It is now 28 years since karate champion Gerard Gordeau knocked out 430-pound Hawaiian sumo wrestler Teila Tuli’s tooth in the first ever UFC bout. There have been many more shock results in the ensuing years, and these are the five most memorable underdog triumphs:
Holm Ends Rousey’s Unbeaten Record
Ronda Rousey revelled in her status as one of the world’s brightest stars during the build-up to her 2015 clash with Holly Holm. She had just been voted the greatest female athlete of all-time in an ESPN fan poll, her autobiography was a bestseller and she was appearing in films such as The Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7.
Rousey, the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in judo, was 12-0 in her MMA career, and she had mounted seven successful defences of her bantamweight championship belt. She had already dispatched the likes of Bethe Correia, Cat Zingano and Alexis Davis with ease, and her latest bout – against unheralded Australian Holly Holm – was seen as a mere formality.
Rousey was priced at just 1.05 (-2000) to win the fight, while Holm was a 10.00 (-900) underdog. The world therefore reacted with astonishment when Holm set about dismantling her fabled opponent with a savage display of precision and power. It ended with a devastating kick to the face and a flurry of punches, and it was naturally named Upset of the Year 2015.
Matt Serra is Really Hungry
Matt Serra pulled off arguably the greatest upset in UFC history when he sent Georges St Pierre crashing to the floor in April 2007. We certainly haven’t seen anything of that magnitude since then, unless you count Conor McGregor knocking out Bruce Lee in the MMA virtual betting.
To set the scene, GSP was fresh from back-to-back victories over Matt Hughes and B.J. Penn, winning the UFC welterweight championship. The win against Hughes was particularly sweet, as it avenged the only defeat of his career.
He was expected to wipe the floor with Serra, a journeyman fighter without a single knockout on his record. GSP was as short as 1.08 (-1300) to win the fight, and everyone from Dana White to Joe Rogan said his victory was a fait accompli.
Yet Serra clearly didn’t read the script. He absolutely pulverized his opponent with an onslaught of punches, landing a first round knockout. As Rogan approached to give him the belt after the fight, Serra said: “Joe, I’m really, really hungry. I was wondering if you and Dana had some humble pie in the back?”
Weidman Kills the King
UFC 162 provided another of the greatest shocks in UFC history when Chris Weidman knocked out the legendary Anderson Silva. The Brazilian was 16-0 in his UFC career, a winning streak stretching back six years, and he everyone thought he would ease to victory against Weidman.
However, the New York fighter had other ideas. He looked fired up in the first round, landing some convincing punches and attacking with a dangerous armbar. Silva showboated and waited for Weidman to overextend himself, ready to pounce.
Yet Weidman refused to take the bait. He jabbed and moved to devastating effect, and then knocked the Brazilian out cold with a crushing blow in the second round. It remains one of the most iconic moments in MMA history.
Griffin Forces Rua to Tap
UFC bosses were keen to ease the iconic Mauricio “Shogun” Rua into proceedings after he agreed to join the promotion in 2007. The Brazilian was the star of the show on the PRIDE scene, having just beaten Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona, and his signature was a real coup for UFC.
They tossed a slightly washed up Forrest Griffin into the ring for Rua’s first fight and waited for Shogun to put his lights out. Things initially went to plan, as Rua mounted the former winner of The Ultimate Fighter and opened him up with a ferocious elbow.
Blood streamed down his face, but Griffin refused to admit defeat. He clawed his way back into the fight, and went at Rua with relentless determination. By the second round, Rua’s hands were starting to drop, and he was struggling to deal with his opponents energy. With just 15 seconds remaining in the third round, Griffin won the fight with a pitch perfect rear naked choke.
Dillashaw Becomes Bantamweight Champion
Renan Barao was widely considered to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world when he stepped into the Octagon with T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 173. The bantamweight champion was on a 31-fight winning streak, and he had secured comfortable victories in all seven of his prior UFC bouts.
He was fresh from beating Urijah Faber in an eagerly anticipated rematch, and UFC bosses were keen for him to lock horns with Raphael Assuncao. However, Assuncao had not healed from a rib injury sustained in his last fight, so Dillashaw stepped in to take him on.
Dillashaw had lost to Assuncao the previous year, and he was the clear underdog, but he made a mockery of those odds by dominating the fight and stopping his vaunted opponent with a barrage of punches in the fifth round. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he won a rematch the following year, and went on to beat Assuncao in another rematch.