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Just a few weeks into the Ultimate Fighting Championship on ESPN era, things are off to a roaring start. After a solid UFC Fight Night 143 card a few weeks ago, UFC Fight Night 144 on Saturday turned out to be one of the most entertaining shows from top-to-bottom MMA fans have seen in a long time. It was full of unexpected twists and turns, as six underdogs pulled off upsets. They provide the material for the latest installment of the Beating the Books series.
Markus Perez (+115)
The card was littered with quality finishes, but one that stood out was a preliminary middleweight bout in which Perez finished Anthony Hernandez with an anaconda choke. Perez had to overcome a tough first round, storming back with a slick submission in the second. Perez closed as a +115 underdog.
Mara Romero Borella (+185)
UFC Fight Night 144 was tremendous, but the one fight that left much to be desired was a women’s flyweight encounter between Borella and Taila Santos. Borella won a split decision over the previously unbeaten Santos, who entered the cage with a 15-0 record. The American Top Team-trained Borella was one of the bigger underdogs on the card to cash at +185 odds.
Thiago Alves (+160)
In one of the more controversial decisions at the event, two of the three cageside judges saw Alves beating Max Griffin. He took home the split decision, which led to lots of unrest on social media. Most observers thought Griffin did enough to win the fight, but we all know what can happen when a foreigner goes to Brazil and faces local talent. In what could draw consideration for “Robbery of the Year” by the time 2019 is over, Alves closed as a +160 dog.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+125)
In a heavyweight fight, Rozenstruik survived a difficult first round against Junior Albini to come back and knock out his opponent in the second. Rozenstruik is the first fighter from Suriname to compete in the UFC, and he made his country proud with the highlight-reel knockout. Rozenstruik closed as a +125 underdog.
Said Nurmagomedov (+150)
In bantamweight action, Nurmagomedov picked up the first stoppage win of his UFC career when he brutally knocked out Ricardo Ramos with a spinning back kick and follow-up punches. Considering the majority of his previous career victories came by decision and he moved up to bantamweight for this match, the fact that he finished the fight in such devastating fashion was quite impressive. The odds on Nurmagomedov pulling off the upset closed at +150.
Rogerio Bontorin (+245)
Finally, in what was statistically the biggest upset on the card, Bontorin managed to outlast Magomed Bibulatov and pull off a split decision win. The fight was close, but Bontorin secured takedowns at key moments that swayed two of the judges in his favor. He closed at +245 odds. As for Bibulatov, this was the second straight fight in which the former World Series of Fighting champion shockingly lost as a big favorite.
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.