MMA: The 50 Greatest Upsets in History
Last summer, I made a list of the 45 greatest upsets in MMA history.
I knew there were some that I had missed and wasn't totally happy with the order, so always had it in the back of my mind to up the list to 50 and make a few improvements.
Since that time, only two new upsets have occurred that made it on to this list, one being Fedor Emelianenko's loss last Saturday to Antonio Silva.
After watching a legend of the game fall for a second consecutive time, I figured it was as good a time as any to publish the new and improved list of shockers.
Here is a list of fifty reasons why this sport is so exciting and unpredictable.
Anything can happen at any second, so there is never a chance to blink in MMA. Whether it is a motivated underdog, an unmotivated champion, or a new powerhouse rising in the shadows, someone is always coming to mark their spot on the mountain.
50. K.J. Noons Def. Nick Diaz Via First-Round TKO
Upstart promotion EliteXC created a 160-pound division and pitted Nick Diaz against K.J. Noons to fight for the newly created title. Most figured Noons was just an opponent for Diaz to beat so that Diaz could become one of the faces of the new promotion.
At the start of the fight, Noons landed a series of straight right hands that rocked Diaz. Diaz shook off the punches but still continued to receive them throughout the round. Diaz is a notoriously slow starter, but his eyebrows were notorious for opening up as well.
By the end of the first round, Diaz had massive gashes above both of his eyes and the fight was called off. Diaz was furious with the call and left the cage, flipping off everyone in the arena in the process.
Noons never lost his EliteXC title, but the promotion collapsed months later. Diaz went on to become the Strikeforce welterweight champ and defended his title against Noons in an entertaining five-round rematch.
49. Josh Thomson Def. Gilbert Melendez Via Unanimous Decision
In a much anticipated battle of Bay Area lightweights, Melendez was set to defend his Strikeforce title against San Jose's Josh Thomson. Melendez was a heavy favorite, as he had only lost once in a very competitive fight with Mitsuhiro Ishida in the previous year.
In June of 2008, the two met in a five-round classic that surprisingly saw Thomson use his leg kicks, wrestling, and boxing to win all five rounds. Much to the dismay of the crowd, Thomson kept his distance in the final few minutes of the fight, knowing he had won the rest of the rounds. Melendez never stopped coming forward til the end of the fight, but it was not enough.
The two would rematch later in another five-round war, this time with Melendez reclaiming his title.
48. Kevin Burns Def. Roan Carneiro Via Second-Round Submission
At UFC 85, Kevin Burns was an unknown fighter making his UFC debut against experienced jiu-jitsu black belt Roan Carneiro. Burns was 5-1 and figured to have little chance against the American Top Team veteran.
After a competitive fight round, Burns began to show his mettle by outworking the more accomplished Carneiro. Burns was surprising everyone by holding his own on the ground against such a decorated black belt.
Halfway through the second round, Carneiro got on top and Burns locked in a triangle choke, forcing Carneiro to tap. It wasn't just the win, but the way Burns won that was so shocking. This was a no-name fighter with very little experience, tapping out a black belt that had fought many of the top names in the division.
Burns has found little success since.
47. Pete Spratt Def. Robbie Lawler Via Second-Round TKO
In 2003, Pete Spratt was journeyman with a checkered resume and a 1-1 UFC record. Coming off a loss to Carlos Newton just five months earlier, Spratt was expected to be another opportunity for the UFC to showcase their new rising star, Robbie Lawler.
Lawler was 7-0 and trained at the same camp as Matt Hughes, the current UFC welterweight champ.
At UFC 42, Spratt came out determined and sharp, using heavy leg kicks and superior athleticism to outwork the less experienced Lawler. In the middle of the second round, Lawler was forced to quit with his legs barely holding him up.
Spratt was offered a shot at the welterweight champ after this win, but turned it down, stating he wasn't ready for Hughes just yet. This bothered the UFC and they booted him from the organization until a few years later when they invited past UFC fighters to compete in the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter.
46. Jason Lambert Def. Renato Sobral Via Second-Round TKO
Renato Sobral had earned himself a title shot at Chuck Liddell in the UFC, but after a minute and a half of an ill-advised game plan consisting of running straight at Liddell, Sobral's championship dreams were squashed.
Still, Sobral was a top ten light heavyweight, and would be favored against most competition, especially Jason Lambert, who was coming off being knocked cold by Rashad Evans.
