Rising up from your lowest point is the most gratifying experience that anybody can experience in their lifetime, athletics or not. There is just a surge of exhilaration which comes from tapping into a reserve of strength that you didn't think could even exist in your body that provides you with the ultimate emotional high. Whether it's acing that exam which you thought you were going to fail or tapping that black belt in the gym after he was whipping you for the whole sparring session, coming back from the brink of defeat is incredible.
In the UFC alone, we have seen some incredible comebacks that turned the tide of a fight completely in the opposite direction from where it was heading. Countless times fighters have been smashed to bits, beaten from pillar to post only to pull a knockout strike or a submission out of nowhere. While there are dozens of those, only 10 can be considered the best.
When speaking of the best comebacks, a few factors need to be discussed. The first one being just how bad of a position you were in before the fighter pulled out the comeback. The worse of a condition a fighter is in before coming back, the more impressive the comeback is, it's that simple. Another reason the list is ranked this way is because of the level of competition in which it occurred. Championship fights entice spectators more than a Fight Pass card opener, so they will be ranked accordingly. Then there's the X factor: drama. If you can envision a comeback in the UFC out of a Rocky movie, chances are you will find it on the list.
10 Mike Russow vs. Todd Duffee, UFC 114
If you were to look at these two fighters in a face off, you wouldn't even have thought they were the same species. Todd Duffee is a chiseled, Adonis of a man who looks unbelievably shredded at the Heavyweight level. Russow's body by comparison looks more like Mick Foley and less like Stephanie Foley. For two and a half rounds, Duffee shrugged off feeble takedown attempts and landed punch after punch to Russow's face. As the third round came, Duffee was looking to cruise to a decision, all he had to was... ah crap he got hit. Russow sprung into action with a right straight that flattened Duffee and crushed the idea of Duffee being the next big thing (credit to Paul Heyman) in the Heavyweight division.
9 Scott Smith vs. Pete Sell, Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale
Is the UFC fixed? No, it really isn't but you have wonder how did the forces of nature manage to gift with such a dramatic knockout like this between two journeymen fighters? In a striking match very typical of mid 2000's UFC, both men were winging hay-makers at each other with little regard for their well being despite the mid-fight hugging. What wasn't seen often at the time though were body shots, which Sell rocked Smith with in the 2nd round. Smith was done (supposedly) and Sell knew it so he ran in to finish his wounded prey, but Smith wasn't out yet. Smith rocketed a right straight all the way from the pits of his spirit to knock out Sell. After the shot, Smith finally doubled over from the pain of the body shot but his job was done; he pulled off one of the best comebacks ever.
8 Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva, UFC 156
For every incredible moment of Alistair Overeem's career, he always has a completely bone headed move that will balance out the ongoing stage drama that is The Demolition Man. At UFC 156, Overeem made his return after failing a drug test prior to his scheduled UFC 146 title fight with Junior Dos Santos.
Despite his opponent being the gargantuan brute known as Bigfoot Silva, most people assumed that Overeem would roll over him to recapture his date with JDS. Overeem took him down, out struck and slipped Bigfoot for the first two rounds of their fight. The whole time though, Overeem was fighting with his hands down and not getting punished for it. Once the giant realized that the genetic freak takes punishment like everyone else, Silva burst off his stool in the third round and wailed on Overeem with combinations on the fence until The Reem crumbled. The terrifying image of an enraged beast yelling over his fallen rival is one of the best images in MMA and came as a result from one of the best comebacks.
7 Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard, UFC 125
Some may not see this as a true comeback, but I laugh at that idea and instead pay respect to the heart and soul of Frankie Edgar. On New Year's Day 2011, Frankie Edgar defended his title against the only man to ever defeat him, Gray Maynard. The expectations for the fight were low due to how likely it was to be a wrestling match but boy were the pundits off.
A couple of minutes into the first round, Maynard absolutely smashed the lightweight champion by dropping him with a left hook that literally flipped Edgar backwards. Maynard would knock down his rival another two times in the round but couldn't quite land the definitive shot to put him down for good. The second round began and Edgar resurrected himself by clipping Maynard with punches, threatening with a guillotine in the fourth round and taking down the stronger wrestler. When the smoke cleared, the fight was declared a split draw, disappointing for both men but undoubtedly an incredible display of resilience on the part of Frankie Edgar.
6 Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg, UFC 52
Dana White has seen thousands of fights, but in 2009 he stated that this was his favourite fight ever and I could understand why. In a rematch of their first encounter, Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg were set to finally settle their beef at UFC 52 for Hughes's Welterweight Championship. The rivalry was so intense that during the fight Trigg kneed Hughes in the family jewels and continued to lay the smackdown on Hughes.
Trigg knocked Hughes down with punches and jumped on his back to sink in a rear naked choke. But Hughes would not let his nemesis score a victory over him so by sheer will, Hughes reversed position to pick Trigg up with a double leg and slam him while running the entire diameter of the mat. After that it was all gravy, as Hughes sunk in a choke of his own, but the greatest part of this is that Hughes recovered from a nut shot. Come on now, that's damn impressive.
