With UFC 200 fast approaching, UFC.com begins its look back at the history made in the events leading up to July 9 with the 25 greatest upsets to take place in the Octagon. These were the ones that shocked the world, and a strong reminder that despite what the oddsmakers may say, this is why they fight the fights.
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UFC 1 - Royce Gracie-Ken Shamrock I
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Go back in time and re-live this upset
All you needed to do was look at Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock side-by-side to wonder, ‘How in the world is this skinny kid from Brazil’ going to beat this monster?’ Throw in the fact that Shamrock knew the “mysterious” submission game employed by Gracie as well, and the odds in his favor shot even higher. But on this night, Gracie was not to be denied as he put a new sport on the map with a brilliant three fight / three win performance that was epitomized by the victory in the second over Shamrock.
UFC 3 - Keith Hackney-Emmanuel Yarborough
UFC FIGHT PASS members: You can see it all again here
In the early days of the UFC, it was hard to get a read on some of the competitors in this brand new fighting promotion, so you usually judged fighters by their appearance. And when 200 pound Keith Hackney faced off against 600-pound Emmanuel Yarborough, you feared for Hackney’s safety. Well, at least you did until the fight started and Hackney dropped his opponent with the first strike he landed. From there, it was all Hackney as he halted Yarborough in less than two minutes.
UFC 4 – Royce Gracie-Dan Severn
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Don't just imagine it - watch it again
With 10 wins and no losses in the UFC, Royce Gracie was the undisputed king of the early Octagon. But the man many believed to have his number was a former college wrestling star known as “The Beast”, Dan Severn. And as Severn romped over his first two opponents in the 1994 tournament, and then battered Gracie through the first 15 minutes of their final bout, it was no surprise to anyone. But then Gracie pulled off a triangle choke at the 15:49 mark, the crowd roared, and a legend’s legacy was cemented for all time.
UFC 14 – Maurice Smith-Mark Coleman
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Replay the fight here
Just as Jiu-Jitsu ruled the early days of the Octagon, wrestling had taken over in 1996. As 1997 dawned, the man on the top of the heap was “The Godfather of Ground and Pound,” Mark Coleman. But kickboxing star Maurice Smith was about to turn the MMA world on its ear, and at UFC 14, he stunned observers with a style that was soon to be known as “Sprawl and Brawl.” Smith tossed off Coleman’s takedown attempts and pounded out a decision win that earned him the UFC heavyweight title and handed “The Hammer” his first-ever loss.
UFC 15 - Randy Couture-Vitor Belfort I
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Watch Couture hand Belfort his first UFC defeat ever
As you can tell with a quick glance of this list, Randy Couture made a career out of beating the oddsmakers, and it all began with his October 1997 thrashing of then-unbeaten Vitor Belfort. At the time, the question wasn’t who would eventually beat “The Phenom,” but if he would lose at all. Couture took all of eight minutes and 17 seconds to answer both questions as he pounded out a TKO victory.
UFC 17 – Pete Williams-Mark Coleman
UFC FIGHT PASS members: You can watch this fight again here
Despite his loss to Maurice Smith 10 months earlier, Mark Coleman was still “The Hammer” and still a feared man in the Octagon. Originally scheduled to face fellow wrestler Randy Couture, Coleman was instead matched with young prospect Pete Williams. The Lions Den product made an immediate name for himself with a highlight reel head kick knockout of an exhausted Coleman at the 12:38 mark of their 1998 bout.
UFC 35 - Jens Pulver-BJ Penn I
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Experience Pulver's comeback win here
Despite his status as UFC lightweight champion and a veteran competitor of the sport, Jens Pulver was a prohibitive underdog when he took on “The Prodigy,” BJ Penn, at UFC 35 in 2002. For two rounds, the oddsmakers were right, as Penn dominated and almost submitted the champion at the end of Round 2. But for the next three rounds, “Lil’ Evil” emerged, pounding out a five-round majority decision that was the time capsule moment in the career of the UFC’s popular (and first) lightweight champion.
Countdown to UFC 200
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UFC 38 – Ian Freeman-Frank Mir
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Go back in time and watch this fight again
In 2002, Frank Mir was the UFC’s Golden Boy in-waiting, a charismatic young heavyweight with off-the-charts talent. Ian Freeman, competing in front of his countrymen in the UFC’s first visit to England, was a grizzled veteran fighting with a heavy heart due to the illness of his father. Inspired, Freeman shocked Mir and the world with an emotional first-round TKO win. But the celebration was tempered by the news that Freeman’s father had passed away shortly before the bout. “The Machine” was not told until after the fight concluded.
