It is a popular saying in the culture of gridiron football, that anything can happen any given Sunday. The phrase is the basis for the title of the Oliver Stone film of the same name, wherein a scrappy, third string quarterback who was never given a chance, turns around his team's season. But the "any given Sunday" idea can be applied to any sport.
Hockey, baseball, basketball, you name it. That's one of the amazing things about sports, while we can crunch numbers until we're blue in the face, nobody ever really knows what is going to happen. If the first place team is off that day and the last place team rally together and everything clicks, you have an upset. The same can obviously be said of MMA. If the reigning champ gets cocky and loses focus for a fraction of a second, the contender lands a nice combo and then shoots for a takedown, it's a whole new ball game.
Plenty of big name fighters have made names for themselves by going undefeated early in their career and only ever experienced losses in the UFC, and other major promotions, but the vast majority have suffered losses at the hands of fighters who never become stars. Here are the stories of some lesser known fighters who knocked out or submitted MMA legends.
15 Petras Markevicius - Submitted Gegard Mousasi
I know that heading through this article I'll have to defend why I'm including certain fighters in an article with "legends" in the title. Iranian-Dutch kickboxer-turned mixed martial artist Gegard Mousasi has competed in the UFC since 2013 and has gone 5-3 since entering the promotion. Not particularly "legendary" but throughout his career he has held four other title belts in DREAM (LHW and MW), Strikeforce and Cage Warriors.
Back in 2005, Mousasi was up against Lithuanian Petras Markevicius, who handed him his first submission loss via armbar in the second round of their bout at Fight Festival 13 in Helsinki, Finland. Markevicius competed in MMA until 2012, and finished his career with 29 wins and 9 losses, mostly in European promotions and regional Lithuanian ones. Interestingly, the grappler never got knocked out or knocked anyone out, his wins and losses all came via submission or decision.
14 Matt Hume - KO'd Pat Miletich
Newer fans of mixed martial arts may not recognize the name Pat Miletich, but he held the UFC Welterweight belt between late 1998 and mid 2001. He is now one of the most successful trainers in the history of the sport.
Matt Hume only participated in 10 MMA fights and went 5-5. In his 1997 bout with Miletich, the latter was unable to continue after the first round having suffered a broken nose, meaning it was a TKO victory. Hume is known to dedicated MMA fans as the founder of AMC Martial Arts (formerly AMC Pankration), the gym that Demetrious Johnson, the reigning UFC Flyweight champion, is a part of.
13 Pete Spratt - Submitted Robbie Lawler
Current UFC Welterweight belt-holder Robbie Lawler has over fifteen years of MMA experience and has gotten better with age, having participated in, and winning, two of the best fights of the last two years (beating Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald).
At UFC 42 back in 2003, Lawler was undefeated but Spratt's leg kicks wore him down (eventually dislocating his hip) until he had to submit in the second round. Spratt went on to have a lengthy MMA career as well, retired in 2013, and was rumored to have been in the process of a comeback in 2014, but nothing ever came of said rumors. He currently works as the head striking coach at Rodrigo Pinheiro BJJ, in San Antonio, Texas.
12 Guy Mezger - Submitted Tito Ortiz
If you watched early UFC in its infancy, you may well know the name Guy Mezger. After competing in UFC 4 and 5, the karate master moved to compete in Pancrase, before returning for UFC 13, which he won by catching UFC legend Tito Ortiz in a guillotine choke.
Mezger continued to fight in other promotions including Pancrase and PRIDE until 2003. A few years ago he made the news once again when he came to the defense of a Dallas woman who was being assaulted by her boyfriend. The man wouldn't settle down and obviously never watched UFC 13 because he rushed Mezger, only to be briefly pummelled and thrown on the ground. These days he is the CEO of the Guy Mezger Combat Sports Club in Texas and works in holistic health.
11 Artemij Sitenkov - Submitted Conor McGregor
In the eyes of some, Conor McGregor may not be an MMA legend, but going 19-3 in his career, with his only UFC defeat coming at two weight classes above his norm, is impressive. Despite the concerns about how well rounded his game is, he is a one of a kind striker.
Back in 2008, McGregor had two knockout wins on his record and went up against Lithuanian wrestler Artemij Sitenkov. McGregor had a significant size advantage and was considered a lock for the victory, but Sitenkov described knowing that his only chance for a win was to make sure the fight took place on the ground. It took him just under 70 seconds to submit The Notorious via kneebar. Sitenkov still fights in Europe, but is on a five fight losing streak and has only won by submission in his career; no knockouts and no decisions.
