UFC 234 on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia, suffered a late-minute scratch when middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was forced to pull out of the main event just hours before his scheduled title defense against Kelvin Gastelum. The 27-year-old Gastelum represented one of the top underdog picks on the entire card, but the MMA world will have to wait to see what that matchup holds should it get rebooked down the road.
As it turns out, the event featured only one upset, as 10 of the 11 fights saw the betting favorite come through with a win. It is rare to see just one underdog emerge victorious on an 11-fight Ultimate Fighting Championship card -- usually at least two or three upsets occur per event, if not more -- but that is what went down at Rod Laver Arena. The lone upset, however, provides the material for this edition of Beating the Books.
Ricky Simon (-105)
The lone upset on the card saw Simon defeat Rani Yahya via back-and-forth decision in a bantamweight showcase. This was actually a low-key excellent fight, though it stood no chance of winning “Fight of the Night” against Anderson Silva-Israel Adesanya. Still, it was one of the more competitive bouts on a card that saw a number of finishes.
The first round saw Simon stuff Yahya’s takedowns, keep the fight standing and piece up the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Everyone knew Yahya wanted to get the fight to the ground, but Simon was prepared to stop any of his opponent’s attempts to get the fight to the mat. Credit his coaches for getting him ready for this type of opponent, as there were plenty of fighters in the past who were not prepared to prevent all of Yahya’s unorthodox takedowns.
The second round was close, and two of the three judges on the Sherdog panel actually awarded it to Yahya, as he found his range on the feet and proved surprisingly effective with his wild striking techniques. However, Simon pulled away in the third round, as he appeared to have more cardio left in the tank. He managed to stop all of Yahya’s takedown attempts and actually landed a takedown of his own, which led to some fight-clinching ground-and-pound. At the end of 15 minutes, all three judges saw the fight for Simon: 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25.
At -105 odds, Simon was the lone underdog to cash at UFC 234. After all the underdogs that came through at UFC Fight Night 144 a week before, perhaps we should have seen a night of chalk coming.
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-Mauricio Rua, and he wishes Pride Fighting Championships never died. Adam is based out of Toronto, and he is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Centennial College. Get in touch with him on Twitter at @MMAdamMartin.