The two met at UFC 68, and in the second round of a fight Sobral was likely winning, the two were stood up from the ground. Immediately after the fight restarted, Sobral attempted a reckless flying knee and was countered by a strong left hand by Lambert. Sobral was out and the fight was quickly called off.
45. Wanderlei Silva Def. Kazushi Sakuraba Via First-Round TKO
Though these days it may seem hard to believe, when Wanderlei Silva first met Kazushi Sakuraba, Silva was expected to lose.
Going into their bout at Pride 13, Sakuraba was considered by most to be the pound-for-pound best fighter in the MMA.
Early in the fight, Sakuraba knocked Silva down, but the Brazilian quickly recouped and stopped Sakuraba with knees to the head on the ground.
After the fight, Sakuraba presented Silva with his belt with the letters SAKU on it. Silva then offered Sakuraba a rematch if he was willing.
44. Seth Petruzelli Def. Kimbo Slice Via First-Round TKO
There was a time when Kimbo was briefly thought to be a legitimate competitor in MMA. His aggressiveness, punching power, and massive following had him headlining EliteXC events on Showtime and CBS.
Sure, the knowledgeable fans knew this guy did not deserve the attention and hype being thrown at him, but as I've stated many times, the knowledgeable fan is a very small minority in this sport.
Still, most figured they were going to see another knockout win for the pseudo face of MMA, especially because everyone tuned in to see Kimbo take on the ancient Ken Shamrock. But when Shamrock received a cut warming up for the fight, EliteXC scrambled to find the quickest replacement available.
Light heavyweight Seth Petruzelli stepped in for Shamrock and in the opening seconds, Kimbo rushed in as expected only to be dropped by a single Petruzelli jab to the chin. Kimbo was stopped by one punch in 14 seconds and the farce was over.
43. Tim Sylvia Def. Andrei Arlovski Via First-Round TKO
At UFC 59, Andrei Arlovski was set to defend his UFC heavyweight title against Tim Sylvia in a rematch of a fight Arlovski had dominated and ended quickly, one year earlier. Arlovski was around a 5:1 favorite to keep his title.
Early in the round, everything seemed to be going to plan as Arlovski dropped Sylvia with a right hand, but Sylvia showed his perseverance by standing back up and landing his own right hand to drop the champion. A few shots on the ground and Sylvia was the UFC heavyweight champion for a second time.
The two would settle their rivalry with a rubber match only a few months later in which Sylvia earned a unanimous decision.
42. Chael Sonnen def. Nate Marquardt via unanimous decision
At the start of 2010, Nate Marquardt was very clearly the No. 1 contender for the UFC middleweight title. However, Vitor Belfort was first scheduled to meet the champ, so Nate was given a fight with Chael Sonnen in what many assumed a fight to stay busy until his title shot.
At UFC 109, Chael Sonnen let it be known that he had plans of his own, taking Marquardt down and punishing him for the extent of three rounds.
Nobody had ever seen Marquardt on his back so helpless, but Chael wrestled the title shot right out from under him.
Sonnen went on to be the first person in the UFC to dominate Anderson Silva for four and a half rounds in his title shot but, in a shocking come-from-behind win, Silva locked in a triangle-choke, forcing the challenger to tap late in the last round.
41. Marcio Cruz Def. Frank Mir Via First-Round TKO
In 2004, Frank Mir was the UFC heavyweight champion, but soon after winning the title, he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken femur and torn ligaments in his knee.
In 2006, he made his return to the octagon against 1-0 Marcio Cruz. Mir looked sluggish and out of shape, and shockingly was stopped by strikes in the first round.
It would be a few years before we began to see the Mir of old. Cruz never won in the UFC again.
40. Brett Rogers Def. Andrei Arlovski Via First-Round TKO
Though Andrei Arlovski had recently been knocked out in the first round by Fedor Emelianenko, he was still considered to be on a higher level than the less experienced Brett Rogers, and most figured it a good fight to get Andrei back into the win column.
Arlovski never got the chance to show off any advantage in technique as Rogers charged him in the opening seconds, landing a hard right hand forcing the referee to stop the bout at 22 seconds.
Rogers parlayed the win into a match against then No. 1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.
39. Nick Diaz Def. Robbie Lawler Via Second-Round TKO
Back in 2004, many were imagining Robbie Lawler to be the next UFC welterweight champion. When he met Nick Diaz at UFC 47, it was assumed that if Diaz didn't take the fight to the ground, he was going to be left unconscious.
From the opening bell, Diaz surprisingly was the one forcing a standup battle. The first round was back and forth and saw both fighters take hard shots. In the middle of the second, Diaz landed a right-hook from his southpaw stance and put Lawler down. The fight was called off even though both fighters wanted to continue fighting.
