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UFC on ESPN 5 was chock full of impressive performances, as each heavy favorite won but only six of the established 11 betting favorites on the card prevailed. Five betting underdogs upset their opponents on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey -- one fight was a pick-’em, with both fighters closing as small favorites -- giving us more than enough material with which to work in this edition of Beating the Books.
Gerald Meerschaert (+150)
Only four of the 21 pickers from the Sherdog Pick ’Em league expected Meerschaert to take home the win. Our Prime Picks analysis saw Trevin Giles winning the fight as long as he stayed patient, while Meerschaert likely had to fish for a submission to score an upset. Meerschaert did so, forcing Giles to play his game and keeping the fight on the ground early and often.
Giles maintained a modicum of success on the feet, although he was susceptible to a body kick or two. The longer the fight was focused on his defensive grappling, the greater the advantage was for Meerschaert. Blanketing his opponent while calmly avoiding any efforts to get back to the feet, Meerschaert relished the opportunity for Giles to chase him to down to the mat. In the final round, Giles went against better judgment to follow Meerschaert to the floor and fell right into a trap. As Meerschaert cinched the guillotine choke, referee Herb Dean was unable to see the Texan’s tap, so Giles went unconscious and “GM3” earned one of the biggest betting upsets on the card.
Kennedy Nzechukwu (+100)
As discussed in the Prime Picks article previewing this event, Nzechukwu was expected to spring the upset. The fight did not quite play out as thought, but Nzechukwu managed to take home the win. The general expectation was that as long as Nzechukwu utilized his range properly, he could get it done, and he managed to do so in spurts.
Darko Stosic won the first round thanks to a series of leg kicks that kept his larger, rangier counterpart at bay. In the second, however, Stosic opened up with a groin kick, only to land one more in that same round and lose a point. From there, Stosic was much more tentative to throw his most successful strikes, allowing Nzechukwu to score with jabs and teep kicks. Nzechukwu took a 10-8 round on all three scorecards and then went on to suffer one more groin strike that cost Stosic a second point. With Stosic largely out of the game by then, Nzechukwu staved off any last-ditch offense the Serb threw at him to capture the decision and author the mild upset.
Mickey Gall (+100)
A New Jersey native, Gall had the crowd behind him against Poland’s Salim Touahri, and despite closing as a slight underdog, he did enough to win over the judges and take a decision. Gall initially opened as a -190 favorite but the betting lines gradually tightened until Touahri overtook him as the favorite. The fight was a back-and-forth affair that saw both men mix in their striking with ground attacks in a contest that saw their striking statistics nearly equal.
Although the fight was close, Gall appeared the land the more significant strikes, including some ground-and-pound to end the first round emphatically. Although Touahri bounced back by taking the middle stanza, he could not capitalize on the momentum change to take Round 3. As Touahri appeared to be tiring towards the end of the fight, Gall poured on the pressure and landed the cleaner shots to convince the judges he deserved the win. Although one judge for Sherdog.com gave the fight to Touahri, all three sitting cageside gave Gall two rounds to one. With his tough win, Gall picked up the minor upset victory.
Matt Schnell (+145)
Schnell scored a betting upset and arguably the most significant win of his career when he tapped Jordan Espinosa in under 90 seconds. By the time the fight was over, it barely had time to develop. Espinosa started off landing a few strikes that Schnell responded to in kind. Espinosa then decided to shoot for an ill-advised takedown. From there, it was only a matter of time until he was submitted.
Although Schnell first attempted a guillotine, the maneuver was unsuccessful, but he opted to try another. When he threw his legs around Espinosa’s head, the fight was over in seconds. “Danger” actually opened as a small -120 favorite until money started coming in to shift the line in the other direction. Schnell winning by submission was set a decent +475, given his predilection towards submitting opponents, with over half of his wins coming by tapout leading up to his meeting with Espinosa. If you bet on Schnell, you came out ahead.
Lauren Murphy (+180)
The biggest upset of the show came when Murphy flattened Mara Romero Borella with a knee and some stern follow-up strikes. With the fight all tied up one round apiece going into the third, the bout was hanging in the balance until one key exchange in which both women traded blows. Murphy came out the better in the melee, and Borella forced a takedown attempt that left her head exposed and open for the knee. Murphy took advantage of the opportunity to land one flush knee that put Borella down for the count, with anything that followed just academic at that point.
Surprisingly, the prop bet for Murphy to win by knockout was +1150, giving those few risk-averse bettors something to celebrate along with her win. This should not be considered a surprise, because leading up to this fight, seven of Murphy’s 10 wins have come by knockout and three of Borella’s five losses were also by stoppage due to strikes. If you put money on Murphy winning -- or even better if you did so by stoppage -- you were not the only person who was “Lucky” at night’s end.
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