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UFC Fight Night 213 picks: Picking a few winners, including a stellar main event

MMA Bobbleheads CEO and creator Dave Manley offers up his selections for Saturday's event in Las Vegas.

We may not be coerced into watching this entire card, but we for damn sure signed up to ESPN+, so we may indulge in a fight of this caliber. If that means dragging ass through an undercard fight or a prelim to get to the fight that is Calvin Kattar vs. Arnold Allen, then so be it. We will walk through that darkness together, as friends.

1. Calvin Kattar vs. Arnold Allen

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This is a very similar situation to last weekend's barnburners, where Beneil Dariush and Belal Muhammad had to fight the shooting star up-and-comer. The difference here might be that Allen (18-1 MMA, 9-0 UFC) is just a bit more tested. That being said, this is last call – if you haven't been on board the Arnold Allen hype train, then now is your last chance. He's been riding a nine-fight win streak since his 2015 UFC debut. Before that, his singular professional loss was a close decision to a guy they call "The Polish Zombie." In his last outing he stream rolled lightweight veteran Dan Hooker, and it only took beating a top-10 opponent from a weight division above to get some shine. Now he has an even more significant opportunity to demand his first ever title shot, but he must face the buzz saw that is Kattar (23-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC). Coming off a very important fight in which he lost by controversial split decision, Kattar will be very motivated and hungry to get back on the winning track.

Despite four hiccups in his 11-fight UFC run, Kattar has nicely rounded out his game, utilizing well-timed elbow strikes, decent takedown defense and a bottomless gas tank. A thorough dismantling of the hype train that is Giga Chikadze established Kattar as a very formidable top-5 threat, especially bouncing back from the record setting beatdown he took from former titleholder Max Holloway. There is a bright side: Kattar has never lost two fights in a row, but the reality is that he's 35, and that dam will break soon. His opponent, Allen, is only 28 and has much less tread on the tires. Will age and damage be a factor? Or can Kattar once again certify himself as a top-5 contender, not to be underestimated as he grinds out the new breed?

Hardcore History: "Almighty" Allen hails from Trimley St. Mary, a small village on the outskirts of a seaside town in Suffolk, England hosting the United Kingdom's largest container port. His journey started from a young age, with his father's transition from competitive bodybuilding to combat sports, eventually taking Allen to gyms he trained at. Showing him around and enticing Allen's already active interest in wrestling was the spark that stoked the flame. Allen wasted no time, staring his amateur run not even one month after his 16th birthday, then turning pro at 18 and joining the UFC three years later. Allen now trains under Firas Zahabi at Tristar gym in Montreal, hoping to harvest any secrets Georges St-Pierre might have uncovered while training there during his hall of fame career. 

Kattar is a big family man and giant proponent of making it work where you're from. Born in Mathuen, Massachusetts and remaining loyal to his home state, he trains with the New England Cartel, led by head coach Tyson Chartier. He started his pro career at age 19, going 15-2 over 10 years before finally joining the UFC. Before all that, he wrestled in high school, placing fifth at state championships his senior year. After a short stint in community college, he transitioned to MMA, with one of his earliest experiences, three fights into his career, being a deep dive into the ridiculous world of legendary brothers Nick and Nate Diaz. He's previously stated that the intense training they put him through helped him understand what it takes to be elite in this sport, and it helped pave the way for the fighter he is today. That makes a ton of sense, seeing how he fights with such grit and perseverance. In some crazy, roundabout way, this is another version of the GSP vs. Nick Diaz matchup we always wanted, but may have received a tad too late. Can the gritty Boston striker out duel the English Tristar prodigy?

Dave's Pick: Man, oh man, This one can go either way. The bookmakers agree with me too as the line for this is a stone cold pick 'em. This fight is too hard to handicap for a clearcut winner (with reasoning that makes sense), so I’m going to go over the total. The oddsmakers have this at 4.5 with the over being -150. I actually think that this line is off. If you look at these two, and what they’ve done in their last seven or eight fights, you may think that these guys are absolutely destined to have a five-round war. Let's take a closer look. 

In Allen's last eight fights, six have gone the distance. With Kattar, you have more of the same, as in his last six fights, five have gone the distance. Of those five fights, four of them were five-round events. These guys are tough as nails. It’s going to decision. I’m taking the over at -150

 2. Dustin Jacoby vs. Khalil Roundtree Jr.

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It has been a very long and tenuous career for veteran kickboxer Dustin Jacoby (18-5-1 MMA, 6-2-1 UFC). He hasn't lost an MMA fight since a 2015 submission loss. That was in Bellator, at middleweight, about four years after his promotional debut for the UFC, where he went 0-2. Since moving to light heavyweight, he's gone 6-0-1 in just under two years. He's 34, so I'm not sure if that accounts for the recent uptick in fights or if he's just now entering his prime. Regardless, he has a tough fight in front of him, facing UFC veteran Khalil Rountree Jr. (10-5 MMA, 6-5 UFC).

Burdened with his own obstacles, not just in his rollercoaster fight career, Khalil has been very vocal about mental health and the need for solidarity. He's gone 2-2 in his last four, and getting a win on Saturday would put him on a three-fight win streak, something he's never experienced since joining the UFC in 2016. So yeah, you could say he's pretty prepared to deal with that sort of pressure. At 33, he isn't old by any stretch, and this light heavyweight division is as open wide as it's ever been. With former longtime champ Jon Jones so far out of the picture, now is the time to strike. For both Dustin and Khalil, its go time. 