10 Drew Fickett - Beat Kenny Florian and Submitted Josh Koscheck
There was a time when Drew Fickett was one of the most exciting names to watch in mixed martial arts. The Floridian BJJ black belt started his competitive career in 1999, going 12-0 in Arizona based promotions (mainly Rage in the Cage) before his first loss. His time in the UFC was brief, with seven fights and a record of 4-3, with a rear naked choke win over talented grappler and smack-talker Josh Koscheck. His win over Kenny Florian happened at Combat Zone 7 in July 2004.
Fickett was a gifted fighter, but had demons that were quite public. He is known to religious MMA fanatics as one of the streakiest fighters in the history of the sport; having both impressive win streaks and laughable losing skids. His demons include the drink and some other poor decisions. He missed out on a spot on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter and would later leave the UFC after a drunken mishap involving a bouncer at the Palms Casino.
Now 36, he still trains but has lost eight of his last nine fights in small promotions. His last fight ended in a second round head kick knockout; that was back in early 2014.
9 Genki Sudo - Submitted Nate Marquardt
Nate Marquardt may not be one of the most impressive fighters in the UFC today, but he's been competing since the late 90s. He tore up some early Bas Rutten Invitational tournaments before dominating Pancrase for a few years and then moved to the UFC. He fought for the Middleweight belt once, losing to Anderson Silva (we can't hold that against him) and was briefly the Strikeforce Welterweight champion.
His first professional loss was to a smaller Japanese fighter, Genki Sudo, who caught him in an armbar at Pancrase - Breakthrough 11 back in 1999. Sudo continued fighting until 2006, finishing his career with a record of 15-4-2. Since retiring from mixed martial arts, he has written several books, acted in TV and movies, and, until last year, he was the founder of Japanese techno group World Order. Last year, he resigned from actually singing with the group and now just produces.
8 Artur Mariano - KO'd Wanderlei Silva
Despite the (now reduced) lifetime ban by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, The Axe Murderer is still one of the most feared men in the sport. Earlier this year he signed a contract with Bellator. He holds the longest winning streak in PRIDE's history and despite having more losses than wins in UFC competition, Silva is still a respected competitor who is a threat to anyone with whom he enters the octagon.
His first professional loss came at the hands (and feet) of fellow Brazilian Artur Mariano. This was back in 1997 and Mariano, a striking God, beat Silva to a pulp and the match was stopped by the doctor after 13 nasty minutes. Silva landed some good shots, but the victor was an obvious one. Martial arts practitioners in Brazil are likely familiar with Mariano, as he now serves as the President of the Brazilian Confederation of Muai Thai. He lives in Rio de Janeiro with his wife and three children and runs his own gym: Champions Factory.
7 Jonathan Wiezorek - Submitted Dan Severn
For those youngsters out there saying "who the hell is Dan Severn?," he's one of the original legends of American MMA. He competed in the UFC back during its infancy, losing to Royce Gracie at UFC 4 in 1994, only to win UFC 5 just a few month later. Now 57 years old, he has a wealth of experience in Sambo, wrestling, BJJ and Judo. Since the mid 90s, Severn has competed in over 100 professional MMA fights. He retired in 2013, but I guess that was boring, because in early 2016 he announced he wished to return to competition.
While Severn's first five losses came to names we all know (Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Mark Coleman, Josh Barnett and Pedro Rizzo, in that order), His sixth was to a relative unknown; Jonathan Wiezorek. It was just his second professional fight but he was able to choke out Severn in the second round at Reality Superfighting: Redemption in the Valley back in 2001. He fought a few times after that, and ended his career at 11-2, with losses coming only to a much younger Ben Rothwell and Bigfoot Silva in 2004 and 2007 respectively. Following his submission loss to Silva, Wiezorek basically disappeared from the sport.
6 Ryo Chonan - Submitted Anderson Silva
Among MMA fans, a common debate today is whether Georges St-Pierre was a better champ than Anderson Silva. It's a debate that is as interesting as it is polarizing and would take far too long for me to discuss here. A book could be written breaking down each man's career. Either way, The Spider is one of the GOAT's but many only remember him from his UFC Middleweight title reign.
Many forget that his submission loss to Japanese fighter Ryo Chonan in 2004 was one of the greatest taps the sport has ever seen. Chonan would later attribute his flying heel hook victory to good timing, when asked whether it was something he practiced on a regular basis. He went on to fight four times in the UFC but lost three of four and did not continue with the promotion. Chonan kept fighting until 2013, when he won the DEEP Welterweight belt and retired shortly after.
