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UFC Fight Night 157 on Saturday in Shenzhen, China, started strong and ended even stronger, with surprising results across the card. Four of the nine betting underdogs scored upsets, giving us plenty to discuss in this edition of Beating the Books.
Weili Zhang (+170)
This was an unexpected result, unless you polled 29 percent of the Sherdog staff in the Pick ’Em contest. In our Prime Picks analysis of the UFC Fight Night 157 main event, we expected Jessica Andrade to bulldoze another opponent and defend her strawweight belt for the first time. Practically the opposite occurred. Cognizant of the power that Andrade possessed, Zhang played it perfectly, avoiding any of the Brazilian’s patented looping shots while scoring at will.
Some were concerned going into this event that the Chinese fighter was being rushed, perhaps because the Ultimate Fighting Championship intended on throwing the proverbial bone to the home crowd in the form of a title challenger. Zhang blew the doors off in just 42 seconds, scoring with every single one of her strikes from the clinch in the form of vicious knees and elbows. As soon as Zhang had the champion hurt, she unleashed a lightning-quick barrage of strikes to force the stoppage, earning a significant upset and sending a message to the rest of the division. If you picked Zhang to win, it was a solid bet, but if you were bold enough to bet Zhang would finish Andrade (+355), that she would win by knockout (+625) or that she would win by first-round stoppage (+1200), you certainly got your money's worth in the headliner.
Jingliang Li (+215)
Fighting in front of a home crowd definitely emboldened the Chinese welterweight known as “The Leech.” Up against a flashy striker riding an impressive seven-fight win streak, Li never shied away from engaging with his adversary and even scored a knockdown in the opening round. While Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos came back in the second and gained some momentum, his concern that could be down on the scorecards cost him dearly.
In the final round, Zaleski dos Santos started his spinning kick game and began to press the action. Li evaded the attacks and staved off an unexpected takedown attempt for good measure. The Chinese fighter was prepared for the frenzied attack, and he sat on a right-hand counter to great effect. In one last flurry, the Brazilian started to unload, and Li cracked him with a crisp uppercut that had Zaleski dos Santos in all sorts of trouble. It was the beginning of the end, as Li unleashed one final assault that set down Zaleski dos Santos and scored the knockout win. By becoming the first man to stop Zaleski dos Santos with strikes, Li earned arguably the biggest win of his career and one of the biggest upsets of the event.
Kenan Song (-110)
Coming into this fight -- which was suddenly shifted to the main card after another fight was scrapped from the card -- our Prime Picks piece broke it down as one that Derrick Krantz could win as long as he stayed aggressive and wore down Song. Unfortunately for Krantz, his cardio did not hold up across the fight. While he may have won according to all three Sherdog judges who scored the contest, the three judges who mattered most each gave the first and third rounds to Song. While the opening round was close, the second and third rounds were much more clearly defined, the second in favor of Krantz, the third in favor of Song.
Where Song excelled was staying out of any danger Krantz threw at him, as the American wanted to drag the fight to the ground and did so on a few occasions. More than once during the bout, Song timed his scramble to reverse position and gain the upper hand, usually in an effort to stand up and continue the fight on the feet. When Round 3 rolled around, “D-Rock” had next to nothing left to offer, as Song outlanded him at nearly a 4-to-1 clip and secured the victory. With both men closing at -110 odds, this was not an upset as much as it was a pick-’em that was close until it became something else. Also, the expectation that this fight would not go the distance did not hit, either, as it went three full rounds at +145.
Su Mudaerji (+140)
Andre Soukhamthath needed to execute a game plan that involved his taking away Mudaerji’s kicking offense if he hoped to win, and he failed to do so. We discussed how the American should rely on his ground skills to nullify the Chinese striker, but he was stonewalled, officially going 0-3 on takedown attempts. Helpless against his opponent’s best weapons, Soukhamthath lost a lopsided decision -- with one judge even awarding a 30-25 scorecard -- that could result in the release of the former CES MMA champion.
After the first round ended, it was revealed on the broadcast that Soukhamthath told his corner he had broken his hand. This development did not affect him too much, as “The Asian Sensation” threw more punches in the second round than any other, but he only connected on a dozen or so in the last ten minutes of the fight. Mudaerji, who was outclassed in his debut by Louis Smolka, showed off his varied game, as he displayed slick ground skills that included some serious ground-and-pound in the final stanza. The win was Mudaerji’s first to go the distance, but the upset was never in doubt.
Da Un Jung (+245)
Jung secured the first and most significant upset of the event when he handled Khadis Ibragimov and handed the Russian his first career defeat. While Ibragimov was ultra-aggressive in the opening round, his pace waned significantly as the fight progressed. Jung, meanwhile, came on strong. A few times throughout the fight, Ibragimov broke into a furious assault during which he would throw dozens of punches in rapid succession, resembling the fighting style of Aran Ryan or Piston Hurricane from Super Punch Out.
Although Ibragimov scored with these blitzes, only about half his punches got through, as Jung managed to block or withstand the most damaging strikes and protected himself well. Jung responded to these assaults by using a strong left jab that landed virtually at will, all while avoiding counterattacks. Eventually, the clean strikes of the South Korean added up, forcing Ibragimov to try to take the fight to the ground. With his back against the fence, Jung cinched a modified guillotine choke and left the Russian no choice but to tap out. It was a shocking result. The least likely betting outcome of this fight was for Jung to secure a submission, with that prop bet closing at +1675. If you managed to take that action, you might want to see yourself to Las Vegas in the near future.
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