UFC: Top Five Least Surprising Upsets of 2013
MMA fans, and generally fans of any sport, love an underdog.
There's something refreshing about a competitor defying the odds by pulling out the improbable victory against an assumed-to-be greater, more gifted opponent.
But sometimes, an underdog's victory in mixed martial arts is not so shocking. On occasion, the oddsmakers get the betting line wrong.
2013 has already yielded a great deal of upsets, including Robbie Lawler's unlikely knockout victory over Josh Koscheck, and Jake Shields' split-decision win over Tyron Woodley. But neither of those fights make the list for the "Top Five Least Surprising Upsets" for this year.
Check out the five "underdogs" who flipped the odds and walked away clear winners against their favored opponents.
Final note: no, pick 'em fights are not included, so very slight upset wins, like Shawn Jordan's knockout over Pat Barry at UFC 161, won't make this list.
Odds courtesy of Bovada Sportsbook, stats courtesy of FightMetric.com
Ricardo Lamas Tops Erik Koch at UFC on Fox 6
Ricardo Lamas entered UFC on Fox 6 last January a near 2:1 underdog against striker Erik Koch, but it was Koch who was at a disadvantage, having sat out 2012 in its entirety due to injury.
Still, oddsmakers projected ring rust would not be a factor in the fight. They were wrong.
Lamas put the -240 favorite away with strikes in the second round, and that shouldn't have surprised many. The fight was much closer than the odds revealed, something Lamas proved with the second round technical knockout.
The victory was the 31-year-old's fourth in a row, extending his UFC record to a perfect 4-0, while also landing him deeper into featherweight contention. The three wins prior to his upset over Koch, including a win over contender Cub Swanson, should have served as telling signs that this fight was closer than the betting line.
Lamas is now the No. 2 featherweight according to the official UFC rankings. Koch? Well, he's all the way down at No. 10.
Demian Maia Out-Grapples Jon Fitch at UFC 156
Jon Fitch may be a hot topic right now due to his upset loss to Josh Burkman at WSOF 3 last weekend, but, in reality, the former UFC welterweight top contender began declining quite some time ago.
And Burkman isn't the first underdog to take advantage of it.
At UFC 156, former middleweight contender Demian Maia looked to continue his undefeated streak since dropping down to welterweight when he met Fitch, who was the -225 favorite. The Brazilian came in at +175.
By the end of the 15 minute fight, however, Maia had disproved the odds, dominating Fitch with his elite grappling and jiu-jitsu.
While Fitch, longtime considered the No. 2 welterweight in the world, had earned a victory over Erick Silva in his previous fight, he earned a record of 0-1-1 in his previous three fights.
Maia, meanwhile, was fresh off a dominant victory over former top prospect Rick Story and looked to be on the upswing since dropping to 170-pounds. Fitch was going the opposite direction, and it showed when Maia was handed the unanimous decision victory and the former top contender was dealt his walking papers.
T.J. Grant Takes out Gray Maynard at UFC 160
T.J. Grant has been a wrecking ball since moving to the lightweight division, and former two-time title challenger Gray Maynard was the latest fighter to fall prey to the improbable contender.
Grant entered the UFC 160 fight with four straight wins at lightweight, making him perfect at 155 pounds after a mediocre 3-3 stint in the UFC welterweight division. Maynard, meanwhile, was 1-1-1 prior to the contest, coming off a unanimous decision win over Clay Guida in one of the more disappointing/perplexing fights of 2012.
Though Maynard was the higher-ranked fighter and the favorite at -170, Grant certainly didn't take notice as he dealt Maynard his second technical knockout loss in three fights.
And the result shouldn't have been that surprising. Grant has looked unbeatable through five fights at lightweight and has benefited greatly from the size advantage he's gained from the 15-pound drop in weight. He's landed on 54 percent of his strikes since moving to lightweight—54 percent happens to be his career average, as well—but, unlike at welterweight, he actually has power behind his strikes in his new weight class.
Maynard, on the other hand, was unable to defeat Frankie Edgar, now a featherweight, in their second and third meetings, and his lone win since 2010 came against a fighter who also dropped to featherweight recently.
Grant next meets Benson Henderson, UFC lightweight champion, at UFC 164, barring any injuries. He'll certainly enter that contest the underdog, though a win over Henderson would be far more shocking than his slight upset win over "The Bully."
Mark Hunt Storms Through Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel 8
For some fighters, one punch can change everything. UFC heavyweight slugger Mark Hunt embodies that philosophy.