The win put Diaz on the MMA map.
38. Paulo Thiago Def. Josh Koscheck Via First-Round TKO
Just two months after a devastating first-round knockout of Yoshiyuki Yoshida, Josh Koscheck welcomed unheralded newcomer Paulo Thiago to the UFC.
Koscheck appeared frustrated to be facing such an unknown and unranked fighter as Thiago, but still was a huge favorite over the Brazilian at UFC 95.
After three minutes of exchanges on the feet that saw Koscheck slightly getting the better of the action, Thiago caught Koscheck with a right uppercut that left him dazed and falling to the ground. The ref immediately jumped in and stopped the fight before Thiago could follow it up on the ground.
Koscheck complained that it was stopped too early, but there was no doubt he was rocked. Thiago was now a name in the UFC.
37. Jens Pulver Def. B.J. Penn Via Majority Decision
Penn began his career with three spectacular early first-round knockouts over Joey Gilbert, Din Thomas, and Caol Uno. He was also the most highly decorated American jiu-jitsu practitioner of all time. After defeating each opponent with such ease, he was given a title shot against lightweight champion Jens Pulver.
In a rare instance of a challenger being favored over the champion, most were calling Penn unbeatable. The fight turned out to be the highpoint of Pulver's career, as he survived the early attacks of Penn and went on to win the last three rounds to retain his title.
Pulver would vacate his title and leave the UFC after this fight. He later came back and lost a rematch with Penn in 2007.
36. Rashad Evans Def. Chuck Liddell Via Second-Round KO
I remember taking bets with a room full of my friends on what round Chuck Liddell was going to knock out Rashad Evans. The conversation continued until a shocking right hand dropped Liddell like a bag of bricks midway through the second round.
The room was absolutely silent as everyone watched the former indestructible champion laying unconscious on the mat.
Evans parlayed that UFC 88 win into a shot at the light heavyweight title, which he won.
35. Mark Coleman Def. Stephan Bonnar Via Unanimous Decision
Mark Coleman was the first ever UFC heavyweight champion and it had been almost ten years since he achieved a victory in the promotion. It was only fitting for him to fight at UFC 100.
He was matched against Stephan Bonnar—a beloved fighter known for his historical fight with Forrest Griffin in the finals of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Coleman used his wrestling that had served him so well in the early days of the UFC to control Bonnar while he punished him with punches on the ground. Coleman was awarded a unanimous decision.
It was one of the highlights of the monumental event.
34. Pete Williams Def. Mark Coleman Via Overtime KO
At UFC 17, former heavyweight champion Mark Coleman was scheduled to face current champ Randy Couture in the main event. When Couture was forced to pull out of the fight due to a training injury, he was replaced by 3-0 Pete Williams, who was making his debut in the UFC.
Coleman had been out of action for a year since losing his title, but was still expected to make easy work of the newcomer.
After quickly taking Williams down and punishing him with his infamous ground and pound, Coleman was stood up by referee John McCarthy. Clearly gassed from his opening onslaught, Coleman was having a hard time keeping his hands up.
After a 12 minute first round, the fighters came out for the three minute overtime. Coleman was clearly exhausted and Williams went right at him. After landing a barrage of punches, Williams threw a right head kick, to which Coleman ducked right into and took square in the mouth. The former champ was immediately out and the UFC's first head kick knockout highlight was in the books.
33. Frank Mir Def. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Via Second-Round TKO
Though Frank Mir was coming off of a huge win over Brock Lesnar, however controversial, there were very few who gave him a chance against Nogueira. It was the general consensus that everything Mir could do, Nogueira did better.
This was before we had got a chance to see Mir's improved striking, and before we realized that Nogueira's best days were far behind him.
From the start of the fight, Mir out-boxed the legend with hard punches. Never had Nogueira been stopped before, but Mir was determined and it was his time. In the second round, Mir dropped Nogueira for the second time and finished him with punches on the ground. It was the highlight of Mir's career.
32. Forrest Griffin Def. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson Via Unanimous Decision
Though Forrest Griffin was coming off an even bigger upset that changed the fan perception of him as a fighter, he was still expected to be outclassed in his title shot against Quinton Jackson.
Jackson had won the title by ending the reign of Chuck Liddell, and defended it by besting Dan Henderson for the majority of five rounds. This was expected to be an easier defense of his title.
