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UFC 224 Betting Recap
Amanda ‘The Lioness’ Nunes won her seventh straight fight and retained her women’s bantamweight championship by defeating Racquel ‘Rocky’ Pennington by fifth-round knockout in the UFC 224 headliner Saturday night at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Nunes won as a huge -700 favorite, while bettors taking ‘over’ 2.5 rounds at a -115 price cashed tickets. The proposition wager for Nunes to win by KO/TKO for a +120 return was a winner. The prop for the 135-pound champ to win in Round 5 paid out at enormous 28/1 odds.

Nunes was dominant throughout the bout, landing concise strikes and hard kicks to Pennington’s legs and the body. Pennington had a few moments offensively in the third, but there was never any major momentum shift. Nunes connected with multiple knees to the head in the fourth.

Before the fifth and final stanza started, Pennington told her corner, “I’m done. I want to be done.” Her coach replied, “No no no no. Let’s power through this. Let’s believe. Change your mindset. Change your mindset. Let’s just throw everything we got. We’ll recover later. Throw everything we got.”

Pennington said nothing and answered the bell to start the fifth. There’s a lot to unpack there. Yes, it’s a title fight and those don’t come around every day – maybe never again. However, Pennington had been punished for 20 minutes and clearly wanted to live to fight another day.

Whether or not one has a problem with her coach convincing her to go back out for the fifth is that individual’s decision. What I have a huge problem with is Pennington’s corner not being ready to throw in the towel the instant Nunes scored a takedown. At this point, there was going to be no miracle Hail Mary punch. In fact, there was nothing left but for Pennington to absorb more punishment from Nunes in ground-and-pound fashion.

Yet no towel was thrown. The referee eventually halted the fight, but Pennington’s corner failed her by allowing those extra hammer fists to connect.

In my preview here on VegasInsider.com, I took Nunes for one unit to win by KO (which was +162 when I filed on Friday) but lost one-half unit on ‘under’ 2.5 rounds (-135 price). This resulted on 0.95 units of profit.

There’s no clear fight to make for Nunes next other than a superfight with featherweight champ Cris Cyborg, so let’s hope that fight gets made.

The co-main event earned Fight of the Night honors, with Kelvin Gastelum winning a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) over Jacare Souza, who controlled the opening round on the ground. Souza twice earned the mount position and landed big shots that had Gastelum in trouble, but the 26-year-old was able to survive with quality ground defense.

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The momentum shifted in Round 2 when Gastelum was able to stuff multiple takedown attempts by Jacare. Gastelum scored a knock down with a nice combination, but Souza worked his way back to his feet. The round went back and forth from there, but VegasInsider.com gave the nod to Gastelum.

VI did the same in Gastelum’s favor in the third, a close stanza but one in which Gastelum stuffed several takedown attempts. When Souza was able to execute a takedown, Gastelum was able to get back to his feet unscathed. The stanza ended with Gastelum landing some big strikes.

With the victory, Gastelum likely puts himself in position to face the winner of Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker II for the belt currently held by Whittaker. In losing such a close fight with so much at stake, you wonder if the 38-year-old Jacare just narrowly missed out on his last shot at getting a chance to taste UFC gold.

I had two units on Gastelum at +135 odds, in addition to a two-unit loser on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds (at +150). This netted a slight profit of 0.7 units.

Mackenzie Dern, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and world champion, missed weight by seven pounds for her second Octagon appearance. She had to forfeit 30 percent of her fight purse for doing so. Nevertheless, Dern improved to 7-0 overall in her MMA career by submitting Amanda Cooper via rear-naked choke at the 2:27 mark of the opening round. Dern cashed tickets as a favorite in the -260 neighborhood, while ‘under’ tickets (2.5 rounds at a -120 price) easily cashed.

In a bantamweight scrap, sixth-ranked John Lineker defeated Brian Kelleher by third-round KO thanks to a vicious left hook that turned the lights out. Lineker hooked up his backers as a -265 ‘chalk.’ The ‘over’ 2.5 rounds (-225) was a casher with the finish coming with a little more than a minute remaining in the bout.

Lineker to win by TKO/KO paid out a +280 return, while wagers on him to win in Round 3 netted a 28/1 payout. The 27-year-old Brazilian improved to 12-3 in 15 career Octagon appearances. Lineker is 8-1 in his last nine fights with his only defeat in the last four-plus years coming to current champ T.J. Dillashaw (by UD) at UFC 207.

In the main-card opener, a pair of Brazilian legends went at it. Lyoto Machida turned back the clock to beat Vitor Belfort with a front-kick KO one minute into the second round. UFC enthusiasts will remember that Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva defeated Belfort with the first front-kick KO in the promotion’s history back in 2011 at UFC 126.

Machida sent Randy Couture into retirement minus a tooth with the same front-kick KO at UFC 129. ‘The Dragon’ joined Lineker in earning Performance of the Night bonuses while simultaneously hooking up his supporters as a -190 favorite. The ‘under’ (1.5 rounds) was a nice winner for a +165 payout. Also, Machida to win by TKO/KO paid out at +186 odds and Machida to win in Round 2 netted a 6/1 return.

The only other fight in my picks was a heavyweight clash with Aleksei Oliynyk facing Brazilian Junior Albini as a road underdog. I recommended Oliynyk and the ‘under’ and even called for him to specifically win by the rare Ezekiel Choke submission.

The 40-year-old Russian executed the only Ezekiel Choke in UFC history in his win over Viktor Pesta, who was in the dominant mount position when Oliynyk forced him to tap. This time around, Oliynyk initiated a clinch, felt comfortable with his grip on the choke and dropped to his back to pull guard. Within moments, Albini tapped from the top.

It was the 10th Ezekiel Choke finish of Oliynyk’s career as he improved to 5-2 in the UFC. Oliynyk cashed tickets as a +135 underdog, while wagers on the ‘under’ (1.5 rounds) brought back a +120 payout.

I won 2.98 units on this fight, hitting Oliynyk at +140 (from Friday’s odds) for one unit and 1.5 units on the ‘under’ at +105. Therefore, my picks went 4-2 to garner 4.63 units of profit for UFC 224.

**B.E.’s Octagon Nuggets**

-- Nate Diaz shot down reports (that came from UFC President Dana White’s mouth) that he’ll face GSP at UFC 227 on a social-media post and in comments made to MMAJunkie.com over the weekend. Diaz reportedly got into a skirmish with Clay Guida at a regional MMA event in San Jose as well. Diaz told MMAJunkie, “I’ve been trying to get in there and get going. I’ve been wanting to get in there and get going this year. I just got this lawsuit out of the way (a Texas judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by his ex-manager) that I’ve been going through for the last two years, so I wasn’t even able to fight. So that’s all done and over, and I’m ready to get back to fighting if I’m going to be fighting anymore…I’m training until there’s something good to do here.” When asked about the GSP fight, Diaz said, “No, I’m not fighting that fight. There was a fight I asked them for, and now that that fell through, we’re back to square one.”

-- UFC Hall of Famer and former light heavyweight champ Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell announced Monday on Ariel Helwani’s ‘The MMA Hour’ that he’s coming out of retirement at the age of 48. Liddell is working on a deal with Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy promotion that’s moving into MMA this year. He’s targeting a fight with Tito Ortiz in November or December.

-- Bellator 199 went head-to-head with UFC 224 and one of the best boxing fights of 2018. Ryan Bader needed only 15 seconds to KO ‘King Mo’ and advance to the semifinals of the Heavyweight Tournament. Bader will meet Matt Mitrione next, while Fedor and Chael Sonnen collide in the other semifinal.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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