Saturday night (April 15, 2017) saw the debut of the Octagon in Missouri, as UFC on FOX 24 took place from Kansas City. The main event had Demetrious Johnson attempting to equal Anderson Silva’s UFC record of 10 consecutive title defenses, as he put his flyweight belt on the line against third-ranked Wilson Reis. Surprisingly, Johnson was not the only four-figure favorite on the card. On a night where nearly half of the 13 fights saw favorites of -300 or greater, UFC newcomer Tom Duquesnoy nearly matched Johnson’s massive closing line, with the youngster coming in at a whopping -1000 at 5Dimes Sportsbook while the champion closed at -1100. Let’s take a closer look at closing betting odds and results…
Favorites That Won
Johnson came into Saturday night chasing history, as a victory would give him his 10 consecutive flyweight title defense, tying Silva for the UFC record. However, it seemed business as usual for Johnson once the cage door closed. His speed and movement made it look like Wilson Reis was fighting a ghost in the early going, justifying every cent of his -1100 line. As Reis started to slow, Johnson poured on the offense and made an already wide gap between the two even bigger. By the third round, Johnson was battering his foe on the ground and transitioned to a beautiful armbar forcing the tap and etching his name in the record books.
It was a contrast in body types and a contrast in styles as Alexander Volkov stepped into the Octagon against Roy “Big Country” Nelson. “Big Country” was able to get an early takedown and control a significant portion of the opening round, but Volkov did significant damage following a referee standup, and didn’t let the fight hit the mat across the final ten minutes. He defended takedowns well, and consistently scored both with his jab and to Nelson’s body with kicks to earn a decision as a -155 favorite and move to 2-0 in the UFC.
It may not have been as easy as the betting line made it seem, but Duquesnoy got the job done and looked impressive doing so in his UFC debut. The French prospect was clipped and taken down by Patrick Williams in the opening round, but his cardio and offensively-minded game had Williams on the defensive at the end of the first stanza, eventually scoring a knockdown with a standing elbow as the buzzer sounded. When the second round started, the -1000 favorite immediately jumped on his opponent, scoring a series of elbows that dropped Williams, with the bout quickly being stopped just after.
Everyone expected the lightweight bout between Rashid Magomedov and Bobby Green to turn into a 15-minute kickboxing match, and that’s exactly what happened. Competitive throughout despite Magomedov closing as a -330 favorite, the bout ended up going to a split decision. The Russian rightly got the nod from the judges on the strength of his clean striking, but fans of his still have to wonder how Magomedov would fare were he to turn up the volume earlier in his fights, something he often saves for the final moments.
In a surefire Fight of the Year contender, Tim Elliott and Louis Smolka put on a phenomenal display of grappling over 15 minutes. Elliott scored takedowns at will throughout the fight and controlled top position a bit more, which eventually led to his hand being raised as a -185 favorite. However, the 30-27 scorecards do not tell the story of this fight, as Smolka continuously worked from the bottom to sweep Elliott and threaten with submissions of his own in the perfect clash of styles.
After suffering the first two losses of his career, Aljamain Sterling was in need of a solid performance against a tough stylistic matchup in Augusto Mendes. He got it, as unlike previous bouts he turned up the heat on his opponent in the second and third round to earn 29-28 scorecards from all three judges. Sterling’s physical tools are obvious and were a big reason for his -400 price tag. He’s also making technical improvements, as his striking looked better, especially when he committed to his kicking game and worked over Mendes’ body in the latter half of the fight.
Devin Clark and Jake Collier both had the idea to move up to light heavyweight in search of greater success. While their fight was competitive at points, Clark ultimately outworked Collier with his pressure and wrestling, even earning a 10-8 round on one judge’s card. This bout was the second closest on the card in terms of odds, as Clark closed a -140 favorite.
Zak Cummings was the first of an astounding six fighters to close at -300 or higher on this card, and he made it look as easy as any of them as he dispatched Nathan Coy inside the first round. Cummings striking was clearly a level above from technique and power standpoints, and after stinging Coy with several shots the fight went to the ground. Once there, the -550 favorite jumped on a mounted guillotine which put Coy to sleep, something the referee failed to notice for far too long.
Underdogs That Won
Rose Namajunas opened as a slight favorite against Michelle Waterson, and remained the favorite until just minutes before the bout. At that point, late money came in on Waterson and pushed Namajunas to a +110 underdog. Those late bettors quickly regretted their wagers, as Namajunas navigated a Waterson head-and-arm throw in the opening minute to take her opponent’s back and win the opening round. In the second, she landed a perfectly timed head kick coming out of the clinch which rocked Waterson and was the beginning of the end. Eventually she found Waterson’s back again, this time locking in the rear-naked choke for the victory.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the night came from Robert Whittaker, as he announced his arrival among the elite at middleweight with a second-round TKO over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Early in the bout, Jacare got deep on Whittaker’s hips and initiated a scramble in which the Kiwi expertly avoided ending up on his back. From that point on, he broke the Brazilian down with strikes, dropping him twice in the second round before piling on ground-and-pound for the stoppage as a +225 underdog. The victory immediately vaults Whittaker into the realm of contendership with Yoel Romero, although he may end up in the same spot as Jacare, where he is forced to take extra fights before he gets a title shot.
Kicking off the main card, Renato “Moicano” Carneiro used a smart gameplan to take a split-decision win over Jeremy Stephens as a +150 underdog. The good news for Moicano is that this win will have him break in to the Top 15 at featherweight. The bad news? His strategy was to engage with Stephens as little as possible, especially during the final two rounds, and it made for a poor fight to watch. Hopefully, Moicano is able to put on a more exciting performance in his next outing where it’s unlikely he’ll be matched up with a fighter as dangerous as Stephens, but my guess is that he’ll have to do so on UFC Fight Pass at least once before getting another high profile booking.
Anthony Smith was at a significant wrestling disadvantage in his bout with Andrew Sanchez, and that was a big reason he entered the fight as a +270 underdog. Smith managed to use his other advantages to create opportunities, however, sweeping Sanchez to earn top position in the opening round, and getting back to his feet late in the bout. That final opportunity was the one he capitalized on, landing a head kick and some follow up strikes to cash as a big underdog.
In the opening bout of the evening, Ketlen Vieira moved to 2-0 in her UFC career, and 2-0 as a slight underdog in the Octagon. Vieira’s striking technique looked significantly improved from her UFC debut, and she used that to land more on Ashlee Evans-Smith throughout their 15 minute encounter. Despite cashing as the +145 underdog, Vieira still hasn’t reached her potential, as she was also clearly the faster fighter in the cage and will hold that advantage over many women at 135 pounds as she continues to develop her skills.