What occurred instead was a thrilling back and forth fight that came down to the final bell. Griffin was awarded with the title, and Jackson was left wondering what had happened.
31. Scott Smith Def. Cung Le Via Third-Tound TKO
In December of last year, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le was coming back from a long layoff due to his budding action movie career. At Strikeforce: Evolution, Le met the always exciting Scott Smith in the main event.
After two and a half rounds of the normal eye-catching striking dominance from Le, Smith landed a big hook to his chin and wobbled the ex-champ. A few more punches and a broken nose later, the fight was called off with just 35 seconds left.
It was another come from behind win for Smith, who has made a career out of them.
Le won the rematch by second-round TKO.
30. Ryo Chonan Def. Anderson Silva Via Third-Round Submission
In what was assumed to be an easy return to Pride for Anderson Silva at Shockwave 2004, turned into a highlight reel finish for Ryo Chonan.
After two rounds of competitive action with Anderson clearly getting the better of it, Chonan pulled the infamous flying-scissor-heel-hook and forced Anderson to tap.
It was the last time Silva was legitimately beaten.
29. Mackens Semerzier Def. Wagnney Fabiano Via First-Round Submission
12-1 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Wagnney Fabiano was originally scheduled to face Erik Koch at WEC 43, but Koch was forced to pull out with an injury. Undefeated Mackens Semerzier was brought in as a late replacement, but was not figured to be all that competitive.
Nonetheless, Semerzier defeated Fabiano with a triangle-choke just over two minutes into the first round.
It was named "submission of the night" by the WEC, and "Upset of the Year" by Sherdog in 2009.
As of this moment, Semerzier has not won since that shocking victory, but is expected to make his UFC debut next month.
28. Antonio Schembri Def. Kazushi Sakuraba Via First-Round TKO
In 2003, Pride was setting up plans for a new weight division more fit to Sakuraba's size, and putting him in a championship fight for the new title. First he would have to get through Antonio Schembri, which most assumed would not be an issue.
After dominating most of the fight, Schembri landed a series of knees that hurt Sakuraba and then finished him with soccer kicks on the ground. It was a sudden and shocking defeat for the Japanese fan-favorite.
This marked a turning point in Sakuraba's career, and though he would get his revenge on Schembri a year later, Sakuraba began his decline here.
27. Frankie Edgar Def. B.J. Penn Via Unanimous Decision in a Rematch
Many doubted not only the scores of Frankie Edgar's win over B.J. Penn in their first fight, but also Penn's condition. Rumors floated of Penn fighting through sickness and being on antibiotics.
Due to the controversial scoring, the UFC scheduled an immediate rematch. Though Edgar was given the nod in their first encounter, many assumed Penn would come back with a vengeance and right the wrong that had occurred just four months prior.
Despite Penn claiming he was well prepared for this bout and still being a large favorite, Edgar clearly won every round, taking control of Penn from the opening bell. This was a much more shocking performance than the first fight, and Edgar proved why he was the lightweight champ.
There was no controversy now, and Penn would be forced to reassess his career.
For Edgar, it was the best performance of his career.
26. Junior Dos Santos Def. Fabricio Werdum Via First-Round KO
In 2008, Fabricio Werdum was widely considered the top contender for the heavyweight title in the UFC. Surprisingly, Werdum was scheduled to face unknown Junior Dos Santos who was making his debut, while newcomer Brock Lesnar was given a shot at the title.
Coming into the bout, Werdum was more out of shape than had been seen in previous appearances. Many attributed this to lacking any real knowledge of his opponent, and frustration at not getting to fight for the title like many felt he deserved.
Just over a minute into the first round, Dos Santos came rushing forward with a right uppercut that Werdum bent right into. Werdum crashed to the floor and Dos Santos landed a couple more shots for good measure.
Dos Santos has proven himself to be a top contender at heavyweight, but in his debut, nobody was expecting that.
25. Brian Bowles Def. Miguel Torres Via First-Round KO
Going into WEC 42 Miguel Torres was in the top ten of every pound-for-pound list and had defended his bantamweight title three times. Most figured Brian Bowles to be just another opportunity for Torres to display his unique set of skills.
In the beginning it looked to be all Torres, but one right hand from Bowles changed everything, and Torres was finished seconds later on the ground.
Bowles lost the title in his next fight.
24. Kazuyuki Fujita Def. Mark Kerr Via Unanimous Decision
When Mark Kerr entered the Pride Grand Prix 2000, he was considered by many to be the best MMA fighter in the world. Kerr considered himself an improved version of Mark Coleman because he was more well-rounded and had better cardio. Kerr had looked unbeatable in the UFC and in Pride, and was now taking his skills to Japan for the biggest tournament at that time.
