From David to Goliath: The Top MMA Upsets of All Time

March 30, 2023
From: Spartacus
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In MMA, upsets occur when a fighter is expected to win a fight but loses to an underdog or less experienced opponent. These upsets can happen due to a variety of factors, including injuries, poor training, underestimating an opponent, or simply being outperformed on the day of the fight. Upsets are a common occurrence in MMA and often result in shock, surprise, and disbelief from fans and analysts alike. However, they also serve as a reminder that in MMA, anything can happen, and even the most dominant fighters can be defeated.

The purpose of the article is to highlight some of the most surprising upsets in MMA history, showcasing the unpredictability and excitement of the sport. By examining these upsets, readers can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the various factors that can influence the outcome of an MMA fight, such as skill level, strategy, conditioning, and mental toughness. Additionally, the article aims to recognize the underdogs who were able to defy the odds and defeat more favoured opponents, demonstrating the importance of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity.

Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre (UFC 69)


At the time of the fight, Georges St-Pierre was one of the biggest stars in MMA and was the reigning UFC welterweight champion. He had a 13-1 record and was considered by many to be unbeatable in the welterweight division. Matt Serra, on the other hand, was a veteran of the sport with a 9-4 record and was not considered a serious threat to St-Pierre.

The fight was expected to be a relatively easy win for St-Pierre, but Serra had other plans. In a stunning upset, Serra knocked St-Pierre down with a hard right hand and finished him with punches on the ground just 3 minutes into the first round. The win was one of the biggest upsets in UFC history and shocked the MMA world.

The upset had a significant impact on both fighters’ careers. For Serra, the win propelled him into the spotlight and earned him the UFC welterweight title. However, Serra was unable to defend the title in his next fight and eventually lost it to St-Pierre in a rematch.

For St-Pierre, the loss was a major setback, but he was able to bounce back and eventually reclaim the welterweight title. The loss to Serra also served as a wake-up call for St-Pierre, who made significant changes to his training and preparation in order to avoid another upset.

Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey (UFC 193)


Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey were both at the top of their game when they faced each other at UFC 193. Rousey was the reigning UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, undefeated in 12 fights and widely considered one of the greatest fighters of all time. Holm, on the other hand, was a decorated boxing champion who had transitioned to MMA and had a record of 9-0.

Most experts and fans expected Rousey to win the fight, with many predicting a quick victory for her by submission or knockout. However, Holm had a different strategy and executed it perfectly. She used her superior striking skills to keep Rousey at bay and avoid her takedowns. In the second round, Holm landed a stunning head kick that knocked Rousey out cold, leading to one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.

The upset had a significant impact on both fighters’ careers. Rousey, who had been dominating the women’s bantamweight division, took a break from MMA after the loss and later retired. She attempted a comeback in the UFC and in WWE, but was not able to recapture her previous dominance. Holm, on the other hand, became an instant star and a new champion, but was not able to hold onto the belt in her next fight. Nevertheless, the win over Rousey cemented her legacy as one of the greatest female fighters of all time. The upset also showed that anything can happen in MMA, and that even the greatest fighters can be beaten on any given night

Fabricio Werdum vs. Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce)


The Fabricio Werdum vs. Fedor Emelianenko fight took place on June 26, 2010, at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum, held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. At the time, Emelianenko was widely considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, with a record of 31 wins and just one loss. He was the reigning WAMMA Heavyweight Champion and had won his last 27 fights in a row. Meanwhile, Werdum was a respected fighter with a record of 13 wins and four losses, but he was seen as a heavy underdog going into the fight.

The first round of the fight was largely uneventful, with Emelianenko using his striking and grappling skills to control Werdum. However, in the second round, Werdum was able to catch Emelianenko in a triangle choke, causing him to tap out and win the fight via submission. The upset was significant not just because Emelianenko was the favourite to win, but also because he had not been submitted in a fight in over a decade.

The upset victory of Fabricio Werdum over Fedor Emelianenko, had a significant impact on both fighters’ careers.

