card is a second helping of those veggies, but we'll do our darnedest to make it fun, add a little Sriracha to the mix. Maybe even some A.1. steak sauce? 

Yeah, this isn't about food. I'm not hungry while writing this. Anyway, moving on. 

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1. Alexa Grasso vs. Viviane Araujo

This main event was originally booked back in early August, sandwiched somewhere in the middle of a mild mannered UFC San Diego card. Alexa Grasso (14-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) was forced to pull out due to travel restrictions. Now these ladies are headlining their own mild-mannered fight card, a happen chance win in its own right. 

Grasso, a top 10 flyweight, is coming off a fairly quick submission of long time contender Joanne (Calder) Wood. That was her third win in a row, after moving up in weight following a very controversial majority decision loss to the current strawweight champion. She's looking to leave that loss deep in the past by notching her fourth win in a row. Her opponent, Viviane Araujo (11-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC), is by no means going to make that easy. She's won eight of her last 10, the noteworthy loss being a decision to elite flyweight Katlyn Chookagian

For Araujo the time is now. She's 35, and the vast majority of fighters ranked above her have already lost to the champ. Contrastingly, Grasso is still very much in her prime at 29 years young, and a win here may put her a single big win away from her first title shot, in a division made seemingly shallow by the dominance of powerhouse Valentina Shevchenko

Hardcore History: Grasso trains with UFC veteran Irene Aldana and the crew at Lobo Gym MMA in her hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. Her desire to compete was sparked by watching her uncle, current Lobo Gym head coach, train and teach. This experience, combined with her father showing her boxing techniques, led to her first martial arts competition. Her boxing pedigree has carried her through most of her career, but her first actual competitive event was in jiu-jitsu. From there, she caught the bug and decided in 2012 to take on her first MMA fight. She catapulted into mainstream relevancy, winning her first nine pro fights. For all intents and purposes, Grasso had a collaborative family unit growing up. Her opponent, Araujo, can't say the same. 

Scarred by domestic violence she witnessed firsthand, Araujo fights on behalf of her resilient mother and women everywhere. She was born in the commercial region of Ceilandia, Brasilia. Her first sports endeavor was in traveling soccer, competing far from home in part to help distance herself from the chaos of home life. She later trained jiu-jitsu upon invitation from a local coach, eventually transitioning to teach. She didn't start competing in MMA until she was 28 – a large part of her desire to compete being to stage her voice against domestic violence and shine a light on the women who suffer from it. She won five of her first six pro bouts, fighting in Brazil and Japan. Then in 2019, around the age of 32, she successfully made her UFC debut with a unanimous decision win over Talita Bernardo

Dave's Pick: Grasso is -235, with the comeback on Araujo at +200. Guys, the last time Alexa lost was three years ago, and it was against the current champion, Carla Esparza. Since then, she has had two unanimous decisions, as well as a submission finish. Her last outings have looked spectacular, and I'm willing to lay the high price for this future superstar of the flyweight division. Grasso -230 all day. 

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2. Raphael Assuncao vs. Victor Henry

This fight has me very curious, mostly because of the staggering odds against long time top-5 contender Raphael Assuncao (27-9 MMA, 11-6 UFC). He was on a 12-2 stretch in the prime of his career, trading victory and defeat with former champ T.J. Dillashaw, who fights for the title this month. That seems ages ago, as he has lost his last four fights, getting finished in three of them, ence the -300 odds favoring his opponent Victor Henry (22-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who might I add, before this year had never fought in the UFC. 

Henry spent the majority of his career fighting internationally, with a long stint in Japan fighting for notorious promotions DEEP and Rizin FF. He has said he was brought in to feed the beast that is grassroots Japanese martial artists, but he failed to do so, and while winning against the odds he was deemed the "Japanese Killer" by endearing Japanese fans. He now finds himself at 35 years old in a seriously cutthroat bantamweight division, making only his second UFC appearance, having debuted for the organization back in January with a unanimous decision win over Raoni Barcelos

The timing might make you scratch your head, but he has found that everything happens in its right time, and this time he has the rare opportunity to retire a very accomplished UFC veteran. Seeing as he trains under MMA legend Josh Barnett and highly favors catch wrestling, he will look to take Assuncao down and submit him. This won't be easy, as Assuncao is also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt and has only lost by submission two times in 36 fights. 

Hardcore History: Assuncao was born in Recife, Northeast Brazil. He immigrated to the States with his parents and brothers when he was very young, planting roots in the south and eventually settling in Atlanta, Georgia, where he now lives and trains. Being one of the uncommon success stories in the history of immigration, he has certainly made the most of his fortune, making a name for himself on the most elite stage for mixed martial arts. 

His opponent, Henry, grew up in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood and naturally gravitated towards professional fighting. He started his pro career in 2010 at 22 years old, fighting all over the world, including fights in Russia, Dubai and most notably his run in Japan. After the recent collapse of his hometown gym, he found safe harbor at Barnett's 2017-originated UWF gym. 

Dave's Pick: Henry is the -400 favorite, with Raphael Assuncao coming back at +320. Total is over 2.5 rounds at -145. 

For a veteran with the experience of Assuncao has to be getting +320, I mean, he must be fighting a stone-cold killer, right? I don't think this is the case in this situation, as Henry is only making his second start in the UFC. Henry has an impeccable record, but he has also been stuck in the regional scene for quite sometime. There's a reason for that. I'm going to put my money on the long shot here and take my chances with the UFC veteran who's last losses include Ricky Simon, Cory Sandhagen, Cody Garbrandt and Marlon Moraes. These are elite fighters, and with his back against the wall to stay in the promotion, Assuncao is going to be very game tomorrow night. Give me Assuncao at +320.

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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.