Unless you’re on the losing end, the upset is one of the greatest moments in all of combat sports. To see an underdog rise to the occasion and beat someone he or she had no business beating reminds you that no matter what fights look like on paper, the only result that matters is the one that is determined in the Octagon. Here are five of the most notable upsets of the first half of 2015.
5 – Daniel Hooker-Hatsu Hioki
Longtime featherweight contender Hatsu Hioki didn’t exactly have the most impressive UFC run thus far, but against 145-pound prospect Daniel Hooker, most observers believed he still had the experience and skill set to defeat his opponent in their May bout. Hooker was unbothered by such talk and his confidence was evident from the opening horn. But it was his striking that was Hioki’s undoing, as the Japanese vet ate a kick to the head from his foe in round two, and that was all she wrote, with the follow-up strikes from Hooker cementing his biggest victory to date. It was Hioki’s first loss by knockout in 28 pro bouts.
4 – James Vick-Jake Matthews
James Vick and Jake Matthews were both unbeaten heading into their May showdown in Adelaide, Australia, and if you were a betting man, the smart money was on Matthews being the one to keep his “0” intact. Vick had other ideas though, and despite building his perfect pro record in a lot quieter fashion than Matthews, he was just as talented as the Aussie young gun, and he proved it when he submitted his opponent via guillotine choke late in the first round.
3 – Ryan Benoit-Sergio Pettis
Sergio Pettis thought he had a fresh start in the UFC at 125 pounds when he squared off with Ryan Benoit in March, but on a bad night for Pettis and his brother Anthony, a victory just wasn’t in the cards, as Benoit survived a rough first round to stop Pettis in the second, handing “The Phenom” just his second pro loss.
2 – Maryna Moroz-Joanne Calderwood (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Maryna Moroz was unbeaten but relatively unknown – and frankly untested – entering her UFC Fight Night bout against Joanne Calderwood in April. 90 seconds later, Moroz was calling out strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and few blinked an eye when she did it, considering that she had just submitted the highly-regarded Calderwood, and didn’t just do it with a smothering ground game. Instead, the Ukrainian set up the finisher with a blistering striking attack that caught “JoJo” off guard and left her open for the fighting ending armbar.
1 – Rafael Dos Anjos-Anthony Pettis (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Anthony Pettis had everything on his side leading up to his March bout with Rafael Dos Anjos. He had come back from a long layoff to impressively submit Gilbert Melendez, he was healthy, and he wanted to fight. The UFC granted his wish, but on fight night, everything went south as soon as Dos Anjos cracked him in the eye with a left hand early in the first round, breaking his orbital bone in the process. From there, “Showtime” fought on sheer heart as Dos Anjos delivered the defining performance of his career, a 25-minute master class that resulted in a unanimous decision win and the UFC lightweight championship.
HONORABLE MENTION – Yakovlev-Maynard, Oliveira-Noons, Martins-Khabilov, Felder-Castillo, Iaquinta-Lauzon