In the first round, Kerr beat Enson Inoue and earned himself a spot in the next round against Kazuyuki Fujita. Fujita showed his toughness and strength in outlasting Kerr and winning a unanimous decision over a surprisingly inactive Kerr.
It was the first legitimate loss of Kerr's career, and would set off his downfall in and out of the ring. You can see more on Kerr's descent and this fight in the documentary “The Smashing Machine.”
23. Randy Couture Def. Vitor Belfort Via First-Round TKO
Vitor Belfort was being called by some the future Michael Jordan of MMA. He had disposed of his first three UFC opponents in a combined time of less than three minutes, and most figured him to run through Couture with the same ferocity.
In the opening minutes, Belfort was pure confidence, power, and speed, but after Couture weathered the early storm of Belfort, it was a different fight. Couture used a smart game plan of circling away from the power of Vitor, and waiting for Vitor to over-commit to one of his punches so Randy could bring him to the ground.
Vitor's punches began to lose their sting and Couture was surprisingly landing plenty of his own hard shots on the feet. After about eight minutes, Couture dropped Belfort to the ground and finished him with punches and knees against the cage.
This was the first upset in a career full of them for Couture.
22. Mike Brown Def. Uriah Faber Via First-Round TKO
Fans had gotten used to seeing WEC featherweight champ Uriah Faber dominate a new challenger every few months, and Mike Brown was expected to be another.
Brown was certainly more accomplished than Faber's previous foes, but the average American fan had barely heard of him.
In the first round, Brown was focused while Faber was clearly over-confident. Midway through the round, Faber had his back to Brown and blindly spun around to throw an elbow. Brown saw it coming and countered with a devastating right hand that put Faber on his back. The fight was over instantly, and Brown was the new champ.
21. Randy Couture Def. Chuck Liddell Via Third-Round TKO
Though Couture had just lost two in a row at heavyweight, he was given the chance to fight for a newly created interim UFC title at light heavyweight against Chuck Liddell. Basically, they wanted to give Chuck a belt and needed a credible name for him to beat for it.
Randy was by no means going along with those plans, as he showed in the fight. In the first round, Couture shocked everyone by out-boxing the heavily favored striker. Randy mixed take-downs and boxing together perfectly and after controlling the entire fight, stopped Liddell in the third round by TKO.
Couture went on to win the real title from Tito Ortiz just a few months later in a more mild upset that did not make the list.
20. Houston Alexander Def. Keith Jardine Via First-Round KO
Keith Jardine was coming off a career best win over Forrest Griffin, and had hopes of getting a title shot, or at least a fight against a big name. It was obvious that he was disappointed when he was given unknown Houston Alexander at UFC 71.
Everyone assumed Houston was just a bum put in to keep Jardine busy and get him another win. Maybe that is what the UFC thought he was, but he certainly didn't fight that way.
After getting rocked by Jardine early in the first round, Alexander snapped into action and began throwing knees and uppercuts repeatedly. Jardine was rocked numerous times before one more knee landed and turned out his lights.
Alexander quickly became the talk of town, but it wouldn't last long.
19. Randy Couture Def. Tim Sylvia Via Unanimous Decision
In another undeserved shot at a UFC championship, recent Chuck Liddell knockout victim and retiree Randy Couture was given the opportunity to fight for the heavyweight title against Tim Sylvia at UFC 68.
There were many observers that feared for Couture's health and did not want to see him on the mat unconscious again.
Nevertheless, Couture went on to shock everyone again by rocking Sylvia in the opening seconds and controlling the entire fight for five rounds. The win made him the only three-time heavyweight champion in UFC history.
18. Antonio Silva Def. Fedor Emelianenko Via Second-Round TKO
Coming off the first legitimate loss of his career, Fedor Emelianenko met Antonio Silva in the first round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Fedor was over a 5-1 favorite, despite losing his last bout.
By the time of the fight, many claimed that Silva outweighed Emelianenko by more than 50 pounds.
After an even first round that saw both fighters land some punches on the feet, Silva took Fedor down immediately in the second. Fedor remained mounted for the majority of the round, taking an immense amount of punishment, but managed to survive.
However, his face was badly swollen from the onslaught and the ref called off the bout before the third round due to Fedor's right eye being completely shut.
Talk of retirement swirled for the Russian, but Silva now had the biggest win of his career.
