Mixed martial arts has had its share of upsets. Any time you have two guys hurling thinly-padded fists at one another’s faces, it’s always going to be somewhat unpredictable. That’s why we see so few perfect records in this sport. Anybody can get caught. Anybody can have a bad night.
2007 has been a particularly good year for upsets in MMA, and we still have two months to go. Narrowing it down to the ten biggest upsets is no easy task, but here goes anyway.
10. Nick Diaz def. Takanori Gomi
Gomi was a lot of people’s choice for pound-for-pound best before Diaz beat him. Though it would later be ruled a no contest because of Diaz’s positive drug test for marijuana, the fans haven’t forgotten how bad Diaz made Gomi look.
The gogoplata he used to finish the fight was excellent, but not quite as great as this post-fight quote from Diaz: “I boxed him up. I gogo’d him. Put me in a f*****g magazine or something. F***.”
Ask me again why I’m a Nick Diaz fan. I dare you.
9. Yoshihiro Akiyama def. Denis Kang
Akiyama was a Judo fighter who’d participated in his share of MMA sideshows before his bout with rising star Kang (his first fight was against boxer Francois “The White Buffalo” Botha, for Pete’s sake). But when he sent Kang’s mouthpiece spiraling into the Korean night a few weeks ago, he sent a clear message that he was to be taken seriously.
Almost as surprising as his victory was his complete willingness to stand and trade punches with Kang. If this keeps up, Akiyama could be a major MMA talent.
8. Dan Henderson def. Wanderlei Silva
Not only was Henderson considered too small to beat a top light heavyweight, but he’d already dropped a decision to Silva earlier in his career. That’s why plenty of fans were shocked when Hendo knocked Silva into a different dimension with a vicious left hook.
The question now is whether Silva can rebound against Liddell, as well as whether Henderson will finally give in and move down to middleweight to fight Anderson Silva. My guess is if the check has enough zeroes on it, Henderson will drop the weight even if he has to ingest a tapeworm to do it.
7. Houston Alexander def. Keith Jardine
Alexander was relatively unknown when he planted Jardine facedown on the UFC mat. He needed only a few brief moments to prove that he is worth remembering in that fight, and plenty of insiders would have lost their house betting on “The Dean of Mean” in that one.
Since then Alexander TKO’d Alessio Sakara, but that’s hardly a step up in competition. Coming soon, Alexander vs. Rua?
6. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Sokoudjou had never fought on a major MMA card when he knocked out Nogueira (or “Little Nog”, to you Pride purists) in the first round. In fact, it was only his fourth pro fight, but it certainly was memorable.
When the naysayers claimed it was a fluke, Sokoudjou silenced them by doing the same thing to Ricardo Arona. The total combined time of the two bouts was less than two and a half minutes. So that’s how long it takes for lightning to strike twice, apparently.
5. Forrest Griffin def. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Rua came over from Pride with a serious win streak (if you don’t count his injury loss to Mark Coleman, and I don’t) and Griffin was starting to look a guy who’d already reached his limit as a fighter before this fight. Not only did Griffin outwork “Shogun”, he stole his heart and submitted him to cap it all off.
Consider Griffin’s career officially revived.
4. Keith Jardine def. Chuck Liddell
This match seemed like it would be little more than a walk-through for Liddell, who needed a win after his knockout loss to “Rampage” Jackson. UFC president Dana White made the fight between Liddell and Jardine and promised Liddell a bout with Wanderlei Silva if he won…only he didn’t.
Liddell got picked apart by Jardine, who was supposed to be a tailor-made opponent for “The Iceman”. It was undoubtedly the biggest victory of Jardine’s career, even if Liddell still got the fight with Silva and Jardine still seems stuck in UFC limbo. Oh well.
3. Gabriel Gonzaga def. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic
When the UFC announced that Pride defector “Cro Cop” would take on Gonzaga with the winner getting a shot at Randy Couture’s heavyweight title, most of us wondered why they didn’t just give “Cro Cop” the fight and save some time. Then Gonzaga knocked Filipovic out with his own favorite weapon – the high kick – and we all stared in stunned silence at our TV’s.
Gonzaga would later get his nose relocated to another part of his face by Couture, and “Cro Cop” would manage to look even less inspired against Cheick Kongo, but what can you do? It was still a great moment for Gonzaga.
2. Randy Couture def. Tim Sylvia
I know it sounds ridiculous, knowing what we know now, to call any victory by Randy Couture an upset. But at the time he was coming out of retirement following two consecutive knockouts in the light heavyweight division, so fighting for the heavyweight strap at forty-three years old seemed like a certifiably insane idea. Turns out it was a pretty good career move.
1. Matt Serra def. Georges St. Pierre
I would say that no one saw this upset coming, except Renzo Gracie admitted to making a bundle betting on his former student Serra to win the welterweight title. Assuming Serra shared Gracie’s faith in him, that makes about two people who weren’t absolutely shocked.
Now we’re all waiting to find out whether Serra will go down as MMA’s answer to Buster Douglas when he fights rival Matt Hughes for the belt in December. Maybe we should just ask Renzo where he’s putting his money.