When it comes to martial arts competitions, everyone loves an underdog story. There’s nothing better than watching a fighter shatter expectations and emerge the victor. And when it comes to the sport of MMA, few fights are more exciting than those in which a fighter pulls off what nobody thought was possible.
As one of MMA’s foremost promotions, the UFC has delivered us some fantastic underdog stories over the years. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at three of the biggest upsets to have taken place inside the octagon.
1. Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman – UFC 162
For much of his career, Anderson Silva seemed to be untouchable. In what was only his second fight on the UFC roster he won the Middleweight Championship and, in the run-up to UFC 162, he was on a personal best of 16 consecutive wins.
Chris Weidman, on the other hand, while possessing a record that was not too shabby (9-0), was considered to be quite the underdog when compared to ‘The Spider’, up until he delivered that stunning knockout, that is.
Although Silva followed the gameplan by rote – taunting the less -favored fighter with his trademark feints – Weidman wasn’t fazed. Then, just 1 minute and 18 seconds into the second round, Weidman blazed through his legendary opponent and took the win via KO/TKO.
2. Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey – UFC 193
Since day one, Ronda Rousey has been a martial arts pioneer. Not only was she the first American Judoka to win a bronze medal in the Olympics, but her sheer dominance of the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight division also made it impossible for Dana White to keep the UFC closed to female fighters.
In 2015, Rousey wasn’t just the face of women’s MMA, she was the face of the UFC. Her crossover appeal was legendary, as she appeared in everything from movies to the WWE – and she set a new record for the sport with her championship reign as the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion of the World.
Coming into the fight with a superb professional boxing record (18 title defences across three weight classes) as well as considerable experience as a kickboxer, The Preacher’s Daughter, Holm, was nevertheless the underdog in the championship bout against Rousey.
However, Holly Holm made history that night in November 2015 when, from the opening bell, she delivered an impeccably-controlled performance in the ring.
Unable to assert her usual dominant position, Rousey was on the back foot and, 59 seconds into round 2, Holm threw that head kick that knocked the unbeaten champion straight down to the mat.
3. Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor – UFC 196
Conor McGregor’s history with the UFC is the stuff of MMA legend. In the years running up to UFC 196 in 2016, the McGregor hype train was at full speed and seemed unstoppable.
He was earning ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses left right and center, had claimed the Interim Featherweight Championship belt and even took part as a coach in The Ultimate Fighter. The ‘Notorious’ one had yet to lose a fight and, by the end of 2015, the UFC Featherweight title was his.
Nate Diaz, meanwhile, was certainly no slouch. A regular fixture in the promotion since 2007 when he won The Ultimate Fighter 5, Diaz defeated all four of his opponents during his debut year.
Since then, he fought consistently and determinedly across the lightweight and welterweight divisions, defeating the likes of Donald Cerrone and Michael Johnson. It was at the press conference for his victory over Johnson that he called out McGregor, challenging him to a fight that many thought would never happen.
But, a lucky twist of fate at the beginning of 2016 brought about a unique opportunity for the “Stockton Slugger” as with just 11 days’ notice, he was given the opportunity to take on McGregor in the main event of UFC 196.
Going up against the juggernaut that McGregor was in 2016, Diaz was the clear underdog – especially given the lack of time he’d had to prepare for the bout.
But, for all the preparation that McGregor was able to do, he was left tapping out at 4:12 into the second round as Diaz tightened an RNC to finish the round…and the fight.