When we consider underdogs in sport, it’s easy to think of a new, young contender. Someone in the style of boxer Rocky Balboa. In the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and many other sports, the underdogs don’t always come about that way. It could be someone coming back after retiring from the game (we’re looking at you, Randy), or even trying to find their form after an accident. And sometimes it’s simply a case of knocking a champion off their perch. Here, we look at some of the biggest comebacks in MMA, how they turned the tide of the fight and emerged victoriously.
Fighter Frank Mir is a great tale of life after injury. After breaking his femur and tearing ligaments in his knee after a motorcycle accident, he was stripped of his heavyweight belt by the UFC. The medical experts said there was a chance he’d never run again, so fighting in the UFC would be a write-off. Not for Frank, though. In 2006, he returned to action, only to lose two bouts at UFC 57 and UFC 65. But in true underdog fashion, he won his next big three fights, delighting his fans. At UFC 92 he beat Antonio Nogueira with a total knockout (TKO) and took the heavyweight title back.
When it comes to comebacks from medical conditions, Bryan Baker packed a punch right in the face of his leukaemia (as well as Sean Loeffler). It was only a few days before Baker’s participation in Bellator that he’d been diagnosed with leukaemia. But did that stop him taking on Loeffler at Bellator 16? Even though he could barely get through his gym sessions? Of course not. This is The Beast we’re talking about. So, cancer-ridden and barely up-to-scratch, he defeated Loeffler by TKO in under three minutes. It’s the sort of result that had MMA betting enthusiasts scratching their heads.
Randy Couture is a name synonymous with MMA (or the Expendables films), and it was a loss to the sport when he retired. Understandable though as it’s tough to keep up with MMA when you’re in your 40s. But not for Couture, it seemed. Just a year after his retirement, he challenged Tim Sylvia, the former heavyweight champion, at UFC 68. There was little reason to believe that this underdog was going to succeed. Already he’d suffered defeats to Chuck Liddell before retirement so didn’t end his career on a high. The prospect of him taking on the 6’8 behemoth, Sylvia, didn’t look bright.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case, as Couture scored on seven out of ten takedown attempts and won the bout 138-39. In one fight, he became the oldest champion in the UFC and a star in his own right. No wonder he’s called ‘The Natural’.
If we’re going to focus on a true underdog story, then we can’t miss out the biggest upset of the year in 2015. It was a time when Ronda Rousey was the face of MMA. She’d been on the covers of magazines, was gaining both male and female fans from across the world and was a true MMA superstar. But her judo experience wasn’t a match for unfancied Holly Holm, who had a professional boxing and kickboxing background. Perhaps it was because Rousey was now so famous, her fighting style was expected, as Holm was aware that Rousey would attack on a straight line and go for the grab.
It didn’t work this time as the jaws of fans dropped across the world as Holm’s head kick turned the sport on its head. As well as Rousey’s. Knocked out, and her first loss in the professional sport, this was seen as one of the biggest upsets in MMA. Holly Holm won deservedly, proving that the underdog should never be undermined. And as for Ronda Rousey, did she take defeat like a champ? Nope. She essentially quit and joined the WWE instead.