UFC 43 – Randy Couture-Chuck Liddell I
UFC FIGHT PASS members: See how Couture stunned Liddell
After taking back-to-back losses at heavyweight to the much-bigger Ricco Rodriguez and Josh Barnett, Randy Couture’s drop to the 205 pound weight class was seen as a move of desperation to save a career on the downswing. Facing the feared Chuck Liddell in his first light heavyweight bout was just going to hasten Couture’s demise. But the one person not counting Couture out was the man himself, and he not only beat Liddell, he stopped him in the third round and began the second act of one of the fight game’s most amazing careers.
UFC 46 – BJ Penn-Matt Hughes I
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Re-watch 'The Prodigy' pulling off the upset
BJ Penn came up short in his two previous shots at UFC gold, losing to Jens Pulver and drawing with Caol Uno. What made him think that he could beat Matt Hughes, and 15 pounds north at welterweight to boot? It’s the confidence that made “The Prodigy” one of the greats, and he delivered a defining performance in submitting a stunned Hughes at 4:39 of the first round to win the UFC 170-pound title.
UFC 47 – Nick Diaz-Robbie Lawler
UFC FIGHT PASS members: See Diaz' stunning win over Lawler
A no-nonsense knockout artist, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler was turning into the UFC’s version of Mike Tyson and the fans loved him for it. Even an injury induced loss to Pete Spratt didn’t quiet the buzz around Lawler, but Jiu-Jitsu ace Nick Diaz certainly did the trick with his stunning one punch finish of Lawler. Diaz was no Buster Douglas, as he went on to a successful career of his own in the ensuing years.
UFC 57 – Marcio Cruz-Frank Mir
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Watch the Cruz-Mir clash again
Less than two years removed from a serious motorcycle accident that took his UFC heavyweight title and almost his life, Frank Mir returned to the Octagon in February 2006 to face Jiu-Jitsu specialist Marcio Cruz at UFC 57. But this wasn’t the same Mir who was on top of the world a couple of years earlier, and Cruz proved it by bloodying and stopping the former champion in the first round. It wouldn’t be until 2007 that the “real” Mir once again made his presence known.
UFC 63 – Joe Lauzon-Jens Pulver
UFC FIGHT PASS members: See Lauzon's 1-minute win over Pulver
After more than four years away, Jens Pulver’s return to the UFC in 2006 was supposed to be a celebration. And it was – for opponent Joe Lauzon, who knocked out “Lil’ Evil” in less than a minute, derailing the former lightweight champion’s comeback momentarily. As for Lauzon, he was back in work on Monday morning as an IT professional.
UFC 68 – Randy Couture-Tim Sylvia
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Experience Couture's win at UFC 68 again
Sure, it was Randy Couture, but after the former heavyweight and light heavyweight champion’s year long layoff (and knockout losses in two of his previous three fights), finding someone picking “The Natural” to beat the 6-foot-8 Sylvia was near impossible. But Couture pulled off yet another miracle in winning a shutout five round decision, delighting a packed house at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, in the process.
UFC 69 – Matt Serra-Georges St-Pierre I
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Be a part of the Serra upset over St-Pierre again
2007 was the year of the upset. Matt Serra’s stoppage of Georges St-Pierre was not only the biggest upset of that year, but perhaps of all time. And the Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt did it with his fists, not his ground game, as he clipped GSP early and kept punching until referee John McCarthy halted the bout, raising the hand of the new welterweight champion.
Related: Retirement keeps Serra busier than ever and 'Lookin' for fights'
UFC 70 – Gabriel Gonzaga-Mirko Cro Cop
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Feel the Gonzaga kick that upset Cro Cop
Sure, Gabriel Gonzaga was an underdog against the feared Croatian striker, but there were more than a few people who figured the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt had the right stuff to beat Cro Cop – on the ground. Beating Cro Cop with a single kick to the head? Those are the kinds of odds that wouldn’t even show up in Vegas. But Gonzaga pulled it off, earning himself a shot at the heavyweight title and a permanent spot in UFC highlight reels.
UFC 76 – Forrest Griffin-Mauricio Rua
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Watch Griffin's dominating upset win
No one thought Forrest Griffin was going to lie down and take a beating from high-profile PRIDE import Mauricio Rua when they met in Anaheim in 2007. Griffin was going to show up, be competitive, swing for the fences, and eventually get put away by ‘Shogun’ – at least that’s what the Hollywood script called for. Griffin didn’t get the memo though, and he not only beat Rua, he dominated him, putting the icing on the cake with a submission in the final minute to cap the upset victory.