5 5. Jose Landi-Jons - KO'd Matt Hughes
A freak athlete and another one of MMA's GOATs, Matt Hughes spent the better part of a decade at or around the top of the UFC's Welterweight division. His first two losses came to legendary wrestler Dennis Hallman via guillotine and armbar. His third professional loss was to Cuban-Brazilian Jose Landi-Jons, who caught him with a great knee for a knockout.
He has kept fighting consistently since their meeting in 2001. Landi-Jons (referred to by his fans as Pele) hasn't beaten anyone with as much star power as Hughes since, but has a record of 29-16 and has won six of his last eight, despite now being 42. Pele is in an ongoing feud with Anderson Silva over the latter's book, in which some unflattering things were said about the former.
4 Tsuyoshi Kohsaka - KO'd Fedor Emelianenko
For a few years in the late 2000s, Russian monster Fedor Emelianenko was the best in the world. The Heavyweight legend won 27 straight 2001 and 2009 and will forever be known as the greatest fighter never to fight in the UFC. But he did manage to beat several UFC Heavyweight champs, including Andrei Arlovski, Mark Coleman, and Antonio "Big Nog" Nogueira.
Fedor's first loss was to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, the fantastic Japanese wrestler who competed for just over a decade between 1995 and 2006, before retiring. In 2015, Kohsaka returned to competition to fight James Thompson at the first event of Rizin Fighting Federation; winning via TKO in the second round. Kohsaka also started his own dojo in Japan.
3 Jeremy Horn - Submitted Chuck Liddell and KO's Forrest Griffin
Now 40 years old, Jeremy "Gumby" Horn has been competing for twenty years. His first UFC appearance was at UFC 17 where he lost to Frank Shamrock, fighting to be the first ever UFC Middleweight champ. His most recent UFC bout was against Rousimar Palhares (possibly the dirtiest fighter ever to enter the octagon) and ended in a unanimous decision loss. Horn is one of those "I'll fight anytime" guys and has fought over 100 times professionally.
For the most part however, Horn has fought in smaller promotions and continues to do so today, having most recently lost two 2015 fights in Sugar Creek Showdown (SCS), a small promotion in Oklahoma. You all know the names Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin, right? Liddell, "the Iceman" is widely considered one of the greatest strikers in the history of the sport, and Griffin was the winner of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, and briefly held the Light Heavyweight belt.
Horn beat them both; choking Liddell out back in 1999 at UFC 19 and knocking Griffin out via head kick in 2003 at International Fighting Championship: Global Domination.
2 Luciano Azevedo - Submitted Jose Aldo
Whether it's striking or ground game, Jose Aldo is one of the best of all time. He held the Featherweight belt for the UFC/WEC since 2009, until just last year. I won't say his loss to Conor McGregor was a fluke, but a fighter as smart and diligent as Aldo certainly won't let that happen twice. A rematch is necessary for sure.
Aldo's only other professional loss was over ten years ago, in 2005. In Manaus, Brazil at Jungle Fight 5, he was submitted by Luciano Azevedo, via rear-naked choke. Like a few others on this list, he's fairly one-dimensional, having won only by submission or decision. He fought up until 2011 and then took a three year break from the sport before returning in 2014, beating Alejandro Rodriguez at Shooto Brazil 49. Now 34 years old, Azevedo has a 17-9 record, but it is unknown when he'll fight again.
1 Viacheslav Datsik - KO'd Andrei Arlovski
We saved the best for last, not that either of these fighters are necessarily the best on this list, but this is the most interesting story. Belarusian Heavyweight Andrei Arlovski is currently in his second stint with the UFC, after leaving for about six years. He held the belt back in 2005 after tapping out Tim Sylvia, but lost it in 2006 when Sylvia took it back in a first round TKO. Since re-entering the UFC he's 4-2 with losses to current champ Stipe Miocic and an Alistair Overeem who looks a bit better every time he steps into the ring. If we get to see these two in September, that will be a treat (Stipe will win, but it will be a solid fight). But back to Arlovski: he lost his first professional fight to Viacheslav Datsik at M-1 MFC in 1999.
Datsik continued to fight until 2006, earning a 5-7 record, but since has had a far more interesting life. In 2007, he was arrested for his participation in several armed robberies in Russia and, after some investigation, he was found to be suffering from schizophrenia. Doctors and cops also noted his racist and bigoted religious views.
He broke out of a mental institution in 2010 and was later arrested in Norway, deported back to Russia, and imprisoned. He was released earlier this year, and according to Daily Mail, has been carrying out raids on whorehouses in Russia, after "declaring war" on prostitution. He has hinted that he wants to return to fighting, so basically, he likes to keep busy.
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