The Highly Unofficial awards season continues with the biggest upsets of 2014...
The upset. It's why they fight the fights and why we keep watching, the idea that on any given night, an underdog can pull off what some said was impossible. Here are ten of the biggest upsets of 2014.
10 – Roger Narvaez-Luke Barnatt
What a difference a weight class makes. After a stoppage loss to Patrick Cummins at light heavyweight in his UFC debut, Roger Narvaez moved down to 185 pounds, but was expected by many to be just another stepping stone for rising British star Luke Barnatt. Narvaez, fired up to be fighting in his home state of Texas, didn’t care what others thought though, and he won a hard-fought split decision that gave him his first Octagon victory.
9 - Thiago Santos-Ronny Markes
After losing his UFC debut in 41 seconds to Cezar Ferreira, Thiago Santos’ UFC job security wasn’t looking too hot as he approached his March bout with Ronny Markes. Sure, Markes had lost his previous bout to Yoel Romero, but he was a swarming wrestler, a huge 185-pounder, and one who didn’t even make weight, making him an even more imposing figure. Yet Santos was on top of his game, taking just 53 seconds to get in the UFC win column and produce a knockout win that he won’t likely ever forget.
> Watch: Thiago Santos vs. Ronny Markes on UFC FIGHT PASS
8 - Zak Cummings-Yan Cabral
There are groundfighters and then there are guys like Yan Cabral, jiu-jitsu wizards who need just one mistake to make you tap. So when the unbeaten Cabral took on Zak Cummings in Cincinnati in May, it was expected that over the course of 15 minutes, the underrated Cummings would be competitive, but that he wouldn’t be able to avoid that fight-ending mistake. Well, that’s why they fight the fights, and Cummings was focused and on point from start to finish against his crafty foe, pounding out a well-deserved unanimous decision win.
> Watch: Zak Cummings vs. Yan Cabral on UFC FIGHT PASS
7 - Johnny Eduardo-Eddie Wineland
After two knockout losses in his last three fights to Renan Barao and Johnny Eduardo, you probably won’t expect Eddie Wineland to send any Christmas cards to members of Brazil’s Nova Uniao team. Yet while most expected Barao to win his title fight with Wineland last September, seeing the former WEC bantamweight champ lose to Eduardo (who had been on the shelf since 2012) was a shocker. The fact that it happened by way of knockout made it even more stunning to fight fans who expected to see Wineland fight his way back into the title picture.
> Watch: Johnny Eduardo vs. Eddie Wineland on UFC FIGHT PASS
6 – Al Iaquinta-Ross Pearson
Al Iaquinta was considered to be one of the top prospects in MMA even before debuting in the UFC after season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, but jumping from Rodrigo Damm to Ross Pearson was seen by some as too big a leap for the New Yorker. But “Raging Al” silenced any doubters with a blistering performance that ended with a second round TKO win. Now he’ll throw hands with Joe Lauzon in a UFC 183 bout next month that has Fight of the Night potential.
5 – Ben Rothwell-Alistair Overeem
When Ben Rothwell is on, he’s a legitimate threat to any heavyweight in the sport, but then again, you can say that about Alistair Overeem as well, and heading into their UFC Fight Night bout in September, it was expected that “The Reem” would dispatch his opponent, who was coming off a nearly one-year layoff, and put together the first two-fight win streak of his UFC career. And the confident Overeem started strong, but soon enough “Big Ben” lowered the boom, and at 2:19 of the first round, Rothwell had the TKO win, the most important victory of his career.
> Watch: Ben Rothwell vs. Alistair Overeem on UFC FIGHT PASS
4 - Alex Caceres-Sergio Pettis
The hype machine was strapped to Sergio Pettis’ back the first time he put on gloves, and to his credit, the brother of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis took it all in stride and delivered the kind of performances that earned him the nickname “The Phenom.” He didn’t miss a beat in his Octagon debut last November, defeating Will Campuzano, and he was on his way to another win against Alex Caceres when “Bruce Leeroy” roared back in the final round and finished the Fight of the Night scrap with a rear naked choke that came with just 21 seconds left.
> Watch: Alex Caceres vs. Sergio Pettis on UFC FIGHT PASS
3 – Rick Story-Gunnar Nelson
After going four for four to open his UFC career, Gunnar Nelson was the next big thing at 170 pounds. And he may still be, but in October, veteran Rick Story proved that he was no one’s stepping stone, and he gutted out a hard-fought five-round decision win over the Iceland native, handing “Gunni” his first pro loss in the process. Gracious in defeat, Nelson is likely to take the fight as a learning experience and get back to terrorizing the welterweight division in 2015.
2 – Rafael dos Anjos-Benson Henderson
Rafael dos Anjos is a world-class lightweight, but just four months removed from a one-sided loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, he was a decided underdog in his August bout against former 155-pound champion Benson Henderson. Brazil’s dos Anjos dismissed the odds, defeating “Smooth” in their UFC Fight Night main event. But the shocker wasn’t just that dos Anjos won, but that he won by knocking the steel-chinned Henderson out in the first round, stunning fans around the world and making a definitive statement to his peers that he had arrived.
1 - TJ Dillashaw-Renan Barao
Many called TJ Dillashaw’s May win over Renan Barao for the UFC bantamweight title the greatest upset in UFC history. I wouldn’t go that far, still holding Matt Serra’s win over Georges St-Pierre in 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. Without question, it was the biggest upset of 2014.
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