UFC 242 on Saturday touched down in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with plenty of action for the home crowd to cheer. Five betting upsets were sprinkled throughout the card, though not without a little controversy. With much discuss, let us dive into this edition of Beating the Books.
Paul Felder (+100)
Many who scored the fight, including all three Sherdog judges, gave the co-main event to Edson Barboza. In our Prime Picks breakdown, we expected Felder to do exactly what he did, improving on his previous performance enough to overcome his Brazilian adversary. The strike totals in the rematch were rather similar to the first encounter, with each man improving his striking accuracy percentage. Felder, however, threw more often.
When looking at the two fights side by side, Felder absorbed fewer leg and body strikes while eating more up top. In fact, one of the biggest surprises of the rematch was Barboza landing a takedown. “Junior” executed a takedown for the first time since he faced Gilbert Melendez in 2016, and it was just his eighth takedown in his 22-fight Octagon career. While he did not do much with it, it was one of a few notable differences between the two fights. Felder also aimed a lot more strikes to Barboza’s head than before, relying far less on leg kicks while loading up on head shots. While not quite considered headhunting -- he targeted over 70 percent of his strikes towards his opponent’s head -- it was significantly higher than the first affair. This attack, along with heavy pressure from “The Irish Dragon,” may have been what the judges needed to see to award him the the slight upset.
Diego Ferreira (+205)
Although Mairbek Taisumov enjoyed a solid opening round, he quickly found that his vaunted power was not enough to put down his durable Brazilian counterpart. When Ferreira came to this realization, he upped his game and poured on relentless pressure, which increased as the fight went on. Round by round, Ferreira pushed his pace and practically doubled his output from one to the next, landing 12 significant strikes in the first round, 33 in the second and a whopping 64 in the final frame. Taisumov was unable to keep up, in terms of volume or defense, as Ferreira kept it coming.
A stiff uppercut in the opening stanza from Taisumov briefly put upset hopes in jeopardy, as he blocked a head kick and then hammered Ferreira with a ferocious right hand. Falling against the cage, Ferreira managed to get his wits together and survive the blitz until he could mount his own offense. The Brazilian started faking and feinting to draw out looping shots from “Beckan,” and in doing so adapted to Taisumov’s timing. This proved to be Taisumov’s undoing, as he could no longer land his huge power shots, all while Ferreira was comfortable keeping the distance with jabs and push kicks. The rapid advancement from Ferreira shut down Taisumov, as he boxed up the Chechen in the last two rounds to pick up the decision. If you called your shot and were so bold to say Ferreira would win on points, those odds were 5-to-1, meaning you would have quintupled your money in a hurry.
Joanne Calderwood (+210)
The biggest upset of the event came when Calderwood staved off the surging Andrea Lee, with the latter knocking on the door of a flyweight title shot. “KGB” was riding a seven-fight win streak that stretched back to 2017, and in her previous three UFC appearances, she had only lost one round on single scorecard. Calderwood did not let Lee’s torrid pace get to her, as the two stood in front of one another and traded as if the bout were being contested under muay Thai rules. When it was all settled, “Jojo” had battered her opponent’s lower extremities, landing at least 10 leg kicks in each round on her way to a decision win.
The two women traded takedowns, but neither managed to capitalize, whether it came down to any strikes on the ground or the threat of submission. The biggest threat in the grappling arena came towards the end of Round 1, where Lee got the fight down at the tail end of the period and likely sealed it in her favor. The situation for the former Legacy Fighting Alliance flyweight queen deteriorated from there, as Calderwood largely kept the fight standing and marginally outstruck her. It was a close fight despite what the final strike totals showed. In successfully rebounding off a loss, Calderwood shut down Lee’s immediate title aspirations. However, “Jojo” may still need to string together a few more wins if she hopes to vie for flyweight gold.
Sarah Moras (+135)
Whether it was the bright lights of the Octagon, the 18-month layoff or the fact that Bruce Buffer announced that she was fighting out of “Tbilisi, Georgia, USA,” Liana Jojua looked surprised to be in the cage and never appeared comfortable in there. In each round, Moras outlanded her by double or more, and despite Jojua’s successful attempts to get the fight to the canvas, she was largely unable to capitalize on the positions. If “She Wolf” brought the fight down, Moras was prepared to reverse the position or attack off her back.
Much of this bout took place in the clinch, and the heavier fighter -- Moras came in two pounds above the bantamweight limit -- controlled the action in the first two rounds. When the third period rolled around, Jojua tried and failed to use her ground game, so Moras decided it was her turn to get the fight to the mat. From there, it was academic, as the Georgian tried to spin out of danger. She avoided a submission attempt or two, only give up position. Moras took advantage with a fierce barrage of elbows and punches, and referee Marc Goddard had no choice but to intervene. The expectation was that this fight would reach the judges, with that line closing at -205. Interestingly enough, the line for Over 2.5 Rounds was even higher at -250. As the fight ended at 2:26 of the third round, the under of +210 hit with four seconds to spare.
Muslim Salikhov (+110)
This might come as a shock to some, but Salikhov opened this fight as a large -195 favorite before the line swung the other direction. The Dagestani kickboxer employed a solid game plan, using what got him to the dance -- quick kicks and evasive movement -- to frustrate Tristar Gym export Nordine Taleb. Although Taleb actually initiated the kicking battle with several that landed flush to Salikhov’s body, the “King of Kung Fu” scored more effectively throughout the fight.
This was not the all-action affair that it could have been, with Taleb trying to pick his shots as the Russian utilized his spinning attacks multiple times. Although a small sample size, Salikhov never missed when targeting his opponent’s legs but only needed to land a single strike to the head to pick up the win. The Frenchman took a lone right hand to the chin, and the fight was over. With his one-punch stoppage, Salikhov scored the slight upset, but what may be more surprising was that the most likely finish outcome in the fight -- Salikhov by knockout -- closed at +310. If you pursued those odds, you made the right call.