17. Jake Shields Def. Dan Henderson Via Unanimous Decision
Dan Henderson is undoubtedly a legend in MMA, but apparently the UFC didn't think he was worth his asking price, so he packed up and went to Strikeforce.
In his first bout with the promotion, Henderson was matched with their middleweight champion Jake Shields. Many ignored Shields' credentials and figured this to be an easy entry to another championship for Dan.
In the opening round, it looked just as many had expected. Henderson rocked Shields very seriously, but Shields survived the round on instincts alone. Beginning in the second, Shields found his rhythm and out-grappled Henderson for the remaining four rounds. Shields had the better conditioning and ground game.
It was a slower and much longer fight than many expected, but Shields had done what he needed to do to add one of the biggest names in the sport to his resume and keep his title.
16. Nick Diaz Def. Takanori Gomi Via Second-Round Submission
Though Gomi had lost to Marcus Aurelio the year before, he had avenged that loss and put a few more impressive victories between him and that upset. Pride had plans to make it's move in America, and Gomi was scheduled to face American Nick Diaz in Pride's second event in the states.
Diaz had been a veteran in the UFC, but took the chance to fight Gomi and signed with Pride.
After a first round that saw Gomi rock Diaz numerous times and Diaz come back with his own flurry of punches, Gomi was clearly exhausted. Every punch he threw was for the fences.
In the second round, Diaz had a monster of a gash under his eye that clearly was bothering Gomi more than Diaz himself. Gomi shot in for a take-down and Diaz immediately locked in a Gogoplata. Gomi seemed confused by what he was trapped in and was forced to tap.
It was a tremendous fight and the win put Diaz back on the MMA map. The win was later overturned to a no-contest because Diaz tested positive for marijuana.
15. Daiju Takase Def. Anderson Silva Via First-Round Submission
Going into Pride 26, Anderson Silva was 4-0 in Pride and was next meeting a soft touch in 4-7 Daiju Takase.
Silva was taking his time in the fight and repeatedly gave up dominant positions. Takase was motivated and never looked discouraged. Late in the first round, Takase locked in a triangle choke from the bottom and squeezed it until Silva tapped out.
It made Takase a notable name, but he was never able to capitalize off of it, going 4-6-1 to this date.
14. B.J. Penn Def. Matt Hughes Via First-Round Submission
After failing to win the UFC lightweight title on two occasions, B.J. Penn instead jumped up in weight to challenge welterweight champion Matt Hughes for his title. Due to a lack of competitors at 170, Penn was given an immediate shot, but few gave him a realistic chance against the bigger and stronger Hughes.
All of those thoughts went out the window when the fight began. Penn looked equal in size to Hughes and he was the one that got the top position on the ground. Moments into the fight, Penn landed a very heavy right hand on the ground, dazing Hughes and forcing him to roll over and give up his back. Penn latched on a rear-naked choke and Hughes tapped out.
Penn was now the welterweight champion and tears flowed from his face. He would never get to defend the title due to contract disagreements with the UFC.
13. Keith Jardine Def. Chuck Liddell Via Split-Decision
At UFC 76, Chuck Liddell was pitted against Keith Jardine in what most perceived as a main event constructed to build up a showdown between Chuck and the newly acquired Wanderlei Silva. Even though Chuck was coming off a knockout loss to Quinton Jackson, few were debating who would win the fight, but rather in what round Chuck would knockout Jardine.
In a competitive three-round war that saw both fighters knocked to the canvas, Jardine was able to squeeze out a split-decision victory. It was a massive boost to the career of Jardine, who was coming off his own upset loss to Houston Alexander.
The UFC decided to basically ignore the loss and went ahead with putting Chuck and Silva together at UFC 79.
12. Anderson Silva Def. Hayato Sakurai Via Unanimous Decision
There was a time when Hayato Sakurai was considered by many the pound for pound best fighter in the world. In 2001, he was 18-0-2 and was the Shooto middleweight champion.
In his eighth defense of the title, Sakurai met 4-1 Anderson Silva. Silva out-struck Sakurai for three rounds to win a unanimous decision and the Shooto title in just his sixth fight.
Sakurai would suffer injuries in a car accident following the fight and begin a decline in his career. Silva went on to become the UFC middleweight champion and one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.
11. Joe Warren Def. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto Via Split-Decision
Though Yamamoto was coming off a year and a half layoff, he had long been considered one of the best 145 pound fighters in the sport—certainly the best in Japan—and nobody could have imagined him losing to a 1-0 fighter who had just won his first fight in the opening round of the Dream Featherweight Grand Prix.
