UFC FN 135 Rewind
August 26, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje lived up to his moniker in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 135 headliner in Lincoln, Nebraska, by knocking out James ‘The Texecutioner’ Vick in only 97 seconds. The 13-fight card delivered and then some with nine finishes and a pair of split-decision nail-biters.
Gaethje, the No. 7-ranked 155-pounder, avoided a third straight loss and put himself back into the mix of top contenders that is the shark tank of a lightweight division. In doing so, he hooked up his betting supporters as a +120 underdog. The ‘under’ (2.5 rounds at a -110 price) was an easy casher.
Proposition bets on Gaethje that were winners included him to win in Round 1 (+575 payout), inside the distance (+171) and by TKO/KO (+173).
Vick saw his four-fight winning streak snapped in his main-event debut. He fell to 9-2 in 11 Octagon appearances when Gaethje got inside and landed a left job before finishing the combination with a massive overhand right that turned the lights out for Vick.
When asked in his post-fight interview if he wanted to call out a fighter to be his next opponent, Gaethje called for Tony Ferguson, who is booked to face former lightweight kinpin Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis at UFC 229.
In the co-main event, Michael ‘The Menace’ Johnson ended his three-fight slide by edging Andre Fili via split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28) as a +105 underdog. Johnson was quicker to the punch and seemed to be winning most of the stand-up exchanges throughout the bout.
However, nearly 90 seconds into Round 2, Johnson lost his balance during an exchange that resulted in Fili grabbing a body lock. Fili quickly took Johnson’s back and for the next three minutes, Johnson had to defend multiple rear-naked choke threats. He dug deep and did so successfully, and it probably prevented him from dodging a pink slip from the promotion.
Johnson went right back to work with his superior boxing in the third and final stanza, and that was enough to get his hand raised. VegasInsider.com scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Johnson, who we recommended for two units in our preview and then suggested extra units on Saturday while re-tweeting a VI tweet that linked to my preview.
The main card opened with a middleweight scrap between Eryk ‘Ya Boi’ Anders and Tim Williams. Anders, the former Alabama football linebacker, won his first two UFC fights before dropping a heartbreaking split decision to Lyoto Machida down in Brazil earlier this year.
Anders was an enormous ‘chalk’ in the -1200 neighborhood and as high as -1400 at Sportsbook.ag. Gamblers who took a flyer on Williams, who was +825 at BetOnline.ag, had to be feeling good when he clearly won Round 1.
Those same bettors had to be thrilled when Williams was able to score a takedown early in the second. Anders quickly worked his way back to his feet, though, and then started to get busy. His powerful left started to find a home and Williams’s nose was busted up and bleeding in the final two minutes of Round 2.
Anders was on his way to winning the third and almost certainly getting his hand raised, but he kept the judges out of it with a head-kick KO with 18 seconds left in the bout. Williams had been knocked down in an exchange and was trying to entice Anders to jump into his guard on the ground. When Anders wouldn’t commit to doing so, Williams tried to get up and as he did, Anders perfectly timed the fight-ending kick.
Anders earned an extra 50 large with a Performance of the Night bonus to improve to 3-1. Gamblers who took Anders to win inside the distance (-275) and by KO (-210) were fortunate to avoid ‘chalk-eating’ defeats. I lost on Anders, too, but I only had a -110 price at risk for him to win in Round 1. The prop on Anders to prevail in Round 3 was a +950 winner!
Jake ‘The Juggernaut’ Ellenberger was greeted with a huge ovation as he made his 21st career walk to the Octagon. The Omaha native has been a staple in the welterweight division for nine years, winning eight of his first 10 UFC fights. Ellenberger’s resume includes 31 career wins and he’s finished the likes of Mike Pyle, John Howard, Jake Shields, Nate Marquardt, Matt Brown and Josh Koscheck during his UFC tenure.
But it was crystal clear that Ellenberger was fighting for his job on Saturday. In fact, he might’ve already been cut if not for this opportunity of fighting in his home state. Since his 8-2 start, Ellenberger had limped to a 2-8 record in his past 10 outings.
There wasn’t going to be a storybook performance in front of his friends and family on this night, though. Not on Bryan Barberena’s watch, that is.
Barberena closed the show midway through the opening round when he landed a huge knee to the body that crumpled Ellenberger. Barberena pounced on him and after a few hammer fists, Ellenberger turtled and covered up to force the referee to intervene. Barberena improved to 5-3 in the UFC by winning as an expensive -450 ‘chalk.’
The 33-year-old Ellenberger thanked the fans for the support throughout his career and announced his retirement by leaving his gloves in the center of the Octagon. It was time and the correct decision that we hope he sticks with unlike so many fighters that stay active long past their primes.
In the flyweight division, 30-year-old Brazilian Deiveson Figueiredo improved to 15-0 overall and 4-0 in the UFC with a second-round KO (body shot and punches) win over veteran John Moraga. Look for Figueiredo, who was a -170 favorite and now has three finishes in four UFC appearances, to perhaps jump into the Top 10 from his current slot at No. 14.
Courtney Casey captured a split-decision victory (30-27, 28-29, 29-28) over Angela Hill as a +115 underdog in a women’s strawweight affair. The 31-year-old Casey snapped a two-fight losing streak and upped her UFC record to 4-5. The one-game-below .500 ledger is a bit misleading, however, when you consider her two most recent L’s came via split decisions. Furthermore, two other UFC losses came by decision and were awarded with Fight of the Night bonuses.
Speaking of the FOTN, that went down between Cory Sandhagen and Iuri Alcantara in a bantamweight scrap during the Prelims on Fox Sports 2. Sandhagen won by second-round KO as a -200 favorite.
In the Prelims headliner, James Krause won his fifth consecutive fight by besting Warley Alves by second-round KO (knee and punches). Krause was an underdog North of +300 for most of the week, but most books had him at +270 for the closing odds. Nevertheless, it was a sweet winner that I recommended for one-half unit in my preview.
Other winners during the Prelims included Mickey Gall (by first-round RNC over George Sullivan) and Andrew Sanchez, who won a unanimous decision (29-28 across) over Markus Perez as a -130 favorite.
Joanne Calderwood, Drew Dober and Rani Yahya got their hands raised during the UFC FightPass Prelims. Gaethje was awarded the other POTN bonus to bring his bonus tally to five ($250,000) in just four Octagon appearances.
UFC 228 is two weeks away (9/8) with welterweight champ Tyron Woodley taking on undefeated Darren Till in the main event. Woodley was a -125 favorite as of Sunday (8/26).
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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