The 10 Greatest Upsets In MMA History
Every sport's history involves dynasties that last for several seasons, as well as underdogs that never seem to win a game.
However, every once in a while an enormous underdog pulls out an improbable victory that no one saw coming. Whether it be Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson, or Villanova upsetting Georgetown in the 1985 men's basketball championship game, upsets are an intricate part of the sporting world.
Mixed martial arts is no different. Whether it is just one punch, or capitalizing on an error by an opponent, the sport is filled with great upsets.
Brett Rogers, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, and Jason Miller will all be looking for an upset this Saturday night at Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Rogers".
Rogers is a 4:1 underdog entering his heavyweight bout with Fedor Emelianenko, Sokoudjou is over a 3:1 underdog heading into his fight with Gegard Mousasi, and Miller is over a 2:1 dog in his middleweight bout with Jake Shields.
However, the beauty of sports, especially mixed martial arts, is that an upset is always in order.
In honor of the three men looking for the big upset victory this weekend, lets take a look at the ten biggest upsets in the history of the sport and the men that made them happen.
10. BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes (UFC 46)
Penn and Hughes met at UFC 46 in a title fight for the UFC welterweight belt. The favorite was Hughes, who was expected to defend his welterweight gold for a sixth straight time.
“The Prodigy” had other ideas when he worked his way to Hughes’ back and locked in an inescapable rear naked choke at the 4:39 mark of the first round, robbing Hughes of his belt and halting his 13 fight win-streak.
Penn would leave the UFC for other endeavors, but would return to get his welterweight belt back. At UFC 63 he lost to Matt Hughes in a welterweight title fight, but his first fight with Hughes will forever be remembered as a true underdog story.
9. Houston Alexander vs. Keith Jardine (UFC 71)
Jardine had rolled to the top of the UFC light heavyweight division when he was matched up against Houston Alexander. The fight was Alexander’s UFC debut, and the odds had him a steep underdog at nearly a 5:1 underdog.
Both Jardine and Alexander came out swinging, but “The Dean of Mean” had no answer for Alexander’s inside shots. The official had to pull Alexander away from Jardine after “The Assassin” continued to pummel the light heavyweight contender.
The victory is to this date the biggest victory for Alexander, who lost his next three bouts. However, “The Assassin’s” quick technical knockout victory over Jardine will go down as one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history.
8. Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia (UFC 68)
After over one year of absence, Couture returned to the octagon at UFC 63 to fight for the heavyweight belt against giant Tim Sylvia. The aging legend entered the cage on the wrong side of the odds against the enormous knock out artist.
From the opening bell, Couture managed to outclass his gigantic opponent with superior striking and wrestling. Five rounds passed, and the judges’ scorecards rewarded “The Natural” with the UFC heavyweight belt.
This heavyweight championship was just another opportunity in which Couture capitalized in a pivotal situation. As he continues to grow older, Couture has proven that his age does not dictate how he performs in the octagon. Tim Sylvia will attest to that.
7. Kevin Randleman vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (Pride Total Elimination 2004)
Mirko Filipovic was a human wrecking ball within the Japanese promotion heading into Pride: “Total Elimination 2004”,. Fight after fight ended in brutal knockout by the Croation, but underdog, and former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin “The Monster” Randleman had other plans.
A sharp left hook in the first round had the announcers saying something they probably never expected: Kevin Randleman had knocked out Cro Cop with an absolute bomb.
Cro Cop avenged his upset loss to Randleman several months later at PRIDE Shockwave 2004 with a guillotine submission . The upset delivered by Randleman, however, would prove to be one of the greatest upsets in the history under the Pride banner.
6. Anderson Silva vs. Hayato Sakurai (Shooto: “To the top 7”)
Hayato Sakurai entered his bought against Anderson Silva at Shooto–“To the Top 7” with an undefeated record. Having defended his belt seven times prior, Sakurai was the big favorite in the middleweight championship bout.
Three five minute rounds after the opening bell, Sakurai’s grasp on the middleweight belt had been removed as Anderson Silva took his turn at the top.
“The Spider” has continued to thrive as the king of the middleweight division. He is the UFC 185-pound champion and sits atop the pound for pound list. Yet regardless of how far he has come, his unanimous decision victory over the undefeated Sakurai enters the books as one of the most unlikely outcomes of all-time in mixed martial arts.
5. Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (UFC 70)
After three straight victories in the UFC, Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga met mixed martial arts legend Mirko Cro Cop in a heavyweight showdown. Gonzaga entered the bout a 5:1 underdog.
While Cro Cop had made a career out of scalping his opponents with head kick knockouts, Gonzaga finished the bout in a fashion no one saw coming. Gonzaga gave Cro Cop a taste of his own medicine, delivering a vicious head kick at the end of the first round sent Filipovic into unconsciousness.
