Four of the biggest upsets in UFC history

Milan Ordoñez on Nov 16, 2015 06:59 PM
Four of the biggest upsets in UFC history
Photo credit: Zuffa LLC via Getty Images/

On Saturday night (Sunday afternoon, PHT), the entire world was shocked by Holly Holm’s second round knockout victory over Ronda Rousey. 

Riding through the “Rowdy” wave of dominance since 2011, along with highlight reel victories of entire fights that were short enough to be posted on Instagram, every mixed martial arts fan was at the very least left in a state of shock and disbelief. Others, of course, threw a good amount of hate towards Rousey’s way, just like how Manny Pacquiao and Anderson Silva suddenly raked in a huge chunk of haters after their monumental career defeats.

But UFC 193’s main event was evidently not the first huge upset in the company’s history. Through 21 years of existence, the UFC has had its share of notable fights that went the other way around, ones that had people’s expectations completely shattered. These were the matches that turned a fighter’s relatively menial career into instant superstardom, and have been placed in MMA’s history books for future generations of fight fans to look back on.

July 5th, 2008: UFC 86 - Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin

The late 2000’s marked the gradual but consistent boom of the UFC as a business, and the mixed martial arts fanaticism worldwide. After the historic Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar three years prior, everyone seemed to have caught the MMA bug in a snap.

The said fight was the offshoot of Ultimate Fighter 13, wherein both Jackson and Griffin served as coaches for opposing teams composed of middleweight fighters. After the said season, both men were already slated to face each other for Jackson’s light heavyweight title belt.

Rampage had his own successful run at PRIDE FC, establishing a reputation as one of the most vicious knockout artists of the time. Griffin, on the other hand, was simply a hard-nosed fighter who had no quit in him and was willing to fight to the death.

The first few round of the bout showed Jackson’s obvious advantage in punching power. After tagging Griffin a few times and even scoring a knockdown, Rampage remained on the offensive. Griffin, however, continued to play his game and remained calm throughout the contest. 

Upon realizing that he could impose a more effective gameplan, Griffin did so in the later rounds by continously throwing hard leg kicks to impede Jackson’s movement. He kept the same game plan until the fifth and final round, but the fight had become closer this time around.

Fortunately for Griffin, he had done enough to secure himself a victory, and the UFC light heavyweight title.

Griffin looked back on the fight through this short interview in 2012.

April 21st, 2007: UFC 70 - Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic

At the time, UFC 70: Nations Collide was only the second UFC event to be held in the United Kingdom. It was headlined by then newcomer Gabriel Gonzaga, who was going against PRIDE FC veteran Mirko Filipovic. It was still at the tail end of the latter’s reign of terror, which he carried over from his days in Japan. His Brazilian opponent, on the other hand, was in the middle of his transition from being a mere grappler to a more complete fighter.

Cro Cop had already been known for his head kick finishes back in PRIDE, and UFC 70 was no exception, as fans were looking forward to see one of them land a cracking blow into Gonzaga’s skull. Instead, the exact opposite happened, and Gonzaga ended up knocking the Croatian sensation out cold with one shot. Time of the stoppage was at the 4:51 mark of the first round.

Filipovic may have avenged his loss in their rematch in April through a third round TKO victory, but to this day, this particular head kick remains to be one of the most devastating ones to watch.

April 7th, 2007: UFC 69: Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Serra

The welterweight division in the late 2000’s was an interesting time for 170-pound combatants. Long-time champion Matt Hughes had just been dethroned by Georges St-Pierre. But for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu artist Matt Serra, it was an era of redemption.

Having just won the Ultimate Fighter Season 4, which featured him and his fellow “returnees”, “The Terror” was then slated to fight for St-Pierre’s welterweight title. On paper, “GSP” had the significant edge, being the more well-rounded fighter. Serra, at the time, had more success on the ground, but was already beginning to sharpen his heavy right hand.

Unexpectedly, it was the same weapon that spelled the difference for the night. In a brief stand-up exchange at the beginning of the fight, Serra had already landed a right hand that wobbled St-Pierre.

With the Canadian fighter already wobbly, Serra took advantage of the situation by throwing and landing another right. 

This time around, St-Pierre was unable to get back up to his feet, which Serra capitalized on by raining down punches. It was only a matter of time before referee John McCarthy stepped in to stop the fight at the 3:25 mark of the first round.

St-Pierre did win the rematch a year after, but he himself admits committing the costly mistake of being caught off guard.

July 6th, 2013: UFC 162 - Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman

For seven straight years beginning the year 2006, Anderson Silva’s stranglehold over the UFC’s middleweight division was unshakeable.

It was not until that fateful night at UFC 162 when it all came crashing down for “The Spider”, who was facing a then relatively unknown fighter, Chris Weidman.

A standout from the Serra-Longo stable in New York, Weidman held an undefeated record of 9-0 prior to facing Silva. The biggest threat he posed was his top-notch wrestling skills, which Silva had been known for having trouble with.

When fight night came, it was business as usual for Silva, who proudly wore his cloak of invincibility. He was playing his game, which included clowning around and being cocky, which he did mainly to throw his opponents off their game, psychologically.

Unfortunately for him, it did not work on Weidman, who stuck to his gameplan all throughout. By the end of the first round, coach Ray Longo had one order for his fighter: to “punch a whole through Silva’s chest”.

As the second round rang in, Weidman heeded his corner’s advice and kept his poise. Silva, however, continued to clown around, faking being hit. He did commit that one mistake of placing his legs in parallel position, making his balance unstable.

Weidman, then punching, continued with his attacks, until a left hand landed squarely on Silva’s right jaw. In an instant, Silva falls to the ground, with both his eyes rolled to the back of his head, prompting referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.

Just like that, Chris Weidman was the new UFC middleweight champion, defeating one of the most decorated fighters in MMA history.


Follow this writer on Twitter: @Mr_Ordonez

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