Widespread skepticism mattered little to Felice Herrig.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 20 quarterfinalist embraced her role as an underdog and upset the previously unbeaten Alexa Grasso in the UFC Fight Night 104 co-main event on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston. Herrig entered the cage at +321 odds, per BetDSI.com, and walked away with 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the cageside judges.
To the surprise of many, the Buffalo Grove, Illinois, native elected to exchange with Grasso (-393) on the feet.
“I didn’t do as much as I wanted to, but I did do what I expected of myself,” Herrig said. “Everyone thinks of me as a grappler, but I come from a striking background. Alexa is a tough opponent and known for her boxing, so I wanted to remind everyone that I’m a high-level striker, and I chose to stand up and trade with her.”
According to FightMetric figures, Grasso landed 20 more significant strikes than the Jeff Curran protégé across their three-round encounter. However, Herrig was more active -- she threw 37 more strikes than the Lobo Gym prospect -- and executed the only two takedowns of the fight, securing one in the second round and another in the third. She was impressed with what Grasso brought to the table.
“She was very tough,” said Herrig, who won for the seventh time in nine appearances. “I’ve watched a lot of her fights, and I have a lot of respect for her. I remember watching her fights in Invicta [Fighting Championships] and thinking that fighting her would be fun, and it was fun. She’s a great competitor, but tonight was my night.”
Grasso had company among fallen favorites. Dennis Bermudez (-200) was victimized by a Chan Sung Jung uppercut in the first round of their featherweight headliner and saw his modest two-fight winning streak grind to a halt. In his first appearance since losing to Jose Aldo on Aug. 3, 2013, Jung (+165) drew the curtain 2:49 into Round 1.
“It definitely felt different from sparring; it felt good to be back in the Octagon,” Jung said. “For the time I was away, I practiced a lot. What I worked on the most was my wrestling and footwork. I wasn’t really expecting the knockout to come that fast.”
Meanwhile, Volkan Oezdemir (+295) made the most of his opportunity as a short-notice fill-in for the injured Jan Blachowicz, as he did just enough to eke out a split decision over Ovince St. Preux (-365) in their three-round light heavyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28: J.J. Ferraro and Joe Soliz for Oezdemir, Sal D’Amato for St. Preux.
“When I signed the fight, a lot of people were congratulating me on joining the UFC, but that was not enough for me,” Oezdemir said. “Of course, coming to the UFC was always a goal for me as a fighter, but I knew I needed to perform. I knew I needed to win to prove that I belong here.”
Two other underdogs sprang upsets: Marcel Fortuna (+210) knocked out Jackson-Wink MMA rep Anthony Hamilton (-260) with an overhand right 3:10 into the first round of their featured heavyweight clash, and Ricardo Lucas Ramos (+108) captured a unanimous decision -- 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 -- over Michinori Tanaka (-130) in their three-round undercard battle at 135 pounds.