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Edwards and the Best Underdog Champions in UFC History

Edwards Not First Champion To Have To Be ‘Rocky’

Entering their trilogy fight Saturday at UFC 286, Leon Edwards is the underdog on the betting lines yet again. Despite finishing former champion Kamaru Usman with a head kick, UFC predictions are again against “Rocky” as he looks to prove folks wrong again. The good news for Edwards is that he is not the first champion to win as an underdog. Several of the greatest have done it before him.

Leon Edwards of Jamaica celebrates after winning
Leon Edwards of Jamaica celebrates after winning - Alex Goodlett/Getty Images/afp

– Cody Garbrandt
– Joanna Jedrzejczyk
– Anderson Silva
– Frankie Edgar
– BJ Penn
– Andrei Arlovski

All lost their UFC title defence fights and the subsequent rematches back to back. Tough spot to be in.

— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) August 5, 2018

Edgar Beats ‘The Prodigy’ Yet Again

No UFC champion embodied the term “underdog champion” more than Frankie Edgar. First, the lightly regarded challenger edged B.J. Penn on the scorecards to claim the title in what was 2010’s most shocking UFC news. Edgar was a 6-1 underdog. Then in the rematch, the odds still pegged Edgar, the new champion, as a +250 underdog.

Not only did Edgar defeat Penn yet again, but he also dominated the former champion and made the UFC betting odds look silly. Edgar won every single round on the scorecards and outstruck Penn 94 to 36 while also controlling him for a portion of the contest. Edgar beat Penn so badly that the once great “Prodigy” was never the same fighter again.

Blachowicz Hands Adesanya His First Defeat

From a lightweight underdog champ to a light heavyweight underdog champ. Jan Blachowicz was a money train as a consistently underestimated fighter when it came to UFC betting. For starters, the Polish fighter won the vacant title as a 2-1 underdog over Dominick Reyes. And for his first title defense, he was matched with the middleweight champion: Israel Adesanya.

The undefeated Adesanya seemed unbeatable as he made easy work of his division’s top contenders. It was a foregone conclusion he would do the same to Blachowicz and almost everyone picked against the champion. Blachowicz opened as another 2-1 underdog. But while most of the fight was close, Blachowicz used his wrestling to win four of the five rounds and a clear-cut decision. He became the first fighter to win over Adesanya in MMA.

Namajunas Owns Jedrzejczyk’s Number

In similar fashion to Edgar, Rose Namajunas also scored not one but two upsets over strawweight great Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Namajunas first shocked the world by knocking Jedrzejczyk out as 5-1 underdog in 2017. The “Namajunas by KO” prop would have paid $2,500 for every $100 wager and was one of the best UFC bets of the year.

But she wasn’t done yet. Namajunas then defended her title in an instant rematch against Jedrzejczyk as another underdog. This time, Namajunas opened at +160 and shrewd bettors quickly bet her down to pick’em odds come fight time. While “Thug Rose” did not KO Jedrzejczyk again, she did win the unanimous decision to go 2-0 against the then-greatest 115-pound fighter in MMA.

Nunes Retires Rousey

They say hindsight is 20-20. But when the majority of UFC picks had the returning Ronda Rousey as the favorite over the newly minted champion, Amanda Nunes, it did not sound crazy. Nunes was, after all, an unheralded champion who just won the belt while Rousey was still considered the best female fighter even coming off a devastating loss.

Nunes opened as a 2-1 underdog against Rousey. The UFC’s blockbuster year-end pay-per-view of 2016 drew 1.1 million buys with the world watching to see Rousey reclaim her title. Unfortunately for everyone siding with her, Nunes lit Rousey up. It was not a close fight as the “underdog” champ teed off on Rousey until referee Herb Dean jumped in to save her in what would be her final MMA fight.

Cejudo Destroys Dillashaw in 30 Seconds

Not even performance-enhancing drugs could help bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw against the newly crowned flyweight king, Henry Cejudo. The self-styled “King of Cringe” may have turned fans off with his cringy off-cage antics. This may have contributed to why he was overlooked in the books — as large as a 2-1 underdog in his first title defense.

The betting action was one-sided for Dillashaw as he went from a -175 favorite to -240 come fight time. It turns out the bettors were terribly wrong as Cejudo needed 32 seconds to knock Dillashaw out and establish himself as the 125-pound champion. Dillashaw later tested positive for EPO and was suspended while Cejudo went on to also win the vacated belt and become “Triple C”.

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