These Five UFC 242 Underdogs Are Worth Taking a Flier On

On Saturday, September 7th, the UFC will be live from Abu Dhabi for their historic UFC 242 PPV event. This card is stacked with intriguing fights and a main event that will unify the lightweight titles as the undefeated champ Khabib Nurmagomedov takes on the interim champ Dustin Poirier.

Nurmagomedov is a large betting favorite for this fight. However, he’s not the largest favorite for the card. At least eight of the 13 scheduled fights have a significant disparity in betting odds according to UFC betting sites. Of the remaining five, only three of them are remotely close to even.

With that said, betting on the UFC 242 PPV event might require hitting on a few underdogs to really make some money. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine these odds and identify five potential underdogs that are worth taking a flier on.

Small Underdogs for UFC 242

This preliminary fight has the closest odds on the entire UFC card. However, there are still defined roles as Muslim Salikhov (-105) is the small underdog and Nordine Taleb (-115) is the slight favorite. Both men offer betting value, which makes either fighter a profitable wager.

Since this is an article on underdogs, let’s focus on Salikhov (14-2). Nicknamed “King of Kung Fu,” Muslim Salikhov became the first non-Chinese mixed martial artist to win the Wushu Sanda King’s Cup. He also won many other major Wushu tournaments throughout the world.

It wasn’t until 2011 that Salikhov made his pro MMA debut. A 13-1 record brought him to the UFC where he ended up losing his debut fight due to a submission. Both of his career losses were due to submissions. He last fought 16 months ago and won via KO to bring his UFC record to 1-1.

For Salikhov to win this fight against Taleb (15-6), he will need to defend the takedown and limit the damage from his opponent’s striking volume. Muslim will also need to rely on his counter striking to land his own devastating shots.

Like with all underdogs, betting on them is a risk. For Salikhov, the risk is his takedown defense and perceived lack of a ground game.

UFC 242 Medium Underdogs

These UFC 242 fights feature underdogs at a medium disparity to the betting favorites. Although the risk is a little higher than the small underdogs, the reward and chance of winning are still appealing.

Sarah Moras (+125) vs Liana Jojua (-145)

Sarah Moras (5-5) is the UFC veteran in this fight, but has lost three straight bouts and four over her last five. It’s clearly the reason why MMA betting sites have her as the underdog since Jojua (7-2) is making her octagon debut this weekend and hasn’t fought anyone the caliber of Moras’ opponents.

With that said, Moras has changed her training and preparations for fighting and believes that she will be too tough for Liana to handle in her UFC debut. At 31 years old, Moras also believes that she hasn’t peaked yet as a fighter.

In addition to UFC experience, another reason why I believe Moras is worthy of a flier is because her opponent hasn’t fought in 18 months. So, Jojua is making her UFC debut after a lengthy layoff. That’s a lot to deal with in her first fight inside the octagon.

Moras’ best chance at winning this fight is keeping it upright. Five of Jojua’s seven victories have come via submission. Another path to victory for Sarah would be outworking Liana for the full three rounds. Half of Moras’ fights have gone the distance. That could benefit her since Jojua hasn’t fought in 18 months.

Paul Felder (+140) vs Edson Barboza (-160)

The co-main event of the night is a lightweight rematch between two men looking for a statement win and moving up in the division.

Barboza (20-7) is a sizable betting favorite despite having lost three of his last four fights. However, those losses were against Nurmagomedov, Lee, and Gaethje. Those were three top ranked fighters at the time of the fight.

Felder (16-4) last fought in February and defeated James Vick. It was a bounce back win after losing to Mike Perry via split decision 13 months ago. Felder has won four of his last five fights and six of his last eight UFC bouts.

Their first fight came in July 2015 and Barboza won that via unanimous decision. For Felder to get the victory in this contest, he will need to apply pressure. That might be an unfamiliar tactic for Felder, but it’s one that Barboza has struggled with at times.

If Felder can remain patient, apply pressure and effectively counter strike, then I believe he has a great shot at pulling off the upset.

High Risk – High Reward Underdogs

These fighters offer a higher payout for UFC 242, but they also come with a higher risk.

Davi Ramos (+260) vs Islam Makhachev (-310)

Makhachev (17-1) is a highly successful sambo practitioner with world titles on his resume. He trains with Nurmagomedov and has won five straight fights. His lone career loss came in 2015 when he ate too many punches against Martins.

Ramos (10-2) also comes in on a winning streak having won his last four fights. He defeated Austin Hubbard in May behind a solid performance. Much is being made about Makhachev’s ground game and close quarters combat, but don’t sleep on Ramos’ grappling skills.

Ramos has a solid ground game and can defend himself in the clinch against the cage or on the mat. Furthermore, he has the edge in the standup department over Makhachev, which gives Davi his best path to victory.

If Ramos can effectively counter strike and outpoint Makhachev by striking from a distance, then I believe he can win this fight via decision or even find a TKO if he’s lucky.

Dustin Poirier (+320) vs Khabib Nurmagomedov (-380)

In the main event of the night, the undefeated Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (27-0) puts his title and record on the line against “The Diamond” Dustin Poirier (25-5). It’s a classic striker versus grappler matchup that heavily favors Khabib on these online betting sites with odds as high as -450.

It’s clear what Nurmagomedov’s strategy will be: close the distance and take Poirier down to the mat. If he can get his opponent on the mat, then Khabib is virtually guaranteed a win because he will either grind it out for a decision or get a submission. Nurmagomedov is unstoppable on the mat.

With that said, Poirier does have some opportunities in this fight. He needs to strike from a distance to soften up Nurmagomedov or set up some power shots. Furthermore, Poirier needs to put Nurmagomedov on his back foot and not allow Khabib to dictate the pressure.

The biggest thing that Poirier must do is to defend the takedowns. If he can keep this fight upright and counter strike in the clinch or inside the “phone booth,” then he will put himself in a great position to score a TKO or outpoint Khabib.

Poirier has really evolved as a fighter over the last two years after beating Holloway, Alvarez, Gaethje, Pettis, and Miller. He’s showed incredible toughness and striking skills. Poirier recently defeated Max Holloway in a striking contest largely due to his size advantage and ability to take a punch.

Nurmagomedov isn’t as much of a striker as Poirier, but he does pack some power. I’m confident Poirier can absorb these shots, but I don’t believe Khabib can absorb too many power shots from Dustin.

Ultimately, this championship contest for UFC 242 all comes down to how successful Poirier is in keeping the fight standing. It’s a tough task for a tough fighter, but one that could come to fruition with a little luck and a lot of skill.

Rick Rockwell: As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.