Top 10 Greatest Upsets in MMA History

Props: Bleacher Report

As a knowledgeable fans of Mixed Martial Arts, we tend to develop an opinion of a fighter as being immortal or unstoppable due to countless impressive performances in the past.

When the underdog fighter lands that big right hand or locks in that tight submission and defeats the hero, it puts the world in a state of shock.

Due to the recent events on the Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum Event I figured this is the right time to count down the greatest upsets in MMA history.

10. Houston Alexander vs. Keith Jardine
If you look at Keith Jardine and Houston Alexander’s current records you would look at me like I have two heads for having this to start out the count down of the greatest upsets of all time but it wasn’t long ago this knockout rocked the UFC. We first saw Keith Jardine as one of the standouts of the second season of The Ultimate Fighter. Although Jardine did not go on to win the six-figure contract which was the carrot on a string for these UFC hopefuls, he did get the opportunity to face Kerry Schall on the preliminary card of The Ultimate Finale 2 where he picked up a victory and a ticket back to the elite MMA promotion in the world. Leading into his bout with Houston Alexander, “The Dean of Mean,” was on the roll of his career with back-to-back victories over top ranked light-heavyweights Wilson Gouveia and Forrest Griffin. Houston Alexander, on the other hand, had been demonstrating the power he possessed in his right hand in smaller events around the country before getting the call up to the UFC. Having no big names in his defeat column and a 6–1, 1 NC record it was believed by the MMA community that the single father of six was in for a long night. Houston Alexander shocked the world and put his name out there in a really big way when he knocked out Keith Jardine before the one minute mark of the very first round in brutal fashion.

9. Anderson Silva vs. Hayato Sakurai
Judging by the successful wave Anderson Silva is riding in 2010, its hard to believe that Anderson Silva was ever a major underdog heading into a clash with Hayato Sakurai. However in 2001 things were a lot different. Hayato Sakurai was considered pound-for-pound one of the best fighters in the world being undefeated in twenty bouts with victories over Caol Uno and Frank Trigg. At this stage Sakurai held the Shooto Middleweight Championship and was heading into his eighth title defense when he came across the Brazilian ace, Anderson Silva. However Anderson Silva wasn’t the accomplished Mixed Martial Artist that we see today—he was simply another fighter trying to make his mark moving up the rankings. Silva held a 4-1 record with no real notable victories to his name so it was assumed that Sakurai would defeat Silva without breaking a sweat. However on this night Anderson Silva showed the world why he is going to be a force to be reckoned with in Mixed Martial Arts. He gave the Japanese sensation all he could handle and then some to secure a unanimous decision and capture the Shooto Middleweight Championship. This had a huge impact on the Shooto middleweight division because “Mach” Sakurai was their home-grown star and Anderson Silva just took his title, never to defend it.

8. Joe Lauzon vs. Jens Pulver
Following a successful run on season five of The Ultimate Fighter, Joe Lauzon was ready to take the leap up to the big time and fight in the UFC, but he wasn’t given an easy night. His opponent was Jens Pulver, the first UFC Lightweight Champion. Pulver had made a name for himself all over the world and defeated some of the top names in the world in BJ Penn and Caol Uno. Pulver was widely considered to be one of the best lightweights in the world for the better part of his career and Joe Lauzon was seen as a piece of meat in the way of “Lil Evil.” Fight insiders believed if Joe Lauzon were to have any chance against an accomplished striker like Pulver, he would have to take this fight to the mat and try and submit the veteran of twenty-eight bouts. Joe Lauzon had a different idea when he knocked out Jens Pulver seconds shy of the one-minute mark of the first round to make one of the most successful UFC debuts in history and earn himself a knockout of the night honor.

7. Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko Filipovic
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic had established himself as an elite heavyweight after head-kicking his way through names like Josh Barnett, Wanderlei Silva, and Mark Coleman. Gabriel Gonzaga was seen as a star on the rise having at this point in his career when he was riding a five-fight win streak with three of those victories coming inside of the octagon. Although Gonzaga was a large man with a great Brazilian jiu-jitsu game and power in his hands, most people saw Mirko “Cro Cop” as being the best striker in the industry and it was assumed he would pick up a TKO victory early in the first round. The ironic aspect of this fight was the key to victory for Cro Cop was his devastating head kick which had dropped so many before him. However, on this night it was Gabriel Gonzaga who nailed the Croatian kickboxer with a head kick to turn out the lights and deliver the biggest upset of the year. This had a huge impact on the UFC heavyweight division at the time because most believed that Mirko would destroy the heavyweight division and capture the Championship within a year and a half. This made the victory for Gonzaga mean so much more.

6. Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn
In the early part of the new millennium, Matt Hughes used his large size, wrestling and ground and pound ability to defeat some of the best in the industry. At that stage, Hughes was riding a fourteen-fight win streak with five of those being title defenses. BJ Penn had made a name for himself fighting at lightweight and sporting a 6–1–1 record. Many believed Penn was a great mixed martial artist and would be completely outclassed at a heavier weight class, especially against the overpowering Matt Hughes. After a back and forth affair between Hughes and Penn, the Hawaiian underdog sunk in a rear naked choke with seconds remaining in the first round to capture his first championship at welterweight and dethrone the greatest welterweight champion of all time. This had a huge effect on the UFC welterweight division at the time because Matt Hughes looked beatable for the first time in a long time and there was the shock factor of this 155-pounder moving up in weight and defeating the much larger Hughes.

5. Brian Bowles vs. Miguel Torres
Miguel Torres was once widely considered to be the best bantamweight not only in the WEC but in the entire world. Torres was riding a seventeen fight win streak with the last three bouts defending his WEC Bamtamweight Championship. Brian Bowles was seen as a rising star with power in his hands and skills on the mat but it was recognized by the majority of the world that Torres was a much more well-rounded and experienced fighter. All signs pointed to Bowles having a tough time against the seemingly unstoppable champion. Bowles was riding a seven-fight win streak and had earned himself a chance to face Torres. It took Brian Bowles under four minutes to finish the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and crown himself as the WEC Bantamweight Champion. This changed the WEC bantamweight division completely because Torres was the title carrier and was expected to hold on to that piece of gold for quite some time after defeating Takeya Mizugaki and Yoshiro Maeda to retain it.

4. Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia
At the beginning of 2007, Randy Couture was retired and Tim Sylvia was dominating the UFC heavyweight division with a 23–2 record with his past three victories being for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. When Randy Couture announced his return from retirement to step up and face the giant, it was believed by close to everyone watching that Randy Couture would be picked apart on his feet by Sylvia. Especially considering Couture had lost three of his last five bouts at a lighter weight class most fans of “The Natural” didn’t want to see him return due to his age and not being at his best in his past few performances. Randy Couture utilized his trademark style to give Sylvia everything he could handle and after twenty-five minutes the fight went to the judges score cards who gave the fight to the forty-four year old veteran of twenty-two fights.

3. Forrest Griffin vs. Maurcio Rua
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was widely considered to be the best light-heavyweight fighter in the world in 2007. Rua made a name for himself in Pride FC with victories over Alistair Overeem, Ricardo Arona, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and Quinton Jackson just to name a few. At UFC 76 it was time for Rua to make his debut in the elite mixed martial arts organization and he was matched up against The Ultimate Fighter season one winner Forrest Griffin. Since winning The Ultimate Fighter, Griffin had gone 3-2 and never had a really standout performance since his battle with Stephan Bonnar. The world believed that Rua would pick this kid apart before finishing him early into the bout.On that night though Griffin impressed the world by controlling most of the fight and wound up submitting the Brazilian late into the third round. This put Forrest Griffin’s name out there as a top tier 205-pounder.

2. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Fabricio Werdum
Fedor Emelianenko for the better part of the past decade has been considered the best mixed martial artist the world has had to offer. Emelianenko defeated the best heavyweights in the world including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Coleman, and Heath Herring. Fabricio Werdum, on the other hand, had been riding a three-fight win streak since being cut from the UFC. Although he was very skilled, especially on the ground, he was given very little hope against “The Last Emperor.” However, Emelianenko made the mistake of falling right into Werdum’s game plan and being submitted by the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace at the one minute and nine second mark of the very first round. The entire world stood still as Emelianenko got back to his feet, brushed himself off, and gave his post-fight interview. It’s unseen at this stage what effect this is going to have on Strikeforce and their heavyweight division but only time will tell.

1. Matt Serra vs. George St-Pierre
George St-Pierre had finally taken the reigns as the kingpin of the UFC welterweight division once he defeated Matt Hughes. St-Pierre was riding a six-fight win streak at the time and seemed unstoppable with his well-rounded skills and ever evolving game. It was hard to pick who would be the man to dethrone the French-Canadian. At the time one of the more unlikely picks would’ve been Matt Serra. Serra was a stand out on Season Four of The Ultimate Fighter and a skilled fighter, but nobody really thought he would become a champion. But on that night St-Pierre got caught by Serra with a well-timed punch to drop to the mat as Serra captured the UFC Welterweight Championship for the first time. This changed the UFC welterweight division completely because Hughes for so long was the king of the division. When he was finally knocked off, everyone looked to St-Pierre to take his place and he got knocked off by Serra on his first title defense.

About William Smith

After watching the first Ultimate Fighting Championship I became instantly hooked. I've been a huge fan of the sport of MMA ever since. Haven't missed a UFC event & thanks to fight pass I've witnessed some of the all time greatest fighter & athletes the sport through Pride, Strikeforce, WEC, Glory, Pacrase, EliteXC.............. I resently joined & will use this site to continue to bring the latest news from the world of MMA to all our loyal followers.