Top-20 Upsets in MMA History: Part One
In the sport of mixed martial arts, upsets can, and do, happen all the time. The unstoppable fighter at the top of the game can be brought down in a split second from a punch, kick, knee, submission, cut, etc.
This is what makes watching MMA so exciting and fresh. So let's take a look at some of the biggest upsets that have taken place in a ring or cage.
20. Kazushi Sakuraba vs Antonio Schembri
The legendary Kazushi Sakuraba was still a very game opponent during the time of his fight with Schembri, with his only losses to Wanderlei Silva (x2), Igor Vovchanchyn (after the Royce fight), and Mirko Cro Cop.
Saku was the huge favorite in this fight and totally dominated it until he got a little careless, and Schembri landed a devastating set of knees to Kazushi's face that ended the fight.
19. Kazushi Sakuraba vs Royce Gracie
In their epic 90-minute battle during PRIDE's 2000 Open Weight GP, Sakuraba punished Royce and became the first man to truly beat the MMA legend after Royce's brother threw in the towel.
18. Wanderlei Silva vs Ricardo Arona
This fight wasn't for Wanderlei's middleweight title, but it was his first loss at middleweight during his PRIDE career at the time. Silva and Arona locked horns during the PRIDE Middleweight GP 2005 in the semifinals of the tournament.
If Wanderlei had won, he would've met his stablemate, Shogun Rua, in the finals, but Arona prevented that by pounding out a victory over "the Axe Murderer."
17. Randy Couture vs Vitor Belfort
This would be one of many upsets for Randy Couture. Vitor, at the time, was called "the Phenom" for good reason; he was fast, powerful, well conditioned, and had great boxing skills. He was considered the future of the sport; that is, until Randy Couture came along and stopped him by TKO at 8:16 into the match, becoming Vitor's first loss.
16. Gabriel Gonzaga vs Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic
Mirko Cro Cop was coming into the UFC after winning the PRIDE 2006 Open Weight GP and shortly after, he defeated Eddie Sanchez in his UFC debut. He was then set to fight Gabriel Gonzaga for a shot at Randy Couture for the heavyweight title.
Everyone thought Cro Cop would massacre Gonzaga and then do the same to Couture and every other heavyweight in the UFC. Everyone except Couture that is, but even he didn't expect Gonzaga to win the fight with one of the most brutal head-kick knockouts of all time.
15. Fedor Emelianenko vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Mar. 16, 2003. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was considered the BEST mixed martial artist in the world and was PRIDE's heavyweight champion for the past two years. He had beaten giants like Bob Sapp and Semmy Schilt, and top fighters like Jeremy Horn, Dan Henderson, Heath Herring, and Mark Coleman.
He looked unstoppable until a little-known Russian fighter named Fedor Emelianenko came to PRIDE from the RINGS organization and worked his way to their title fight that night in Japan.
For 20 minutes, Fedor fought on the ground with one of the most technical ground fighters in MMA and pounded him, escaped all submission attempts, and left Nogueira beaten so badly that his corner had to lift him up after the fight. Fedor became the Champ and the rest is history.
14. Chris Horodecki vs Ryan Schultz
Chris Horodecki was one of the IFL's biggest and youngest talents with an undefeated 11-0 record including a win over Schultz in 2006. Then, in 2007, during the IFL World Grand Prix finals, Horodecki and Schultz met again, with Schultz winning the fight in devastating fashion by pounding Horodecki on the ground while he had him in something similar to a chicken wing. With the win, Schultz became the first IFL Champion.
13. Takanori Gomi vs Marcus Aurelio
Takanori Gomi was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet and was on a huge win streak with victories over Ralph Gracie, Jens Pulver, Luiz Azerado (x2), Charles Bennett, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Hayato Sakurai until his fight with Aurelio.
It took Aurelio 4:34 into the first round to take Gomi down and secure a side choke or arm triangle choke and become the first guy to beat Gomi in PRIDE and the third to beat him in MMA.
12. Shinya Aoki vs Joachim Hansen
Shinya Aoki is one of the best and most talented fighters on the planet right now, and he was heavily favored to win the DREAM 2008 Lightweight Grand Prix. After Joachim Hansen lost to Eddie Alvarez, everyone was set for Aoki-Alvarez in the finals. But Alvarez had to pull out due to an injury and Hansen, who Aoki already beat in PRIDE, was set to take his place. To everyone's surprise, Hansen defeated Aoki at 4:19 of the first round by TKO and became the first DREAM Lightweight Champion.
11. Randy Couture vs Chuck Liddell
At the time of Randy-Chuck I, Chuck, one of the most feared fighters of the time, was on a big win streak in the UFC and was clearly the No. 1 contender for the title. Randy, on the other hand, was 40-years old, coming off two losses at heavyweight to Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez, and coming out of retirement to fight Liddell for the UFC Interim Light-Heavyweight Championship.
Randy was known for causing upsets, but a lot of people counted him out after losing twice and retiring, and of course, the fact that he was 40 and fighting Chuck Liddell. But that night, Randy proved once again that you should never bet against him when he executed an ingenious gameplan of attacking Chuck, engaging in the stand-up, closing the distance, taking him down, and eventually pounding the Iceman to a TKO victory.
These picks are in no order and off the top of my head. Stay tuned for part two: 10-1.
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