Jordan Newmark looks back at the biggest upsets that have taken place in the Octagon thus far in 2013...
We’re four months and 11 events into 2013 and have already witnessed a new slate of incredible Octagon upsets. Here are ten of the best UFC fights from this year where the underdog came out on top.
It wasn’t just the betting odds that Mark Hunt overcame, as the “Super Samoan” felled a giant with a series of punches that would make Rocky Balboa jealous. In the co-main event heavyweight struggle, the 5’10” Hunt went head-to-chest with the 7’ Stefan Struve in an action packed fight which saw Hunt win on the feet and, surprisingly, the floor. Struve had a good foot height and reach advantage on the former K-1 kickboxing champ Hunt, but it was Struve’s submission specialty that was potentially the most dangerous aspect of this fight. Shockingly, Hunt got the better of the ground game as well. The punching power of Hunt was just too much in the end, as he landed fist bombs to not only finish Struve for a Knockout of the Night, but break the “Skyscraper’s” jaw.
With the help of the ghosts of PRIDE haunting the Saitama Super Arena, Wanderlei Silva fought one more time with those frenzied fists that gilded his legendary career in Japan. Most doubted whether “The Axe Murderer” still had the ability to stand in the pocket and grip & rip punches with the top fighters of today, let alone a fellow knockout artist like Brian Stann. On paper, there was zero chance this main event would go the distance, but no one expected the wild, gut check scrap that took place. A ferocious nine minutes of action contained fight ending punches thrown with reckless abandon, and for two rounds, PRIDE-era Silva fans got to enter a time machine and see their hero deliver a Knockout of the Night and a Fight of the Night once again.
In a battle of red beards, Jersey’s Jim Miller took on Strikeforce’s final #1 contender Pat “Bam Bam” Healy. Coming off a Fight of the Night and Fight of the Year performance against Joe Lauzon in December, Miller rode a tidal wave into the Prudential Center as the triumphant hometown hero. After a solid first round, Miller’s unstoppable force hit the immovable object that was the bigger Healy. In the final two rounds, Healy grinded away on Miller with takedowns and top position, which led to only the second stoppage of Miller’s career. The win netted “Bam Bam” two bonuses, FOTN and SOTN, which, thanks to a loquacious Bryan Caraway, were $65,000 each instead of the usual $50k.
These two California cagefighters from rival Bay area gyms were in a remarkably similar spot, both coming off of disappointing decision losses for their respective lightweight championships. With that being said, the rangy boxer and BJJ black belt Nate Diaz was seen as the slight favorite against cardio-machine Josh Thomson in his return to the Octagon. The true upset was in the wildly unexpected TKO finish of the granite-chinned Diaz from “The Punk,” who is known more for speed than power. While Thomson’s perfectly timed right shin will live on, what might get lost in the history of this fight was the very rare action of a corner literally throwing in the towel to save the very groggy but not out Diaz. Although a decade apart, Thomson earned his second stoppage win in the UFC and a Knockout of the Night bonus.
In her first televised fight, “Alpha” Cat Zingano defeated a former Strikeforce champion, earned a UFC title shot, became a coach on the next season of TUF, was awarded a Fight of the Night bonus, and made history as the first mom to win a fight inside the Octagon. The betting odds and the first two rounds went to the younger but more experienced Miesha “Cupcake” Tate. It was in that final round where Zingano pushed the pedal to the metal with an onslaught of knees and elbows against the fence that eventually bloodied and dropped Tate, causing the referee to intervene. An upset, a come from behind win, and an impactful introduction by Zingano to the UFC faithful.
It was Team Sonnen’s “hype train” vs. “unsung hero” as the most high-profile prospect in the house, Uriah Hall, took on the most overlooked, Kelvin Gastelum. The 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter was more or less an ever expanding highlight reel for Hall as he finished all three opponents by crazy knockouts: spinning head kick, one punch, and elbows from the bottom. At the same time, Gastelum finished all three of his opponents, but was marginalized from the very beginning for his youth and not hailing from a famous gym. When it came to the finale fight night, Gastelum didn’t let his opponent’s aura or the pressure of the moment get to him, and he fought a good, clean fight to a decision victory, crowning him the youngest TUF winner.
4. Robbie Lawler TKO1 Josh Koscheck - UFC 157<br>
They say you never can go home again, but Robbie Lawler looked like the “Ruthless” of old inside the Octagon as a newly minted welterweight. After a near nine year absence from the UFC, Lawler returned with authority in a Knockout of the Night award-winning performance over perennial top contender Josh Koscheck in February. The former NCAA Division I National Champion wrestler Koscheck has faced the best competition that the UFC has had to offer since 2005 and only been stopped by strikes one time previously, and the former number one contender was certainly seen as the favorite in this return to the Octagon and to the 170 pound division for Lawler. But, even with his spotty win/loss ratio in Strikeforce, “Ruthless” is one of the most consistent fight finishing threats, as he has recorded all 10 of his wins over the past seven years by KO/TKO and this was no different, as he landed hard shots early en route to a first round victory.
England’s own Tom “Kong” Watson had a disappointing UFC debut by dropping a decision to Brad Tavares in his home country, but in his second trip into the Octagon in front of his countrymen, Watson took on the undefeated Bulgarian brawler Stanislav Nedkov. The tangle started well for Watson as he took control with a Thai plum and knees to the body, but with less than a minute remaining, Nedkov’s heavy hands went to work and he nearly finished “Kong” in the closing seconds of the first. As round two got underway, Nedkov continued with more heavy leather and a few takedowns, but Watson worked through it, and got back to standing, and back to that Thai plum. Eventually, the body punishment of knees and punches from Watson paid dividends as he dropped Nedkov for good, which earned Watson’s bank account both a Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night bonus.
If the boss loves it then you know you’re doing something right. There were many impressive performances at UFC 156 in February, but none caught UFC President Dana White’s attention more than the undercard’s late third round Submission of the Night stoppage of Jacob Volkmann by debuting Strikeforce lightweight Bobby Green. Volkmann easily took the first five minutes using his vaunted grappling skills as a 3x NCAA Division I All-American. The second round saw Green implementing solid ground and pound before a controversial stand-up by the referee, which cost Green his best position up to that point in the bout. Green wouldn’t let anything stop him though, as he manhandled Volkmann in the third with vicious elbows from the top position, which caused Volkmann to give up his back and allow Green the opportunity for the fight finishing rear naked choke.
Following the verbal exchange at the pre-fight press conference, this co-main event quickly became the most provocative heavyweight matchup without a title on the line. While many thought this bout would end as soon as it started, the opening two rounds went as expected, with the former K-1 kickboxing champion Alistair Overeem picking Antonio Silva apart with quicker and more accurate strikes. There was an abrupt change in momentum when “Bigfoot” finally returned fire on Overeem in the waning moments of the second round. When the fight commenced in the third, Silva wasted no time in clubbing the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion against the cage, earning a win, a Knockout of the Night, and respect.