For Emelianenko, the loss marked the end of his nearly ten-year undefeated streak, and many experts considered him the greatest heavyweight fighter in MMA history. While Emelianenko continued to fight after the loss, he never regained the dominance he had previously shown in the sport. The loss also contributed to the decline of Emelianenko’s mystique, as he was seen as invincible before facing Werdum.

For Werdum, the upset victory over Emelianenko was a career-defining moment. After the win, he became the first fighter to submit Emelianenko, and his stock rose dramatically in the MMA world. The victory also earned Werdum a shot at the Strikeforce heavyweight title, which he would go on to win in his next fight against Alistair Overeem. Werdum’s career continued to flourish after the Emelianenko fight, as he eventually became the UFC heavyweight champion and established himself as one of the greatest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in MMA history

Michael Bisping vs. Luke Rockhold (UFC 199)


The Michael Bisping vs. Luke Rockhold rematch at UFC 199 in 2016 was one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Bisping was a late replacement for Chris Weidman, who had to pull out of the fight due to injury. Rockhold was the middleweight champion at the time and had defeated Bisping in a previous fight.

Bisping was considered an underdog going into the fight, and many people believed that Rockhold would win easily. However, Bisping surprised everyone by knocking Rockhold out in the first round with a left hook.

The upset had a significant impact on both fighters’ careers. For Bisping, it was the culmination of a long and often frustrating career. He had been fighting in the UFC since 2006 and had come close to a title shot several times but had never quite made it. The win over Rockhold finally gave him the middleweight championship and cemented his place as one of the best fighters in the world.

For Rockhold, the loss was a devastating setback. He had been on a five-fight winning streak and was widely considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. The loss to Bisping cost him the middleweight championship and derailed his career. He has only fought twice since then and has struggled with injuries and inconsistency.

Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz (UFC 196)


Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz fought each other for the first time at UFC 196 on March 5, 2016. The fight took place at the welterweight division, which is two weight classes above McGregor’s usual weight class of featherweight. McGregor was originally scheduled to fight lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, but dos Anjos pulled out due to injury, and Diaz stepped in on short notice.

Leading up to the fight, there was a lot of hype and trash talk from both fighters, and many people expected McGregor to win easily. McGregor was coming off a 13-second knockout victory over Jose Aldo to become the featherweight champion, and he had predicted that he would knock out Diaz in the first round. However, things did not go according to plan for McGregor.

In the first round, McGregor came out aggressively and landed some hard shots on Diaz, but Diaz weathered the storm and started to take control of the fight with his superior boxing and grappling skills. In the second round, Diaz rocked McGregor with a punch and then submitted him with a rear-naked choke, ending McGregor’s 15-fight win streak.

The upset victory by Diaz had a significant impact on both fighters’ careers. McGregor’s loss was a major setback, but it also showed that he was willing to take risks and fight outside of his usual weight class. He went on to rematch Diaz at UFC 202 five months later, which he won by a close decision, and then became the first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously when he defeated Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title at UFC 205.

For Diaz, the victory over McGregor was a career-defining moment. It catapulted him into the mainstream spotlight and made him a fan favourite. He went on to have several more high-profile fights, including a rematch with McGregor and a title shot against welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.

The McGregor vs. Diaz fight at UFC 196 was one of the biggest upsets in UFC history and had a significant impact on both fighters’ careers. It showed that anything can happen in MMA and that even the best fighters in the world are vulnerable to defeat.


The world of mixed martial arts has seen its fair share of upsets over the years. From the unexpected defeat of Renan Barao by TJ Dillashaw to the stunning knockout victory of Holly Holm over Ronda Rousey, these upsets have cemented their place in MMA history. While some may argue that upsets are simply a part of the sport, they serve as a reminder that anything can happen inside the Octagon. These moments not only create unforgettable memories for fans, but also inspire fighters to continue to push themselves to new heights. As the sport continues to evolve, it’s only a matter of time before another upset shakes the MMA world to its core.

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