The story of the underdog is popular in American and European folklore, dating back to the legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood. From the humble beginnings of mixed martial arts, upsets have unseated famous champions delighting the fans and dismaying the bookies.
Dedicated MMA fans have witnessed thrilling bouts straight out of a Rocky montage and there have been numerous occasions where the underdog stuns the favourite. Shocking upsets inside of the Octagon are one of the most exciting features of the sport thanks to its unpredictable nature and those jaw-dropping events have created some truly memorable moments in the process.
As a homage to the underdog, here are the five biggest upsets in MMA history that shocked the world.
Honourable mentions to:
Rashad Evans def. Chuck Liddell, UFC 88
Cody Garbrandt def. Dominick Cruz, UFC 207
Amanda Nunes def. Cris Cyborg, UFC 232
Royce Gracie def. Everyone, UFC 1
UFC 69: Matt Serra vs. Georges St. Pierre
The recently retired Georges St. Pierre is widely considered by many fans and pundits alike to be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. The former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion retired with a professional record of 26-2.
UFC 69 was headlined by a title fight between GSP and The Ultimate Fighter 4 champ Matt Serra. GSP was the overwhelming favourite going into the fight. The smaller Serra started strongly, peppering GSP with body shots and then stunning him with a big right hand. Serra relied on his improved stand-up, being willing to trade with the reigning champion.
‘The Terror’ shocked the world with a first-round TKO over the Canadian fighter. This feat earned Serra a well-deserved spot in the UFC Hall of Fame. Although Serra’s fighting career never reached the same heights again, he will always be remembered for this amazing victory.
UFC 162: Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman
UFC 162 featured the main event fight between MMA legend Anderson Silva and undefeated title prospect Chris Weidman. Coming into the fight, ‘The Spider’ hadn’t lost in seven years and Weidman had been out of the sport for nearly a year due to injury.
Silva mocked Weidman right from the start, trying to bait Weidman into over-extending. Rather than simply standing and trading with the deadly fighter though, Weidman changed levels with a quick takedown in the opening round proving his worth.
In the second stanza, Silva’s taunting continued and as he momentarily lowered his guard, Weidman capitalised knocking out the maverick with a solid left hook. With the now iconic KO blow, Weidman claimed the middleweight belt, ending Silva’s incredible win streak – the longest in UFC history – in the process.
UFC 193: Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm
Ronda Rousey faced Holly Holm in a UFC Bantamweight Championship bout at UFC 193. ‘Rowdy’ was a heavy betting favourite having previously ripped through the bantamweight division with her elite grappling. Rousey was also unbeaten at the time of the event.
The pressure fighter began the fight aggressively, trying to close the distance with the southpaw boxer. Holm kept a strict discipline throughout the fight however and ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ stuck to her game plan by avoiding Rousey’s bull charges like an expert matador. Holm meticulously picked off the champion, controlling the pace by tagging Rousey with her striking.
From the beginning of the second-round, Holm looked destined to win and a straight left wobbled Rousey just a minute later. As Rousey recovered, Holm threw a vicious head kick that rendered ‘Rowdy’ unconscious, handing her the first loss of Rousey’s MMA career and the end of her three-year reign as champion.
Holm returns to the Octagon in two months time as she prepares to fight the two-weight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 239.
UFC 199: Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping II
Michael Bisping was called up as a late replacement to Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza in a middleweight title fight against Luke Rockhold. Rockhold had previously defeated Bisping via submission back in 2014 but the bitter rivals had been embroiled in a feud throughout their careers.
With their second-meeting under wy, Rockhold’s assured, bordering on cocky, approach gave Bisping the opportunity to finish him. ‘The Count’ would avenge his earlier loss by flooring the reigning champion with a huge left hook in the first round. Exploiting Rockhold’s porous boxing defence with strong counter-punching and great timing, Bisping’s decision to take the fight on short notice proved to be a slice of genius, and even more remarkable as an upset, as he became the UK’s first UFC champion in the process.
UFC 217: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas was booked as one of three title fights on the main card of UFC 217 and Namajunas entered the cage the biggest underdog of the night against the undefeated champion.
From the start of the bout, however, Jedrzejczyk struggled to land shots on the evasive Namajunas. Jedrzejczyk’s desperate swings missed her opponent and allowed Namajunas to continually dart out of reach. With plenty of missed strikes from Jedrzejczyk inside the first-round, Namajunas pounced on her self-created openings and knocked the Polish champion down twice on the way to a first-round KO.