Hardcore History: Rountree Jr. was born in Los Angeles in 1990. Just two years after his birth, Khalil's father, Roderick Rountree, was gunned down in an elevator while tour managing and providing security for the famous 90's R&B group Boys II Men. Through his tough teenage years with no father figure, Khalil rapidly gained weight and assimilated with the goth kids to avoid human contact, aka bullying from other misguided kids. At 19 years old, Khalil's depression led to severe obesity and suicidal thoughts. Luckily he had an older brother involved in MMA, and two years later he embraced the spiritual fortitude that can come with hard training. The discipline of MMA pulled him out of that hole, and for the past decade he's been embracing the journey with 23 combined amateur and pro fights. 

His opponent, Jacoby, was born in 1988 in Fort Morgan, Colorado. He and his twin brother started training taekwando around the age of 5, a few years later adding wrestling to the mix. At the age of 12, his family moved to Illinois, and Dustin made the transition to conventional sports. Succeeding in basketball and football, Dustin was offered many scholarships. During his senior year, he sustained a severe knee injury and lost out on the offers, so instead he chose to attend a Christian liberal arts college in Missouri. He went on to play football there for two years before transferring to a university back in Illinois. He took an amateur MMA fight during his senior year offseason, and when he turned 21, he fully transitioned back to martial arts, taking his first pro MMA fight in November of 2010. He fought and won his first six fights before getting the call to join the UFC. 

Dave's Pick: The line has Jacoby as the -180 favorite. Although I think that Jacoby rightfully deserves to be a favorite in this fight, I also think that the price here is too expensive. Rountree Jr, can end this fight at anytime with one flurry, and I don’t want to take on that kind of risk at -180. What looks a lot more attractive is that both of these men are serious strikers, and their results show this. The total on this fight is 2.5 round, with the under being -150. Rountree has seen the third round only two times in the last seven fights. In his last 15 fights, Khalil’s fights have ended in the first round eight times. Jacoby has seen his fights end in the first round three of the last seven fights – but 4 of those fights also went the distance. Styles make fights, and in this situation, I believe that the style here is going to be to swang and bang! I'm taking the under 2.5 at -150

3. Phil Hawes vs. Roman Dolidze

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Back in 2017, which feels like 10 years ago thanks to the pandemic, Phillip Nicholas Fitzgerald Hawes (saying his full name out loud reminds you he has a mother who really, really loves him), got viciously knocked out in Dana White's Contender Series. Actually, to be more precise, Julian Marquez literally punted his face as he went to stand up against the cage. It was brutal, especially after he drove over a thousand miles to train with the powerhouse gym Jackson Wink, but good ol' Phillip didn't let that derail his career. He went on to win his next three fights, all by stoppage, which earned him a second chance at UFC glory. It had been three years since his harsh defeat in DWCS, and Phil was determined to get his redemption. He landed a decisive hard right hand, smashing his opponent in the very first round. Subsequently, he went on a three-fight win streak in the organization, bringing his total streak to six. Then he ran into a Chris Curtis left hook and found himself once again on the wrong side of momentum. Ouch, not again. 

Good thing he's durable. Since then, Hawes (12-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC) has bounced back with a second-round elbow parade KO over Deron Winn. At age 33, looking to get back on a win streak, he must now face 10-1 Georgian grappler Roman Dolidze (10-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC). Riding his own wave of momentum, at age 34, Roman is looking for his third win in a row, most recently coming off a knee-to-the-dome KO of Kyle Daukaus. His only loss came a year before that, after three hard-fought rounds he ended up on the wrong side of a close decision against Trevin Giles. Phil is slightly similar to Trevin, but can be a little more aggressive, we will see if Roman can use that against him to score a few takedowns. 

Hardcore History: Technically by trade, Phil is a grappler, which makes this fight that much more intriguing. Hawes went to high school in Ridgefield, New Jersey where he played football and wrestled. He went to Iowa for college, arguably the top collegiate wrestling state in the nation. Having won a junior college title, he eventually transferred to Division I at Iowa State. With that grappling pedigree and an addictive work ethic, he took a few amateur MMA fights in Iowa before driving out to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 where he eventually went pro. Talk about dedication. 

His opponent, Dolidze, had a bit of a different experience growing up, he played soccer for eight years, the last three as a professional goalkeeper. He was born in Batumi, Georgia, the second largest city and capital of the Republic of Adjara. At 20, he decided to move to Ukraine, where he studied many grappling arts, including sambo and jiu-jitsu. After winning many championships in different grappling promotions, he unsuccessfully tried his hand at ADCC Submission Fighting World Championship. It wasn't till he turned 28 that he committed to the sport of MMA, getting his first taste of victory with back-to-back first-round heel hooks in two different Ukrainian fight promotions. 

Dave's Pick: Vegas has Hawes as a -170 favorite, with the total being a coin flip at 2.5 rounds. For some reason, I can’t get it out of my head how Hawes talked all that smack to "DC" after his last victory against Winn. What was that? Although Hawes may need some lessons in tact, the dude can certainly fight. He's 4-1 in the UFC, and he has two KO/TKO stoppages. His lone loss was to Curtis, who then went on to win two more in a row. Although I hate that Phil challenged my man "DC" to a fight after beating on his boy, I'm going to take him tomorrow night.

Phil Hawes at -170

  • If you made it this far, I want to give you a special treat: 50 percent off any Audio John McCarthy bobblehead. Regular or autographed. I'm really making this deal to check to see how many people make it this far in the newsletter. Use code "TREAT." This code will expire on Sunday. 

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.