“Napao” was an enormous underdog on paper, and the manner in which he finished the fight made this upset all the more impressive. A perfectly timed head kick sent Cro Cop into a downward spiral, and sent Gonzaga into the top ten greatest upsets of all time.
4. Joe Lauzon vs. Jens “Lil’ Evil” Pulver (UFC 63)
Joe Lauzon began his UFC career with a lightweight bout against former and first ever UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver. Lauzon entered to cage over a 6:1 underdog. The 155-pound bout marked Pulver’s return to the promotion after leaving in 2002.
Merely 48 seconds after the opening bell, Joe Lauzon raised his hands in a celebratory display after upsetting the former champ with a hard left hook that sent Pulver to the canvas.
Lauzon’s stunning knockout victory has gone down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport. Pulver never recovered from the defeat and has fallen on hard times with his WEC career. Lauzon went on to win his next two bouts, before losing to former UFC top contender Kenny Florian.
3. Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi (Pride 33)
Takanori Gomi entered his bout with Nick Diaz at Pride 33 having won 13 of his last 14 fights and ranked as one of the top lightweights in the sport. Diaz had just recently rejuvenated a career with the UFC, only to leave the promotion for a failed stint with Gracie Fighting Championships.
Gomi looked to continue his roll through the mixed martial arts world and it appeared as he would when he knocked Diaz to his back just after a minute into the first round. Looking to finish the fight, Gomi entered Diaz's guard only to be submitted in the next few moments via gogoplata.
While the fight would later be called a no contest due to Diaz’s failing of a drug test, Diaz proved himself as a legitimate mixed martial artists and jiu-jitsu fighter. His insane submission over Gomi has gone down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of Pride.
2. Matt Serra vs. Georges St. Pierre (UFC 69)
After a split-decision victory over Chris Lytle, Matt “The Terror” Serra was sent into the octagon opposite UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. With the odds at 8:1 against Serra, noboby expected what unfold at UFC 69.
However, like so many upsets in the sport, Serra caught St. Pierre early and continued to put on the pressure with his heavy hands. Almost three and one half minutes into the first round, Serra had defeated the Canadian and gained the welterweight gold with some vicious ground and pound.
Serra would go on to get pummeled by St. Pierre in a rematch at UFC 83, losing a belt he never got to defend. Regardless of what followed, Serra’s first round destruction over St. Pierre will always be remembered as the greatest upset in UFC history.
1. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pride 33)
Sokoudjou entered his light heavyweight showdown with the Brazilian Nogueira an enormous underdog. Prior to this fight, Nogueira had run a guantlet, beating Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem (twice) and losing a competitive decision to Maurcio "Shogun" Rua.
At nearly 15:1, Sokoudjou was given almost no shot at defeating the younger Nogueira brother.
Cleary Sokoudjou didn’t get the memo.
Just 28 seconds into the very first round, Sokoudjou knocked “Minotoro” clean out with a vicious left hook. The upset is the greatest victory in Sokoudjou’s career, and possibly the greatest upset in the history of the sport.
Anderson Silva vs. Daiju Takase (Pride 26)
Takese entered this fight at an 8:1 underdog, and rightfully so. At the time of the fight, Takase had gained a professional record of 4-7-1. It was remarkable that the two were even matched up against one another.
However, Takase proved the impossible when he locked on a triangle choke at the 8:33 mark of the first round.
Takase has since gone on to put together a rather unimpressive record of 9-13-1. Anderson Silva, however, has destroyed his competition and ran his way to the top of the pound for pound rankings. Those two facts make Takase’s submission over “The Spider” one of the greatest upsets of all time.
Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell (UFC 43)
Randy Couture dropped down to the 205-pound limit and was granted a title shot against the champion Chuck Liddell. Couture was coming off two straight losses and was not expected to gain the light heavyweight belt.
However, the wrestling background of “The Natural” led to a third round stoppage of the champ after Couture was able to ground and pound Liddell from the full mount.
Couture became the first fighter to ever hold the belt in two divisions of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The upset, one of several in Couture’s career, is just another reason this aging Hall of Famer is never counted out of a fight.
Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (UFC 76)
Forrest Griffin welcomed “Shogun” to the octagon, but it was Rua who held the advantage in both the fans eyes and the eyes of the odds-makers after the utter destruction of his previous four Pride FC opponents.
Griffin shocked the fans watching when he controlled “Shogun” for almost three full rounds. The only reason he did not spend fifteen minutes dominating Rua was because he finished the fight just before the fifteen minute mark when Griffin locked on a rear naked choke to end Rua’ night.
The fight was an underdog story for Griffin, who many gave little shot against the former Pride killer. Just as he has done his entire career, Griffin proved that he could roll with the very best. "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 1 winner capitalized on his improbable victory and went on to upset Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 86.
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