I don’t think there is any question that Ray Mercer knocking out Tim Sylvia in 9 seconds is the biggest MMA upset of all-time. Yet, it was not the only big upset in MMA history. Mercer’s win inspired me to look back at some of the most exciting upsets in Mixed-Martial Arts.
My first exposure to MMA was the hybrid pro wrestling/MMA company UWF. I loved the quick kicks and fast wrestling. That said, my interest in MMA goes back about 20 years. Rather than go through 20 years of MMA, I figured I’d just take a look at strictly upsets that ended in knockouts or TKO over the last few years.
Keith Jardine defeating Chuck Liddell September 22, 2007 – This match took place at UFC 76: Knockout. Jardine was a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter reality show. Jardine just came off a knockout loss to Houston Alexander. After being knocked out in less than a minute, the Dean of Mean looked like easy pickings for the Iceman.
Order Ultimate Fighting Championship, Vol. 76: Knockout on DVD by clicking here.
Gabriel Gonzaga knocks out Mirko Cro Cop April 21, 2007 – This was an undercard fight at UFC 70. At the time, Cro Cop had just come over from PRIDE FC where he was one of the most dominant heavyweights in the world. Cro Cop was signed with the intention of a big money match with UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture.
This was Cro Cop’s second fight in UFC. I think the reason Brock Lesnar got a title fight in his second match was because of this fight. On paper, this was supposed to be an easy setup for Cro Cop. However, most people forget that Gonzaga was 3-0 at the time and would have been in line for Couture if not for Cro Cop’s signing.
Cro Cop nailed Gonzaga with a roundhouse kick early. It looked like it was over. However, Gonzaga responded with a rare Cro Cop takedown. Gonzaga surprisingly dominated Cro Cop on the ground. The finish was predictable, roundhouse kick to the head for a brutal knockout. The only difference was it was Gonzaga delivering the fatal blow to the most dangerous kicker in MMA. Cro Cop hasn’t been the same since.
Order Ultimate Fighting Championship, Vol. 70: Nations Collide on DVD by clicking here.
Matt Serra knocks out Georges St. Pierre April 7, 2007 – UFC 69 was headlined by St. Pierre’s first defense of the UFC welterweight title. St. Pierre would be defending against Matt Serra. Serra earned the shot by winning The Ultimate Fighter. Serra was a tremendous underdog considering the fact that he barely won his last match and St. Pierre just destroyed Matt Hughes.
I remember how much I hated the fact that Serra was getting the fight. I hated Serra on The Ultimate Fighter. He was a big mouth who hadn’t done anything. Even his final match went to a controversial decision. I had no interest in seeing such a lopsided match.
St. Pierre subsequently destroyed Serra in their rematch one-year later.
Order Ultimate Fighting Championship, Vol. 69: Shoot Out on DVD by clicking here.
Seth Petruzzelli knocks out Kimbo Slice October 4, 2008 – I hesitated putting this one on the list. However, due to Kimbo’s hype it has to be considered one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. This was the main-event of Elite XC Heat which aired live on CBS.
I hesitated because on paper, this is exactly the result that should have happened. Kimbo was a product of a hype machine coming off of his fights on You Tube. Elite made him their star attraction. Kimbo rolled through his first fights, yet had a lot of trouble in his previous fight with James Thompson. Kimbo was scheduled to fight Ken Shamrock. Petruzelli replaced Shamrock just hours before the fight when Ken got injured warming up.
There is still a lot of mystery to this fight. Petruzelli at one point claimed he was paid extra not to take Kimbo down. Regardless, Petruzelli was an experienced MMA fighter. Petruzelli was 9-4 going into the fight, including a win over Dan Severn in 2004. If it wasn’t for the Kimbo-hype, Petruzelli would have been an easy favorite going into the fight.
The fight was over in 0:14 seconds. A right hand by Petruzelli put the star of Elite XC on the ground for the knockout. Not only did Petruzelli knock out Kimbo Slice, but he knocked out Elite XC. After word got out that Petruzelli may have been paid not to take Kimbo down, Elite’s world came crashing down faster than Kimbo Slice.
UFC president Dana White said this after the fight. “What has the guy done to deserve to be in the UFC? Nothing. I don’t consider him a real athlete or anything. He won’t win The Ultimate Fighter. The offer is out there if he wants to take it and he won’t win it. I might put a heavyweight show together just for him.”
Kimbo Slice enters the UFC for the first-time this fall as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter – The Heavyweights
Order EliteXC: Primetime – Kimbo Slice vs. “Colossus” Thompson on DVD by clicking here.
Dan Henderson knocks out Wanderlei Silva February 24, 2007 – This was the main-event at PRIDE FC’s second and last United States show. PRIDE FC 33: The Second Coming featured two of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Earlier that night Nick Diaz beat Takanori Gori.
This was a rematch between Henderson and Silva. Silva defeated Henderson in their first match. What you need to keep in mind is how great of a fighter Silva was at this time. Silva was one of the fiercest fighters on the planet. Silva came into the fight with 21 knockout wins.
Henderson was known as a great fighter, but too small to beat a great light heavyweight. Even with Henderson’s credentials, nobody ever saw him as a dangerous knockout artist. This was a great match on paper which was expected to end in a knockout for Silva.
It should be noted that Wanderlei was coming off a knockout loss to Mirko Cro Cop. However, most MMA fans chalked it up to the weight difference and the fact that Cro Cop was best of the fighters in the world. This was not going to be easy, yet Wanderlei was expected to easily handle Henderson.
Henderson had two knockout wins in the past six-years leading up to the fight. Although Henderson said “I’m going to do my damndest to knock him out.” Henderson dominated Silva with knees and ground and pound in Round 1
Silva came out in the second round and tried to turn it into a slugfest. Silva pressed with kicks and punches, yet Henderson continued to counter. Henderson set up a spinning back fist beautifully which rocked Silva. Henderson followed up with a combination of strikes that knocked out the PRIDE FC middleweight champion for the win.
See all of the upsets on the Pride 33: Second Coming DVD by clicking here.
Honorable mention – Randy Couture defeating Tim Sylvia, March 3, 2007
Nick Diaz defeating Takanori Gori, February 24, 2007
Brett Rogers knocking out Andrei Arlovski, June 6, 2009
Frank Mir submitting Brock Lesnar, February 2, 2008
Forrest Griffin defeating Quinton Jackson, July 5, 2008
Robert Berry knocking out Ken Shamrock, March 8, 2008
I could go on but you get the idea. Anything can happen in MMA.
See some of the greatest knockouts in UFC history on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – Ultimate Knockouts 1 & 2 DVD by clicking here.
Create your own knockouts in the UFC Undisputed game for Xbox 360 by clicking here.
Create your own knockouts in the UFC Undisputed game for PS3 by clicking here.