As is the case with just about any full contact sport in existence, the competing favorite is likely to emerge victorious over opposition a good eight of ten times. Even in a sport as erratic as mixed martial arts, the odds makers tend to do their homework, and usually make the right picks. However, when the cycle is broken by the resilient underdog, it’s an amazing sensation, and it echoes in the memory.
In the last 18 years many a favorite has fallen at the hands of the unsuspecting challenger; the man ushered into the cage to become little more than another tally in the favored participants win column. Sometimes upsets are squeezed out on the score cards, sometimes they arrive in fast, dramatic fashion, and now and then an unforeseen variable alters the outcome of a fight. When it comes to the truly memorable upsets, there are a few that just cannot be forgotten.
Mark Coleman versus Pete Williams:
When Mark Coleman met Pete Williams at UFC 17 it was assumed that the beast who tore through the UFC 10 tournament would chew little known Pete Williams up and spit him out inside of five minutes. Williams, who trained with the Lion’s Den at the time, had different plans. Tight defensive work on the ground enabled Williams to survive Coleman’s then unrivaled ground and pound and drag the fight into deep water. Coleman, who at the time boasted a professional record of 6-1 wasn’t quite prepared for Williams’ plan, and he unloaded everything he had in the gas tank early, desperately attempting to finish Williams. 10 minutes into the competition it was obvious Pete wasn’t going anywhere, despite being on the losing end of consistently heavy punishment. 12 plus minutes in and Williams pulled out one of the most memorable rallies in history; landing a right high kick that connected flush with Mark’s face sending him crashing to the canvas unconscious.
Rashad Evans versus Chuck Liddell
These two met three years ago at UFC 88. Liddell, a former champion with a dominant run on his ledger had clearly lost a step, but still entered the fight as the favorite. Evans in contrast was still considered an unproven prospect. Approximately seven minutes of combat changed the career paths of both men, as Evans (after being dominated for the majority of the fight) timed Liddell with a perfectly place overhand right that knocked the former champion unconscious long before he even hit the canvas, a limp mound of flesh. Liddell never again showed the ability to take a big punch, as he went on to be knocked out twice more in the final fights of his career. Evans in contrast shot to the top of the food chain. He won the title, had it wrested from his waist by Lyoto Machida, but has since gone unbeaten, picking up three consecutive wins and putting himself right back into title contention.
Kazuyuki Fujita versus Mark Kerr
This fight reminds me of the aforementioned Williams/Coleman match. Mark Kerr entered the Pride Grand Prix 2000 a major favorite to win the title. At the time, he’d never tasted defeat inside of 13 fights, and he was generally considered the sports pound-for-pound king. Fujita was recognized as little more than a professional wrestler turned crash test dummy. Kerr applied plenty of pressure early in the fight, swarming Fujita, but, like Coleman, Kerr completely gassed. For every massive bomb Kerr landed on the head of Fujita, a bit of energy drained, and after absorbing enough punishment to render your average man DOA, Fujita took over, controlling the fight, and battering the visibly exhausted Kerr en route to a unanimous decision win, and one of the greatest upsets of all time.
Gabriel Gonzaga versus Mirko “Crocop” Filipovic
Crocop entered the UFC ranks fresh off his Pride 2006 open weight tournament win. The Croat was not only considered the greatest striker competing within the rules of mixed martial arts, he was also a top ranked heavyweight. After a successful debut at UFC 67 (against Eddie Sanchez), Filipovic signed to fight Gabriel Gonzaga, a massive man known for his powerful submissions more than anything else. The fight didn’t go well for the heavily favored Crocop. He was grounded early, and abused by Gonzaga, who landed a series of gruesome elbows from the top position. Somehow Crocop managed to get back to his fight, where a cruel twist of fate would bring closure to the bout inside of a single round. Crocop, who’d become famous for knocking foes out with his left high kick, motioned to defend what he believed to be a right body kick from Gonzaga; Gonzaga however wasn’t aiming for the body. A crushing high kick landed flush on the noggin of Mirko, who crashed to the canvas, his body a badly contorted display, his consciousness a distant acquaintance.
Matt Serra versus Georges St. Pierre 1
Matt Serra battled through the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter with one goal: win the tournament and claim the prize, which included an immediate opportunity to challenge then champion, Georges St. Pierre. Serra was not only successful in his goal of obtaining the title shot by winning the tournament he was also successful in pulling out an unfathomable victory. St. Pierre and Serra met for the first time at UFC 69, and “The Terror” made sure to leave his mark on the sport. Matt shook GSP early with a big looping punch that sent the champ reeling. Rather than rushing to finish, Serra picked his shots wisely, and gave St. Pierre no breathing room. Eventually floored, GSP found himself with Serra straddling him, reigning down a plethora of powerful shots that the champ just could not defend. It took Matt Serra just 3:25 to pull off one of the most shocking upsets in the sports young history.
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