Related: Legends Liddell, Griffin named coaches for third season of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America
UFC 90 – Junior Dos Santos-Fabricio Werdum
UFC FIGHT PASS members: See how JDS made a name for himself at UFC 90
If you didn’t know who Junior Dos Santos was before October 25, 2008, you were not alone. But if you still didn’t know who this Brazilian bomber was after his 81-second demolition of Fabricio Werdum at UFC 90, where have you been? In a little over a minute, Dos Santos smashed his way into the rankings with a ferocious KO of the consensus Top-Five Werdum, and suddenly, this young man had plenty of fans around the MMA world waiting to see what he was going to do next.
UFC 112 - Frankie Edgar-BJ Penn I
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Flash back to Edgar's first uspet of BJ Penn
Few outside of his native New Jersey gave Frankie Edgar a shot at defeating BJ Penn for the UFC lightweight title in their April 2010 bout. But with crisp striking and effective movement, as well as a couple of points-scoring takedowns, Edgar stunned fans at Abu Dhabi with a unanimous decision win. And if that wasn’t enough, Edgar repeated the feat in more dominant fashion four months later at UFC 118, proving that the first win was no fluke.
UFC 132 - Tito Ortiz-Ryan Bader
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Re-watch Ortiz stun Bader
If you picked 36-year-old Tito Ortiz to defeat Ryan Bader at UFC 132 in July 2011, you probably did so for sentimental reasons. Why? Because the former light heavyweight champion had shown nothing in his previous five fights (a 0-4-1 stretch) that would make you think he could turn the tide against young powerhouse Bader. But he did, shocking Bader with a flush punch to the jaw and then finishing matters with a guillotine choke that ignited the MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd and resurrected Ortiz’ career.
UFC 162 – Anderson Silva-Chris Weidman I
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Feel Weidman's stunning first victory over Silva
It’s a daunting task to fight someone who hasn’t lost in more than seven years in the UFC, especially when that opponent has been deemed the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all-time. When undefeated Chris Weidman faced Anderson Silva for the 185-pound title in July 2013, the New Yorker was unmoved by the odds against him. He proved it on fight night, nearly submitting the Brazilian legend in the first round before scoring a stunning second-round knockout.
Related: New York's greatest UFC fighters | Weidman can't wait to fight in NY's famed MSG
UFC 173 - TJ Dillashaw-Renan Barao
UFC FIGHT PASS members: See for yourself how Dillashaw stopped Barao
Many called TJ Dillashaw’s May 2014 win over Renan Barao for the UFC bantamweight title the greatest upset in UFC history. Matt Serra’s win over Georges St-Pierre likely holds that top spot, but Dillashaw-Barao certainly belongs in the Top Five, especially when you look at Barao’s dominance at 135 pounds and his 35-fight unbeaten streak. But on this night in Las Vegas, it was all Dillashaw, as the Californian put on a master class before finishing the bout in the fifth round.
UFC 193 - Holly Holm-Ronda Rousey
UFC FIGHT PASS members: Watch the kick heard 'round the world
In a 2015 where Ronda Rousey was called the most dominant athlete in sports and was coming off title defense wins over Cat Zingano and Bethe Correia that took a combined 48 seconds, it was no surprise that the UFC women’s bantamweight champion was a prohibitive favorite over Holly Holm. But the former three-division women’s boxing champion was no slouch, and in front of a record crowd in Australia, Holm proved it, stunning the world with a second-round knockout win over “Rowdy” Ronda.
UFC 196 - Nate Diaz-Conor McGregor
Nate Diaz is one of the top fighters in the world, and he proved it at UFC 196 in March by submitting Conor McGregor in the second round. But what makes this one of the Octagon’s great upsets was McGregor’s standing in the MMA world heading into the bout. Unbeaten in seven UFC bouts, Dublin’s “Notorious” one was coming off a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo and was scheduled to challenge lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos before the Brazilian was forced from the bout due to injury. Factor in Diaz taking the fight at 170 pounds on short notice, and the scene was set for another big McGregor win. But Stockton’s finest turned the tables on the Irishman.
UFC 199 – Michael Bisping-Luke Rockhold
Nearly 10 years after his UFC debut, Michael Bisping had always come up just short of getting a title fight, and when he did get a crack at the belt at UFC 199, it was on two weeks’ notice against a champion in Luke Rockhold who had already submitted him in 2014. But never underestimate the power of will and as Bisping called it, “destiny,” and at 37, he shook up the MMA world by knocking Rockhold out in the first round to win the UFC middleweight title. From “Count” to “King,” all in the space of three minutes and 36 seconds.
For more lists like these, pick up UFC: A Visual History at the UFC Store