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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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