Joe Warren was that inexperienced fighter, a Greco-Roman champion, and he was meeting “Kid” in the second round of the tournament.
After a competitive fight that saw Yamamoto out-striking the wrestler, but Warren scoring takedowns and staying on top for long periods of the fight, the judges declared the bout a split-decision in favor of Warren. It was his second MMA fight and he had beaten one of the best featherweights of all time.
Yamamoto has experienced mixed results since this fight, but Joe Warren proved his worth further by winning Bellator's featherweight tournament and title in 2010.
10. Maurice Smith Def. Mark Coleman Via Unanimous Decision
Mark Coleman's first defense of the UFC heavyweight title was the epitome of what MMA used to be, one discipline pitted against another.
Coleman was considered the best wrestler in MMA and Maurice Smith likely the best striker. At the time, however, striking seemed to be the least successful of all styles and most figured Coleman would take him down early and pound him out.
At the beginning, that's exactly how it was. Coleman took him down and pounded on him with a furious pace. What nobody had counted on was that Smith had developed a very intelligent guard and was able to survive the initial onslaught.
Midway through the fight, Coleman was noticeably gassed and Smith began to take advantage. For the final minutes of the fight, Coleman was unable to keep his hands up and took a barrage of hard pinpoint shots from Smith.
To his credit, Coleman refused to quit and made it to the final bell. The judges declared Smith the new champion, and Coleman was never able to defend his title.
9. Gabriel Gonzaga Def. Mirko Cro Cop Via First-Round KO
To put it simply, Cro Cop was a legend of the sport expected to come over to America and run right through the UFC heavyweight division, while Gonzaga was basically a guy nobody had heard of.
Sure, Gonzaga had three wins in the UFC, but they were all on undercards against faces the average fan couldn't pick out of a lineup.
This was to be Cro Cop's first UFC main event, and his last fight before fighting for the title against Randy Couture. The consensus was that Gonzaga was there to get beat.
Well it could not have been any different. Gonzaga caught the second kick Cro Cop threw and took him down. After a couple minutes of punishing ground and pound, the referee stood them up, seemingly a favor to Cro Cop. Seconds later, Gonzaga threw a right head-kick that dropped the Croation like a bag of bricks. Not only was Cro Cop out cold, he fell awkwardly on his own knee, bending it in an angle painful to look at.
Everyone watching was in a quiet shock, and many had immediate thoughts for Cro Cop's health. I remember just hoping he would be able to wake up.
It was the beginning of Cro Cop's decline and Gonzaga went on to fight for the title, losing to Couture.
8. Marcus Aurelio Def. Takanori Gomi Via First-Round Submission
In 2005, Takanori Gomi won the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix to become the first ever Pride lightweight champion. His first fight in 2006 was scheduled as a non-title bout against Marcus Aurelio at Bushido 10.
Gomi had previously gone 10-0 in Pride and was expected to walk right through Aurelio. However, Aurelio was able to put Gomi on his back and sink in an arm-triangle in the first round. Gomi refused to tap and was choked unconscious.
It was a shocking sight to see, since Gomi had been so dominant in the years leading up to that fight. Gomi went on to win the rematch in a title fight later that year.
7. Joe Lauzon Def. Jens Pulver Via First-Round TKO
The UFC reinstated its lightweight division in 2006 after putting the division on hold for a couple years. At UFC 63, the only lightweight champion returned to the UFC. His first match was against young submission artist Joe Lauzon, who was a 7-1 underdog.
In the first minute of the fight, Lauzon caught Jens with a left-hook and dropped him. He finished it with punches on the ground and the ref called off the fight at 43-seconds into the first round.
The crowd was in complete shock and Pulver's career began a downward spiral.
6. Frankie Edgar Def. B.J. Penn Via Unanimous Decision
Though considered undersized for the lightweight division by many, Frankie Edgar racked up enough impressive performances, most notably over former champ Sean Sherk, to get himself a title shot against champion B.J. Penn.
Penn came in at about an 8-1 favorite when the two met in Abu Dhabi, but Edgar showed he was going to to fight his fight no matter who doubted him.
After four close rounds that can be heavily debated, Edgar was clearly the fresher fighter in in the final frame and won every minute of it.
When the scores were read, one judge had given every round to Edgar while the other had it a little closer. There was plenty of criticism over the scoring, but nonetheless, Edgar was now the lightweight champion of the world and had notched his first of two victories of the man most consider the greatest lightweight of all time.
