The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 243 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
UFC 243 is now in the books as the highest-attended event in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, and it came with some intriguing results. Although only two betting underdogs sprang upsets, both did so in drastically different ways. They provide the material for this edition of Beating the Books.
Sergey Spivak (+270)
With his Octagon debut ending in less than a minute at the hands of Walt Harris, the mystique of previously unbeaten Spivak had all but dissipated rather quickly. Coming into his first UFC fight, Spivak was 9-0 with nine finishes and was comfortable ending the fight by strikes or submission. Although much of his opponent list was underwhelming, he did hold two first-round submission wins over two of the most experience fighters in the sport: Travis Fulton and Tony Lopez. After the Harris loss, the betting lines were unimpressed by the 24-year-old from Moldova, and going into hostile territory against an Aussie desperately seeking a win, most observers expected this fight would be over quickly in highlight-reel fashion. All 20 Sherdog.com staff members and eight forum moderators thought Tuivasa would get his hand raised in the end. Spivak had something to say about that.
“The Polar Bear” had a singular focus coming into this fight: take the larger man down. Although he gave up over 30 pounds to the Aussie, Spivak managed to ground “Bam Bam” six times in eight tries, with each one fatiguing the larger fighter a little more every time. As Tuivasa started to get aggravated at getting planted on his backside repeatedly, he started to swing with extra ferocity -- this left him open to getting taken down even easier. In Round 2, Spivak hit a double-leg takedown, and from there, it was almost formulaic. Landing in side control, Spivak quickly advanced to mount, where he slashed open Tuivasa’s eyebrow and went to work.
Doing little to defend himself but punch from the bottom, Spivak hopped to his opponent’s side, where he sank in an arm-triangle choke almost instantly. Unable to defend the choke and unwilling to tap, Tuivasa went to sleep, giving Spivak his first win inside the UFC cage. With the win, Spivak scored one of the biggest upsets at heavyweight in the UFC this year, second only to Allen Crowder (+360) taking a disqualificaion win over Greg Hardy (-450) at UFC Fight Night 143 in January. In doing so, he also handed the Sherdog staff an embarrassing “Big Whiff Award” -- one of just a few in 2019 -- given out to the staff as a whole when 100 percent of the pickers selected the losing fighter to come out on top. If you anticipated this result and selected Spivak Wins by Submission (+725), congratulations on your foresight.
Callan Potter (+325)
In a performance somewhat similar in nature to when Macy Chiasson faced and lost to Lina Lansberg at UFC Fight Night 160, Maki Pitolo experienced a great deal of success in the opening round. Although Chiasson relied on a more grappling-heavy approach instead of simply standing and trading, like the Fortis MMA standout, he tired quickly when he found himself on his back unable to get up. Although Pitolo outlanded Potter in terms of significant strikes in all three rounds, “The Rockstar” captured two rounds on all three scorecards to come home with a decision win.
Pitolo came into this bout on the heels of an impressive performance against Justin Sumpter on Dana White’s Contender Series. In that fight, he only needed 97 seconds to batter his opponent with vicious kicks and then punches to the body. Nicknamed “Coconut Bombz” for a reason, the Hawaiian had a reputation for standing and banging with his opponent, and more often than not, he landed the more effective shots and won out in the end. Potter, in dire need of a UFC win, walked through everything the Hawaiian striker threw at him, landed multiple takedowns throughout the fight and took home a hard-fought victory. Pitolo opened at -195 initially, and the line crept upwards in his favor as the fight grew closer; he closed as a sizeable -400 favorite. As a result, Potter authored one of largest upsets this year, with only eight victors coming through as bigger underdogs. Additionally, the oddsmakers did not expect this fight would come close to reaching the scorecards, with Under 1.5 Rounds closing at -165 and Fight Goes to Decision closing at a whopping +330. If you managed to take the line of Potter Wins by Decision, you more than septupled your haul, with that coming in at a massive +710.
Despite this line, this was not the most unlikely of prop bets to win out at UFC 243: Khalid Taha Wins by Submission was an enormous +1075, with sportsbooks almost certain the German striker who missed weight would not be able to submit well-rounded Brazilian Bruno Silva. If you went for this line, this was the most insane prop bet that cashed in, beyond throwing darts to pick the specific round some fights ended.
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