The Ultimate Fighting Championship and its Octagon on Saturday returned to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto for the first time in two years with UFC 231. The event featured a number of notable upsets, all of them on the undercard. Four betting underdogs cashed, and they are the subjects in this installment of the Beating the Books series.
Note: Max Holloway-Brian Ortega closed as a pick-’em, with each fighter at -115 odds, so while not truly an underdog, it is worth mentioning that Holloway won at even odds.
Nina Ansaroff (+255)
Perhaps the most surprising upset of the event came out of the women’s strawweight division, as Ansaroff took a unanimous decision from Claudia Gadelha. It was a close fight when the takedowns Gadelha executed are taken into account, but Ansaroff landed more often and with more power and deserved the nod from the judges as a sizeable underdog. The American Top Team standout carried a three-fight winning streak into the bout, but considering the relatively weak level of competition she had faced, virtually no one expected her to perform this well against a former title contender. Ansaroff capitalized on another disappointing Gadelha outing and cashed as a +255 underdog.
Gilbert Burns (+115)
A spirited lightweight affair between Burns and Olivier Aubin-Mercier saw the multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion walk away with a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” finalist. Burns staggered Aubin-Mercier with a powerful hook in the first round, and though “The Canadian Gangster” survived for the entire 15-minute fight, the decision was lost. The line was close during fight week, but bettors ultimately -- and wrongly -- sided with Aubin-Mercier as the favorite. Burns sprang the upset as a +115 underdog.
Jessica Eye (+195)
In what may have been a women’s flyweight title eliminator, Eye eked out a split decision over Katlyn Chookagian. This was one of the least-eventful fights on the entire card, and even though Eye recorded the win, it seems unlikely that anyone would get too excited about the prospect of her fighting next for the 125-pound belt. However, with new UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in need of fresh challengers, Eye could very well find herself in the title picture soon. For now, the win over Chookagian saw Eye reward her backers as a +195 underdog.
Dhiego Lima (+325)
The most significant upset of the event was visited upon the UFC Fight Pass prelims, as Lima brutally knocked out Chad Laprise in the first round. Lima was on a three-fight losing streak and held a 1-5 record in the UFC, so the odds on his beating Laprise in his hometown were not good. Even so, Lima came out swinging and caught Laprise with a beautiful hook to put him away. Perhaps saving his UFC job with the victory, Lima cashed as a +325 underdog.
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 “Shogun” 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.