T.J. Dillashaw and the Biggest Title Fight Upsets in Recent Memory

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2014

T.J. Dillashaw and the Biggest Title Fight Upsets in Recent Memory

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    In a sport of upsets, Team Alpha Male stalwart T.J. Dillashaw secured his place in MMA upset history at UFC 173 on Saturday at the MGM's Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

    Over seven years removed from Matt Serra's upset win over George St-Pierre at UFC 69, Dillashaw seized his moment and TKO'd former longtime champ Renan Barao to score a monumental upset victory.

    Dillashaw overcame overwhelming odds to defeat Barao, who hadn't tasted defeat in 33 fights heading into the bout.

    The win puts Dillashaw in an elite category of MMA fighters who pulled off remarkable upsets in recent memory.

    Here's a short list (which won't include any classic shockers like Serra over St-Pierre or Maurice Smith over Mark Coleman) of some of the most memorable recent title-fight upsets.

4. Daniel Straus vs. Pat Curran (Bellator 106)

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    Daniel Straus not only silenced the critics who said he didn't deserve a featherweight title shot at Bellator 106, he also avenged the only pure knockout he'd ever suffered by outlasting Pat Curran.

    In the second fight of their trilogy, Straus overcame a brutal illegal knee strike from Curran in the third round to notch a unanimous decision.

    Eight months prior to upsetting Curran, Straus was arrested in Florida and charged with multiple counts, including possession of over 20 grams of marijuana. 

    The loss ended an impressive six-fight Bellator MMA winning streak for Curran that included two KOs and two submissions.

    Curran has since avenged the setback and reclaimed his featherweight title by submitting Straus (rear-naked choke) at Bellator 112 in March.

3. Will Brooks vs. Michael Chandler (Bellator 120)

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    Will Brooks temporarily spoiled a potential grudge match between injured Bellator MMA lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez and former champ Michael Chandler at Bellator 120.

    And for a man who had just seven days to prepare for one of the sport's best lightweights, Brooks overcame tremendous odds to earn a split-decision win over Chandler, a former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler.

    Brooks—considered a 7.25-1 underdog, according to Best Fight Odds (via MMA Mania)—snatched the interim lightweight belt by outworking and at times outwrestling Chandler in a five-round war.

    Although few believed "Ill Will" could match Chandler's pace or wrestling chops, Brooks did just that, and did it well enough to sway the judges in his favor.

    An American Top Team representative, Brooks will surely have easier odds to overcome in his next bout—even if he's facing the ever-venomous Alvarez.

2. Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva (UFC 162)

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    Although he didn't overcome massive odds like Brooks and Dillashaw, Chris Weidman dethroned the sport's longtime pound-for-pound king, Anderson Silva, in just his 10th pro fight at UFC 162.

    Deemed a 2.1-1 underdog by Best Fight Odds, Weidman shocked supporters and critics alike by handing "The Spider" his first career UFC loss and first career KO loss with a devastating second-round KO.

    Leading up to the bout, Silva, who was riding a 16-fight winning streak in the UFC, had won each of his previous 10 title fights. Weidman, conversely, had won just 10 fights, including five in the UFC.

1. T.J. Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao (UFC 173)

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    After a gross mismatch ensued in the co-main event between Dan Henderson and Daniel Cormier, Dillashaw essentially schooled the man who had earned lopsided wins over each of his nine UFC-WEC opponents.

    Instead of using his wrestling skills to grind out a win, Dillashaw maximized his speed and athleticism to beat Barao to the punch from the opening buzzer—something experts considered highly unlikely.

    Dillashaw landed a staggering 169 total strikes to Barao's 68, finding his mark with 140 significant strikes compared to Barao's 64, per Fight Metric.

    Dillashaw, who seemingly had the win in hand in the fifth round, made the upset even sweeter by finishing the ever-durable Brazilian with a flurry of vicious strikes midway through the stanza.

    The odds were certainly stacked against him, but like Straus, Brooks and Weidman, Dillashaw proved why no elite mixed martial artist should be underestimated.