UFC Fight Night Betting Pick: Nassourdine Imavov vs Phil Hawes

Okay, now let’s try this again. Nas and Phil were supposed to “hook em up” as referee Steve Mazzagatti would say, earlier on the first fight card of the year but it fell through like so many do in this COVID era.

Luckily for us, though, the UFC has brought the matchup back while it is still fairly fresh in our minds. The lines have changed somewhat from last time but my pick is still the same.

Here is my take on this fight from a month ago:

Nassourdine Imavov is yet another Dagestani wrestler turned mixed martial artist in the UFC but then again, these boys are more so raised on mixed martial arts and/or the grappling base designed to win an MMA fight.

Rest in peace, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who died of bilateral pneumonia brought on by complications from a COVID-19 infection back on July 3rd, 2020. He is responsible for putting Dagestan on the map.

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov and His Son Khabib

If you follow the UFC closely at all then you are well aware that Khabib is not the only dominant fighter from those mountains. There is a not so old saying among UFC handicappers and fans: If his name ends in “OV”, I can’t think of a rhyme but you should probably bet on that guy.

If his name ends in “EV” then that fighter will also likely win but you guys can do the math if you like. It is a lot of research but if I had to guess right now, I would say that fighters whose name ends in an “OV” win at least 85% of the time.

Nassourdine Imavov, though, is not the betting favorite in his fight this Saturday night against American wrestler and knockout artist, Phil Hawes. This surprised a lot of folks but when you consider the power Hawes possesses along with his wrestling credentials at Iowa Community College.

I know that name doesn’t sound like much but Colby Covington and Jon Jones also wrestled there and they are two of the most dominant wrestlers of our time in mixed martial arts. Hawes doesn’t really fight like either man, though.

Those two have never had a problem with their gas tank but Phil on the other hand, that guy might just have too much muscle on his frame to fight any longer than 5 minutes. He is a terror in that first round but if you can just get to that first bell, he is not the same guy anymore and you can likely take full advantage very quickly.

That’s exactly what my former teammate, Julian Marquez, was able to do on Dana White’s Contender Series. He survived the early onslaught by Hawes and was even taken down a couple of times but he got up and most importantly here-he made Hawes work.

Midway through the second round and the fight, Hawes hit a wall and exited the clinch up against the cage and couldn’t add any backward movement to increase that angle. Julian is a very well versed striker and mixed martial artist so he didn’t miss the opportunity to head kick Hawes into next week.

When you have all that muscle, it is your heart that is having to work overtime to pump the needed blood to said muscles in order to keep them firing at full power or close to it.

There is the possibly albeit an intentional base on balls level outside, that Phil Hawes has somehow shored up his career long cardio problem in just a year’s time. When you’re that fast and explosive, your cardio will suffer.

He has that going for him as well as too much muscle and that’s a bad combo. The great deal of muscle also means you are usually fighting opponents with larger bone structures so you are likely working against leverage and remember, bones don’t get tired.

Imavov is a big guy at 6’3” tall but possibly thin enough to be overpowered at least for a little while. Will it be long enough for Phil to score a finish or will the power puncher simply find the chin of the now French-trained Russian?

The betting line is close for this fight and there are arguments that can be made for both combatants. Let’s look at the moneyline and if we can’t do anything with that, we will move on to the round total and/or method of victory betting odds to make our play of the day.

Phil Hawes (-130) vs Nassourdine Imavov (+110)

As far as the betting line goes, I think you have to take the better all around fighter here. If he had a suspect chin then I think the (-130) on the favorite Hawes would be a solid play but we have no reason to believe that Nas has durability issues.

He is still just 24 years old, Nas that is, and he has been finished just once in his 11 fight career with a record of 9-2. In his first ever professional fight, Imavov got careless and got caught by the guillotine fairy.

This happens a lot to guys early in their career. The successful fighters adjust their sails and stop leaving their neck out there on their takedown attempts. Imavov appears to have made said adjustment because he only has one loss since and that was a decision to Michal Mikalski, a tricky Karate based Polish fighter who was also very strong.

A strong Pole? Another shocker. That is a tough combo. A Polish Karate stylist. Awkward and rangy on the feet with good one-shot power who is also very strong to avoid the takedowns.

Please Note:

The guy is just 8-4 now, though, and was 5-1 when he fought Nas. That isn’t a great loss on his record but it is understandable especially when you remember that Imavov is still just 24-years-old.

