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UFC Fight Night 156 on Saturday in Montevideo, Uruguay, showcased some impressive performances, with every betting favorite on the main card coming out on top. The preliminary card was another matter, as four of the seven underdogs sprang upsets, giving us plenty to discuss on this edition of “Beating the Books.”
Gilbert Burns (+120)
In the Prime Picks piece discussing this card, we were careful to select not a winner but a result: The fight would go the distance. It played out largely to our expectations, except that Burns managed to plant Alexey Kunchenko on the canvas multiple times. The closest either fighter was to finishing the fight came at the tail end of the third round, where Kunchenko compromised Burns with leg kicks and had the Brazilian in trouble. Burns survived, and though he gave up the last round, he had done enough to win the decision.
Burns excelled where 20 previous opponents for Kunchenko had not by getting the Russian to the ground and doing so repeatedly without a great deal of effort. The mere threat of the takedown forced Kunchenko to fight defensively for the first two rounds, until he opened up offensively in the last stanza, as he knew he was likely down on the scorecards. In the process, the best strikes that Kunchenko landed were largely his leg kicks, causing damage and planting Burns on his backside several times. However, he was never able to capitalize on those positions. While some money came in on Burns over the last few weeks to make him only a slight underdog, he captured two rounds to win over the judges, the fight and score the minor upset.
Marina Rodriguez (+140)
As discussed in the Prime Picks piece prior to this event, we anticipated Tecia Torres getting back into the winning column. Because she was on the wrong end of a height and reach advantage, the concern for Torres centered on her ability to keep a preferred distance and not simply stay on the outside where she could get hit. It was thought that Torres should select her openings carefully and use her boxing to tag Rodriguez and get out before getting countered. Instead, Rodriguez dictated the pace across all three rounds, keeping Torres away with long kicks and making her pay with knees and elbows when she tried to close distance.
Another potential key to victory for Torres was her perceived wrestling advantage. However, we did note that while she has been effective with it in the past, it is not generally the primary facet of her game. Rodriguez stuffed all seven of Torres’ takedown attempts and scored on Torres several times on the break. In the clinch, it was all Rodriguez, who landed effective knees in all three rounds, whether she had her back against the fence or on the offensive pressing Torres. Volume, a facet at which Torres typically excels, saw the Brazilian with a better than 2-to-1 advantage in significant strikes. Rodriguez landed at distance to the head, body and legs and did so indiscriminately. With her constant offense, Rodriguez picked up one of the biggest upsets of the night to improve her record to 12-0-1.
Rogerio Bontorin (+100)
Closing as the slightest of underdogs at +100, Bontorin was a solid favorite of at least -150 as recently as a week ago. Bettors must have seen value on Raulian Paiva and placed their money accordingly. Instead, Bontorin was in the driver’s seat for almost the entirety of the three-minute fight. Paiva began early with a left that busted up Bontorin’s cheek, doing damage that made referee Osiris Maia call a stop to the action to make sure the cut was not of the fight-ending variety. As it was not, the match resumed and both men got to their feet for one more exchange until the fight did end.
Bontorin leaped forward with a knee that smashed Paiva in the face, doing damage that was not immediately noticeable -- until Bontorin picked up and slammed Paiva to the canvas. The blood started flowing and did not relent, as the fact that Paiva’s right eyebrow was virtually split in half became visible. Upon seeing the gash, Maia called in the doctor and stopped the fight seconds later to award the win to Bontorin. While some, including prospective bettors, might lament a cut or doctor stoppage, the jumping knee that Bontorin scored was perfectly placed and well-executed, and the stoppage was just. On a positive note, Paiva’s eyebrow was stitched back together and there was no permanent damage.
Chris Gutierrez (+155)
Before analyzing what went into this fight, it should be mentioned that all three Sherdog.com judges handed in 30-27 scores for Geraldo de Freitas Jr., and two-thirds of the media scorecards awarded it to de Freitas. With that said, Gutierrez sprang the biggest upset of the event with his largely successful kicking game. His leg kicks made the difference, connecting with almost 10 of them in each round and breaking up de Freitas’ game.
In all three rounds, Gutierrez utilized leg kicks and a sharp jab to disrupt the de Freitas’ movement, dropping the Brazilian to the canvas a few times with powerful calf kicks. Due to the damage on his leg, de Freitas was unable to score effectively. Gutierrez continued to work on it, doing enough to convince two judges that he deserved the nod. Surprisingly, Gutierrez opened as a significant -190 favorite before the line shifted the other direction towards de Freitas during fight week.