5. Kevin Randleman Def Mirko Cro Cop Via First-Round KO
Mirko Cro Cop was an early favorite in Pride's heavyweight tournament in 2004. Everyone was hoping for him and Fedor Emelianenko to meet in the finals in a much anticipated clash. In the first round, Mirko was set to face UFC vet Kevin Randleman.
Randleman was coming off two losses against Quinton Jackson by knockout, and Kazushi Sakuraba by submission. Mirko had only lost once in Pride, and that was a fight he was winning against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira before getting submitted in the second rounds.
In the opening seconds of the first round, Randleman came forward and threw a powerful left-hook that dropped Cro Cop. Immediately, Randleman pounced on his hurt opponent and knocked him out cold with punches on the ground. It was a quick and shocking defeat.
Randleman went on to face Emelianenko in the next round, creating one of the most spectacular highlights in the sport by slamming Emelianenko on his head. Emelianenko still came back to win the fight.
4. Forrest Griffin Def. Mauricio Rua Via Third-Round Submission
In 2007, Mauricio Rua was the No. 1 light heavyweight in the world and was making his UFC debut. Forrest Griffin was just one fight removed from his devastating first-round knockout loss at the hands of Keith Jardine, but was begging the UFC to be Rua's first opponent in the UFC.
Griffin got his wish and the two met at UFC 76. After a competitive first half of the fight, and Forrest suffering a humongous gash on his forehead from a Rua elbow, Rua became noticeably exhausted. He was having a hard time keeping his hands up and was gasping for air through his mouth.
In the third round, Griffin took over and unleashed a series of blows to a grounded Rua. With just 15 seconds left, Forrest sunk in a rear-naked choke and forced Rua to tap. Forrest ran across the ring celebrating and history was made.
Forrest parlayed that win into a title shot, which he won. Three years later, Rua would become the champion as well.
3. Rameau Theirry Sokoudjou Def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
There are some that would claim this to be the biggest upset of all time because of the insanely lopsided betting odds that had Nogueira somewhere around a -2500 favorite. It certainly could be at the top of the list, but it was a fight of little importance and anticipation, so we will save the top spots for fights that took place on a bigger stage.
Sokoudjou was a champion in judo, but had very little MMA experience with a 2-1 record, and was coming off a first-round knockout loss just a few months earlier. Nogueira was a top contender at 205, and had been in tremendous battles with the elite fighters of his division.
In the opening seconds of the fight, Sokoudjou landed a high kick, left hook combination and knocked Nogueira out cold. The fight was over in 23 seconds, leaving the crowd in shock at what it had just seen.
2. Fabricio Werdum Def. Fedor Emelianenko Via First-Round Submission
After going undefeated in a career spanning 10 years that saw him become the Rings and Pride heavyweight champion, Fedor was set to meet Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Fabricio Werdum in a Strikeforce main event.
Emelianenko had an aura of invincibility due to his long and accomplished career without a legitimate loss. He had also dominated fighters of a similar style as Werdum and fighters that had themselves beaten Werdum. It was going to be a good win for Emelianenko, but nobody figured him to be in any danger at all.
In the opening minute, Emelianenko was swinging for the fences and Werdum fell to his back. Fedor charged in without any caution and tried to finish the fighter that he thought was hurt. Werdum was not hurt and he quickly locked Emelianenko in a triangle choke. Emelianenko struggled to get out and Werdum pulled an arm bar to boot. After about 30 seconds of being stuck in the choke, Emelianenko gave one solid tap.
It was the end of an era. The great Emelianenko had tasted defeat and MMA would be changed forever. Werdum would finally get credit for being a top heavyweight.
1. Matt Serra Def. Georges St. Pierre Via First-Round TKO
After winning season four of The Ultimate Fighter, Matt Serra was awarded a title shot against Georges St. Pierre. Most considered this more of a punishment than a reward, assuming Serra was in for quite a beating from the unstoppable looking champion.
St. Pierre had just won the title from Matt Hughes at UFC 65 in dominant fashion with a second-round head-kick TKO. Serra was figured to be an easy first defense for the new champ.
The two met at UFC 69, with most betting odds listing St. Pierre at around a -1000 favorite. After a few minutes of feeling each other out, Serra connected with a right hook on the ear of St. Pierre. With the champion clearly wobbled, Serra pounced on him with a series of punches, knocking him down and finishing him with strikes on the ground.
The bout lasted less than three and a half minutes. Serra was the new champion and St. Pierre would be forced to reassess his career.
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