What he lacks in talent, he makes up for in pure power, especially when a fellow heavyweight is content to stand and bang.
Enter Stefan Struve.
The two met at UFC on Fuel 8 in Japan with Struve sitting at -225 to Hunt's +175—a pretty accurate line considering Struve's well-roundedness. But what the line didn't take into account was Hunt's incredible striking power and the fact that he was on a huge roll in recent outings.
After two rounds of action, Hunt finally landed the shot he needed to in order to secure the upset, taking Struve out just over one minute into the third. The knockout was his third in four fights and set him up for a matchup with former champion Junior dos Santos, a bout Hunt would go on to lose.
A win over dos Santos would have been truly stunning, but Hunt's knockout against the 7'0" Struve was far from shocking.
Thiago Silva Desolates Rafael Cavalcante at UFC on Fuel 10
In his UFC debut earlier in June, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael Cavalcante was more than a 2:1 favorite against veteran Thiago Silva.
And the Blackzilians product cared not for what the oddsmakers implied with that line.
Silva seemed comfortable heading into the event, even as an underdog—it was his eleventh fight in the UFC. And the feared striker grinned during his staredown with "Feijao" at the official UFC on Fuel 10 weigh-ins.
He was grinning again after he earned the upset win with a brutal first round knockout.
Cavalcante began the fight the much more active fighter, but, having weathered the early storm, Silva began turning up the intensity in the latter half of the round. "Feijao" quickly began to fade, and Silva made him pay for it, blasting him against the cage en route to the stoppage.
Heading into the fight, Cavalcante was viewed as the favorite for a number of reasons; his punching power is arguably the greatest at 205 pounds, and Silva had a bad track record in recent outings, going 0-2 with 2 NC's.
But what everyone (the oddsmakers included) ignored was Cavalcante's strength of competition before the fight. With his most significant win coming against "King Mo" Lawal, he had yet to conquer an elite fighter. Furthermore, he was decimated by Dan Henderson in Strikeforce and has a loss to Mike Kyle on his record.
Silva, meanwhile, has lost to only elite light heavyweights in Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans, and he pushed the latter to the brink in the third and final round of their UFC 108 contest (though he ultimately lost the unanimous decision). And he has phenomenal striking defense, avoiding 68 percent of significant strikes thrown at him.
Cavalcante has never been a member of the division's elite, and his approximately 50 percent striking defense was a glaring weakness for a striker of Silva's caliber to take advantage of.
Silva entered that fight the better fighter, and he left the cage as such. This upset should not have taken anyone aback.
Three Upsets That Missed the Cut
The five previous slides reveal the five least surprising upsets in MMA so far this year in no particular order. But there were a few fights that challenged for a spot, though, ultimately, these upsets were at least moderately shocking.
Jake Shields (+190) def. Tyron Woodley (-240) at UFC 161
Shields was a 2:1 underdog heading into UFC 161 against Strikeforce import Tyron Woodley, but he still managed to earn the split-decision win. But it wasn't really that close. Shields should have earned the unanimous decision nod, and he would have had one of three judges not gone rogue in Woodley's favor.
But considering Woodley was coming off a brutal knockout win over Jay Hieron—a knockout from which mentally (and perhaps even physically) Hieron may never fully recover—Shields' win was at a bit of a surprise.
Wanderlei Silva (+230) def. Brian Stann (-300) at UFC on Fuel 8
Believe me, I had trouble not putting this one on the list, but I distinctly remember being fairly shocked when Silva dealt a knockout blow to Stann.
Stann boasts impressive power, and he's made middle- to lower-tier middleweights pay with it in the past, knocking out Alessio Sakara, Jorge Santiago and Chris Leben. Silva was not elite entering this fight, and, even though the Brazilian had a puncher's chance, Stann had never lost to a non-contender at middleweight.
That changed after Silva managed to wear the punches thrown in his direction, while delivering with equivalent force. Stann survived some fierce blows, but Silva was able to put him away in the end. And in pretty stunning fashion.
Robbie Lawler (+290) def. Josh Koscheck (-380) at UFC 157
Like Silva, Lawler hits hard enough to knock anyone out at just about any time in a fight; His come-from-behind knockout against Melvin Manhoef provided us with a case study on this.
However, longtime UFC veteran Koscheck had no business getting knocked out at UFC 157, even though that's exactly what happened. Again, Lawler has mad power in his hands, making him a constant threat. But that doesn't make this win anything short of a big upset for the man nicknamed "Ruthless."