Do Two Underdogs Increase the Odds of an Upset at UFC 112?

Todd JacksonSenior Analyst IApril 8, 2010

At first glance, the star power and two titles on the line at UFC 112 tell a very riveting story.  On the very same card, the MMA community has the pleasure of seeing two pound-for-pound contenders put their titles on the line. 


Anderson "The Spider" Silva has shaken the entire Middleweight division with a case of arachnophobia.  And "The Prodigy" B.J. Penn is well on his way to establishing himself as the most unstoppable Lightweight champion ever. 


Both men will put it all on the line against two very sound No. 1 contenders. Two contenders that sadly, like most underdogs, aren't being given a chance in hell to beat their opponents.


The story on the two champs is not elusive to even the most casual of MMA fans.  Everyone knows these two fellas are at the top of the food chain. They have made their presence known and have proven their dominance to be without equal.


So once again, not unlike Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre's recent bout with Dan Hardy, the outcome of these fights is a foregone conclusion.  There is not one Lightweight, or one Middleweight that anyone in their right mind would say has a prayer of beating B.J. or Anderson.  


Like so many fights in the past, the public knows what should happen Saturday, and they are putting their expertise on the line when calling an outcome and would not risk such a crazy commitment to pick one of these underdogs to pull off an upset.


For B.J. Penn, that underdog is the elite fighter known as Frankie "The Answer" Edgar.  To watch Edgar fight, and dissect his performances against top Lightweights like Tyson Griffin, Hermes, Franca, and Sean Sherk, it is apparent he is a top contender in the division.  


Frankie can roll with the best of them; his striking is dynamic, he moves forward and has the skills to put people away. The only knock on the guy is that his frame is better suited for a WEC stint than the deep UFC Lightweight division.


So he has already overcome the apparent size disadvantage, and not only overcome it but bypassed the odds completely to become a No. 1 contender. Bottom line is, the man doesn't read the writing on the wall. He fights, and he fights very well.


But does he fight well enough to challenge Baby J? Many that heed the odds like Scripture will say no. The easy road to picking Penn as the winner in this fight is much simpler than trying to assess how a guy like Edgar could find a way. 


More than likely, Sunday morning B.J. Penn will still have UFC gold draped over his shoulder. It will not be for lack of effort by Edgar. And quite frankly (no pun intended), those who really know this sport understand the odds of anything happening in MMA often equal even the steepest of odds in favor of any fighter.   


Edgar isn't training to lose this fight, even if that is what is supposed to happen.  No, he is training to become a champion, and if he wakes up Sunday morning with a little more carry-on luggage to bring back to the States with him, one would imagine he will be the only one on the planet not in disbelief.


For Anderson Silva, he has the task at hand of avoiding the anaconda-like squeeze of a guy like Demian Maia. Maia has been doing to people in modern MMA what Royce Gracie used to do to people in the earliest days of the sport. 


The entire focus of both Gracie and Maia was, or is, to grab a hold of something and twist or contort it until their opponent says they don't want to fight anymore. 


The only real difference is no one knew what Gracie was doing; everyone and their mother knows what Maia is going to do, and he somehow is still able to do it. This fighter is absolutely no joke, and is as lethal with his submissions as Silva is with his striking.


Where it only takes one misstep for Silva to seek and destroy, it equally only takes one second of exposure of a limb for Maia to wrap it up.


Maia has beaten some recognizable fighters during his UFC career in Nate Quarry, Jason MacDonald, and recent heir to the No. 1 contender spot Chael Sonnen. 


He is not a slouch, and has stopped 77 percent of his opponents, eight by submission and two by knockout. That's better than Silva's finish ratio of 66 percent total with four submissions and 15 knockouts.


But yet again, regardless of the obvious dangers both men pose, the odds say Silva will walk through Maia. So not unlike the other title fight of the night, if the odds are true, it would appear that fight fans will drop their hard-earned cash to watch Silva go through the motions.


Does Silva's dominance in the UFC pose such a looming obstacle that fans truly believe a guy like Maia has no prayer of latching on to one of those lanky limbs and doing as he pleases with it?


Do they think Maia is just hoping to get this over with so he can go back to the life of fighting everyone not named Anderson Silva?


Of course not, Maia is training around one of the most historical fighters in the history of the sport, Wanderlei Silva. Anyone that knows the man's reputation knows he is doing everything in his power to fully prepare Maia for "The Spider."


So the odds are what they are, and rarely do fight fans get to see the ever elusive Serra-esque underdog upset of the decade. That being said though, on a night where the odds are so disparaging to both No. 1 contenders, do the odds change for the fight fan who wants to see an upset when there are two guys who should not win?


At UFC 111 Dan Hardy was the man in the spotlight. Dan Hardy was the man with the chore of proving he belonged in that championship match, and even in defeat he showed the world how strong his heart and meddle actually were. Even in defeat Hardy smashed odds by just hanging on and staying in that fight. 


The Friday night before the fight everyone knew who was going to win, but the Sunday morning after everyone learned something they didn't already know, that the odds did not tell them, about the No. 1 contender. He had the ability to surprise the MMA community through his sheer grit.


Now one has to wonder, if Hardy was able to shock with his endurance against GSP in a fight he was clearly meant to get smashed in, can two underdogs perhaps do a little more in one night?


Maybe the odds say they don't have a prayer, but the fact that there are two underdogs not supposed to muster a fight might prove to strengthen the odds that at least one of them has a strong showing.


Sure, it is a stretch, but two underdogs are better than one. If someone is going to get Matt Serra'd, surely no matter what the odds are against victory, those odds have to be doubled when two underdogs take center stage with the men no one gives them a chance of hell in beating.


They both believe they will win, could one of them be right?