When two warriors enter a cage to battle for physical supremacy, why do we assume the odds are so heavily packed in favor of one person? Yes there is skill and experience that comes into the equation, but if the sport of MMA has proven anything, it is that upsets can happen at the drop of a hat. One slip, one punch that just misses the mark is all that can separate a win from a crushing defeat and a bloodied face.
Within the last 12 months, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been blessed with some epic encounters and turn ups for the books. Conor McGregor, a man who appeared to be above the fray and riding the crest of a popularity wave had to tap out against a ringer who had stepped in at the last minute. All of a sudden the cocky Irishman is left licking his wounds and biding his time until a rematch can be finalized.
Down under last year, Holly Holm illustrated what a bit of discipline and tenacity can accomplish. Coming into the huge contest in Melbourne, Australia had a serious dose of Ronda Rousey fever, buying into the mythology and celebrity she had garnered through years of dominating her opponents and shining outside the arena. Fast forward to a series of lightning fast punches and the spell was broken. It shell-shocked viewers around the world and put weight behind the notion that the UFC is one of the best sports when looking for upsets.
Perhaps these fights have played a serious role in the rise of the UFC, perhaps they are just part of the narrative of the brutality and rawness that gives it the widespread appeal. Whatever the cause, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has won over a lot of new fans by creating icons and champions from all types of backgrounds from every corner of the world. Until we see what 2016 has in store for us, let’s recap the 20 greatest upsets in UFC history.
20 Rafael dos Anjos vs. Anthony Pettis
19 Paulo Thiago vs. Josh Koscheck
Josh Koscheck was displeased with the result to say the least, unable to compute how the referee could have handed down such a decision: “How the f**k?” Paulo Thiago was thought to be nothing more than practice material for Koscheck in UFC 95, despite the fact he had a 10-0 record. A huge right uppercut from the Brazilian put Koscheck on his backside and transformed his image in the sport. “I got hit,” admitted the fallen fighter. “But my f**king eyes were open.” Not open well enough to see that uppercut though.
18 Royce Gracie vs. Gerard Gordeau
17 Chuck Liddell vs. Keith Jardine
16 Pete Williams vs. Mark Coleman
15 Eddie Yagin vs. Mark Hominick
The wordsmiths described it as a “bloody slugfest” and given the appearances of both gentlemen at the conclusion of this UFC 145 throw down, they were right. Featherweights Mark Hominick and Eddie Yagin fought out a bitter split-decision with Yagin putting the favorite Hominick on the canvas, but rather than ride out his upset, he had to cop a barrage of hits to narrowly win over the judges 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 to edge the narrowest of wins possible. It was Yagin’s first ever success in the octagon and saw Hominick’s decline officially bottom out with his three straight defeat.
14 Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell
13 Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva
12 Jens Pulver vs. B.J. Penn
11 Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko CroCop
10 Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia
9 Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn
8 Thiago Santos vs. Ronny Markes
7 Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez
6 Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio Rua
5 B.J. Penn vs. Matt Hughes
4 T.J. Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao
3 Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor
2 Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre
1 Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey
Those observers at pubs and clubs who previously had no idea, interest or dog in this fight suddenly understood why the sport of UFC had the world watching. It wasn’t even the fact that Holm was a 22-to-1 underdog heading into the UFC 193 encounter in Melbourne or the fact UFC president Dana White had dubbed Rousey the female Mike Tyson of the sport. It was what it represented – an unheralded but polished fighter putting a cherished champion to the canvas with a flurry of punches and roundhouse kick to the neck. Comparisons were made with Buster Douglas, transforming a never-was to a once-in-a-lifetime sporting moment. It transcended the UFC and rarely can any sport say that that's happened.
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