Though the sporting world was fixated on what happened after Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Conor McGregor in the UFC 229 main event on Saturday in Las Vegas, we cannot forget the incredible performances by all the fighters on the undercard. While Nurmagomedov may have cashed as the favorite in the headliner, on the whole, betting favorites were just 7-5 at the T-Mobile Arena. Yes, five underdogs came through on the biggest card of the year. They are the focus of this installment of Beating the Books.
Derrick Lewis (+135)
He did it again. For the third time in his Ultimate Fighting Championship career, Lewis came back from being down on the scorecards to score a third-round knockout. This time, it was courtesy of a brutal straight right and some follow-up ground-and-pound that knocked Alexander Volkov cold with just 11 seconds left in their heavyweight showcase. Lewis was going to lose a 30-27 decision before he pulled another rabbit out of his hat and landed a bomb late in the fight. He was successful as the underdog for the third straight outing, this time scoring at +135 odds for his backers.
Michelle Waterson (+115)
Veteran strawweights Waterson and Felice Herrig opened the pay-per-view portion of UFC 229, and “The Karate Hottie” picked up a much-needed win with a hard-fought decision. Waterson’s striking was on point for this fight, and she also mixed in some timely takedowns to earn a clean decision over Herrig and cement her spot in the Top 10 at 115 pounds.
Jussier da Silva (+165)
In a battle between top-ranked flyweights, da Silva used his vaunted grappling game to take down Sergio Pettis and control him on the ground for a unanimous decision. Considering how good Pettis looked against Joseph Benavidez in his last fight, this was a perplexing outcome, and it means Pettis will have to go back to work to try and climb the ladder again. Da Silva, meanwhile, has come on strong of late with three straight victories and could be closing in on a title shot at 125 pounds. Remember, he pushed current champ Henry Cejudo to a split decision in 2015. “Formiga” cashed as a +165 underdog against Pettis.
Scott Holtzman (+260)
The biggest upset of UFC 229 came courtesy of Holtzman, a former hockey enforcer who used elbows on the ground to finish Alan Patrick Silva Alves for his first knockout victory since 2013. Considering that all but one of Holtzman’s previous UFC bouts had gone to a decision, seeing him beat a quality fighter like Alves via strikes was quite surprising. Most bettors did not see this one coming. Holtzman cashed at +260.
Tony Martin (+105)
After matchmaker Sean Shelby called him “the most boring fighter on the UFC roster,” Martin desperately needed an impressive win at UFC 229; and he delivered. After two competitive rounds with Ryan LaFlare, Martin connected with a head kick to knock out LaFlare and pick up arguably the most significant victory of his career to date. Looking rejuvenated since moving up to welterweight, Martin cashed against LaFlare as a +105 underdog.
Adam Martin is a mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2011. He is currently the lead odds analyst for Sherdog.com as well as the lead staff writer for MMAOddsbreaker.com. Adam is also the co-host of “The Parting Shot Podcast” on iTunes. His favorite fight of all time is Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua and he wishes Pride never died. Adam is based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and he is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Centennial College. Get in touch with him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.
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