5 Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin, UFC 116
It says something when a nut shot is better than getting punched in the face. If Shane Carwin is doing the punching, Trigg can knee my testicles all day and I won't complain because Carwin has frightening power. He knocked out Frank Mir with punches that literally had one inch to travel and with force that made Bruce Lee jealous. Before this matchup, Brock Lesnar seemed damn near unstoppable as nobody had hurt him and his only loss came from a flash submission.
Carwin put fear into Lesnar's mind out of the opening gate by hammering Lesnar with some of the most vicious blows ever seen in the octagon. After a full round of destruction from Carwin, Lesnar came out of the corner with a smile on his face. What did he know that made him smile? Carwin was gassed. Lesnar shot in for his monstrous double leg, took Carwin down and submitted him quickly with an arm triangle. After enduring one of the worst thrashings ever seen in MMA, Brock Lesnar truly was the baddest man on the planet.
4 Travis Browne vs. Alistair Overeem, UFC Fight Night 26
As I stated earlier, Alistair Overeem has had quite an exciting career that is filled with either him or his opponent getting blasted into a different dimension via fist and foot express. After blowing his shot at a UFC title in his previous fight versus Bigfoot Silva, there was no way he was going to make another mental mistake in his next fight, right? WRONG!
In this heavyweight tilt, Overeem came out storming to push Browne against the fence and put on a Muay Thai clinic by demolishing the body of Travis Browne. I could only describe it as imagining the Shane Carwin/Brock Lesnar beating but with most of the damage coming from knees to the body. Through some miracle, Browne survived the onslaught and came firing back with front kicks. He landed one, Alistair should adjust... he landed another, damn Alistair should move laterally... THREE! On the third front kick, Overeem stumbled to the mat and Browne laid two sinister hammerfists to close the deal and shut Overeem's championship dreams again.
3 Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry, UFC on Versus 4
The Versus channel didn't hold too many UFC events, but the ones they did hold were quite good, the best one being this modern day classic. Both kickboxers before entering Mixed Martial Arts, a heavyweight contest between Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry seemed to have everything a promoter could want in a main event. But there was no promoter on earth who could have predicted what they were about to see.
Two minutes into the first round, Barry would drop Kongo with a right hook and it seemed like it was done as most heavyweights couldn't get up from a shot like that but nope, Kongo would somehow get up on spaghetti legs only to get dropped again by another right hook. Like a zombie rising from his grave, Kongo got back to his feet and stood up only by the virtue of the cage holding him up. Barry forgot about his defence and continued to pursue the kill but in doing so, Kongo met Barry with a right straight which stunned Barry and followed up with a right uppercut that stoned "HD". While still on wobbly legs, Kongo knocked out another kickboxer in one of the craziest fights ever seen in the UFC.
2 Frank Mir vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, UFC 140
I've talked about this fight ad nauseum in a previous article of mine so forgive me for drooling over this fight again, but it is truly that good. Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira are the two of the best grapplers in the history of the heavyweight division so it was fair to expect a grappling heavy affair. Nogueira had a staph infection in their first fight and was set to have a much better performance than his first fight with Mir.
He did just that, as Minotauro slammed home a jab straight combination which dropped Mir and had him on all fours. Mir was in the absolute worst position; he was stunned and his neck was vulnerable for a choke. As Nogueira rolled for a guillotine, Mir somehow spun out of it and wound up on top of the PRIDE legend. From side control, Mir jumped on the loose arm of Nogueira and cranked on a kimura until he couldn't crank anymore. Two forward rolls couldn't save the mythical beast from Brazil and from being in the worst position possible to the best, Frank Mir submitted Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. That was simply insanity, almost impossible to beat.
1 Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen, UFC 117
In my top 10 submission victories article, I placed this at number two and the Mir kimura at number one so you may be asking about the switch. I see this story as a different type than the Mir/Nogueira one. While both were come from behind submission victories, Mir had to recover quickly from two strikes and escape a bad position in one round. Silva though, had to endure over four rounds of offence from Chael Sonnen which would screw with anybody's psyche. Everything Anderson tried, Sonnen had an answer for. He dropped Silva with a punch in the first and only slipped when Silva nailed an elbow in the fourth (which Sonnen recovered from).
In the fifth round, there was absolutely no reason to think Silva could counter Sonnen now when he couldn't do it at full capacity in the first. Lucky for the Spider, the Oregon gangster was slowing down just a bit. He was leaving his arms down in the champion's guard. In a last ditch effort, Silva threw up his legs for a triangle choke and squeezed like his life depended on it. Sonnen's attempts to free himself from the Spider's web, while inspired, ultimately led to nothing but defeat. Anderson Silva defeated the man who almost stole his legacy, title and reputation and who was loaded to his scalp with testosterone. All of this, done with bruised ribs. It's impossible to see how anybody can pull off quite a comeback like this one.
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