Sometimes, stud prospects make it 25 or 27 and get their UFC debut with an undefeated record but I almost favor the fighters in that position who have a loss or two already. That means they most likely grew from it.

It is usually getting caught in a guillotine at the age of 21 or something like that but he was still that age when he lost his next fight. I am very impressed by what I have seen from Nas, especially in his Octagon debut against Jordan Williams.

Williams is a very tough guy with heart and chin for years. He was dominated by Imavov and hit with some very clean crisp powerful shots and didn’t go down. He didn’t fade at all mentally either and if Phil Hawes is getting beat that badly, I don’t think he has nearly the same level of mental strength to keep going.

I don’t see this fight making it to the judges’ scorecards. I do like the moneyline on Imavov but let’s see what else is out there for the round total and/or methods of victory for each guy.

Round Total Betting Odds

Over 1.5
Under 1.5

How many decisions has Phil Hawes gone to? Technically, zero. He lost a decision on The Ultimate Fighter show to eventual season winner and now UFC vet, Andrew Sanchez.

That is understandable and I would love to see a rematch. It was just an exhibition fight, though, so Hawes officially only has two losses and has never gone the distance in a professional mixed martial arts bout.

BetOnline has the fight goes to a decision betting line up at (+170) and man, as tempting as that is and even taking into account that the fighters will have more room not to get hit or engage in the larger Octagon used on Fight Island.

We have to confidently say that we believe this fight will go the distance 4 or 5 out of 10 times to have the proper edge we need on the sportsbooks to make a smart betting play on this line. I can’t get behind that.

I just think that even if the Russian Frenchman is trying to cruise a decision win, Hawes won’t let him. He will attack with ferocity until he can’t even defend himself. Sure, this sounds like a bad idea but he doesn’t have the skill to match a lot of the guys in the UFC so he has to take that chance.

If Hawes paces himself, he will be dangerous for longer but will that level of danger be enough to derail a Dagestani who is technically superior with his hands and mixes in his takedown attempts seamlessly?

I definitely favor the Russian here.

You can get him to win inside the distance for (+225). His opponent has only gone to a decision once in his career and the only reason he was carried that far is because he was fighting a guy in Andrew Sanchez who was primarily only a wrestler at that point.

This line was at (+333) a month ago and now it has dropped more than a dollar. Most of the value may be gone but it is not a bad line move to get behind. With that being said, now that the over 1.5 has been released, I am going there.

At least wrestling was the only high-level MMA skill Sanchez possessed at the time. Hawes, who is the slight favorite, is only (+135) to win by TKO. Imavov to win simply inside the distance by sub or TKO is (+225).

That is a huge difference in the betting odds, especially for a fight where the moneyline is nearly even. Here are your plays for this fight.

I like Imavov. I always have and it appears that more colleagues than not are on the same page with me but we still don’t have a great read on either guy. That’s why I want to go with the over 1.5 for even money.

Those are virtually the same odds you’re going to get on either fighter’s moneylines so cover yourself either way and let’s hope this thing lasts until the 7:30 mark. Hawes knows he has to close the range against a sniper and also potentially last 15 minutes as you don’t see a lot of Russians getting slept.

My Pick
Nassourdine Imavov
OVER 1.5

In Conclusion

Hawes will have a reach advantage here but the Russian is coming from a great fight camp in Paris at the MMA Factory and I expect his team to have a solid game plan. Make Phil work for everything and then when you see him start to slow with those hands on his hips after a round, that’s when Nas should hit his opponent with that ether.

Normally when you have a better overall fighter who is a more technical striker, is bigger, has fought a higher level of opponents, and is Dagestani, that guy is the favorite. Phil Hawes got a lot of respect from the sportsbooks for a while and even with his cardio concerns, they are still backing him hard even against a guy from Dagestan.

I do feel like the betting line is off. I think Nas wins this fight 6 out of 10 times and that isn’t an outlandish thought by anyone’s imagination.

Maybe you saw something I didn’t or you just have a strong feeling that Hawes’ reach advantage and being the shorter man lines him up for the overhand right kill shot. Well, you would be correct in your assessment of the range.

Always look out for the shorter fighter with more reach and if they throw with power, the possibility of a knockout increases.

I am not against that one at all but I do feel like we have an edge on the sportsbooks with the over 1.5. I think this one ends inside of the first 7:30 about 35-40% of the time. That gives us a 10-15% edge on the sportsbooks here and enough for a play.

Get your bets in and don’t miss the action this Saturday from The Fight Capital, Las Vegas!

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.