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2019 - The Year of UFC Main Event Upsets

We take a look at the numbers behind some of the UFC's odds-defying main events this year
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On Saturday night we witnessed the second coming of Anthony “Showtime” Pettis! All looked to be going against the former WEC and UFC lightweight champion, as Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson was putting on a striking clinic which saw him landing on Pettis at will, but then the unthinkable happened. With less than 10 seconds remaining in round number 2, Anthony Pettis found himself backed-up against the cage, Thompson landed a side-kick to Pettis’ mid-section which sent him bouncing off the cage wall, as he ricocheted off, he springed into the air with a devastating superman punch of Wonderboy that sent his body collapsing to the canvas. This spectacular moment marked the first KO stoppage win for Showtime in over 6 years and the first KO loss of Thompson’s combat career. A rare and unforeseen moment, but perhaps not out of question in UFC’s 2019.

The UFC went into this year with the intentions of starting it with a bang. Following the inking of their brand new deal with ESPN, they have been keen to put on high-calibre shows with the world’s largest sports broadcaster. One way they have gone about this is by the implementation of big names to create blockbuster main events. One thing the UFC couldn’t have engineered however, is the sheer number of spectacular finishes to these main events.

Out of the 9 event closing bouts they’ve put on in 2019, 7 have ended in finishes, 6 of which have come via KO/TKO stoppages and 4 of those have come at the hands of the underdogs. The first was Henry Cejudo’s 32 second finish of T.J. Dillashaw to defend his flyweight title, next was Francis Ngannou’s 26 second knockout of former 2-time UFC heavyweight champion - Cain Velasquez, then following came two weeks ago by Jorge Masvidal brutally KO’ing Darren Till, and now we’re just fresh off the return of “Showtime”!

Let’s break these down a little further - At best closing odds – Each fighter’s KO/TKO Props paid at (w/ implied% chance of occurring):

Henry Cejudo +750 (11.8%)

Francis Ngannou +180 (closing moneyline price was better than KO/TKO prop) (35.7%)

Jorge Masvidal +620 (13.9%)

Anthony Pettis +955 (9.5%)

If you backed every main event underdog (for 1 unit or $100) to win via KO/TKO - out of the four that have cashed so far in 2019, that equates to an astounding 20.05 units ($2005) of profit (that works out to 222.78% ROI). A truly eye watering figure that not many bettors would have been the beneficiaries of, due to the dynamic unpredictability of high-level mixed martial arts.

This weekend’s card sees Edson Barboza take on Justin Gaethje in a lightweight main event that would see the winner launch themselves into the division’s title picture. The line currently sees Gaethje as the +132 underdog, but with 16 of his 19 wins coming by way of knockout, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that “The Highlight” can keep this odds anomaly going.

By Christian Broughton


A former sportsbook trader with a passion for mixed martial arts. If there is value to be found then Christian is the man to find it.


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