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The Upsets | 2021 Half-Year Awards

The Fighters Who Shocked Audiences Worldwide Through The First Six Months Of The Year

With 22 events in the books, the first half of 2021 is complete for the UFC, and as we await the beginning of the second half of the year to begin with UFC 264 on July 10, we’ll take a look back at the best fighters and performances to grace the Octagon thus far.

Pre-Order UFC 264: Poirier vs McGregor 3 Here

Today, it’s the biggest upsets of the first half of 2021 and how we saw them on fight night:

5. Beneil Dariush vs Tony Ferguson

Beneil Dariush punches Tony Ferguson in their lightweight bout during the UFC 262 event at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Beneil Dariush punches Tony Ferguson in their lightweight bout during the UFC 262 event at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Beneil Dariush's seventh consecutive win was clearly his biggest, as he shut out former UFC interim champion Tony Ferguson over three rounds in the UFC 262 co-main event.

Scores were 30-27 across the board for the No.9-ranked Dariush, now 21-4-1. The No.5-ranked Ferguson, who has lost three in a row, falls to 26-6.

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Dariush put the pressure on Ferguson from the start and after landing several strikes, he put the fight on the mat in the second minute. Both fighters stayed busy there, but Dariush’s control from the top position until the end of the first round was the best visual for the judges.

The fight went back to the mat as round two began, this time with Ferguson trying to sink in a D’Arce choke, but eventually “El Cucuy” was forced to release the hold, allowing Dariush to resume his ground attack from the top position. A scramble with two minutes left put Ferguson in trouble as Dariush looked for a heel hook, but he was able to get free. Dariush’s lead was getting bigger, though, putting Ferguson in a position where he needed a third-round finish to win.

A slam by Dariush floored Ferguson once again, and the surging contender wasn’t about to let him back up. And he didn’t, as Dariush controlled the action once more until the final horn sounded.

4. Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor 2

Dustin Poirier greets Conor McGregor of Ireland after his victory in their lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Dustin Poirier greets Conor McGregor of Ireland after his victory in their lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Former interim UFC lightweight champion Dustin Poirier made it a point to say in the lead-up to his rematch with Conor McGregor at UFC 257 that six years is a long time, and he was right, as the result of his second go-round with the Irish superstar was quite different than the first one, as he evened the score with a second-round TKO victory.

“I’m happy, but not surprised,” said Poirier, who was stopped in the first round by McGregor in their first bout in September 2014. “I put in the work.”

“Dustin is some fighter,” said McGregor, who made his first start since a win over Donald Cerrone in January 2020. “I need activity. You don’t get away with being inactive in this business.”

McGregor had success early, as he got in Poirier’s face immediately, yet after a brief exchange, Poirier scored a takedown 30 seconds into the fight. McGregor worked his way back to his feet and the two traded shoulder strikes as they battled in the clinch against the fence. With three minutes left, McGregor was still locked up, but he landed a few knees before breaking free with a little over 90 seconds to go. McGregor scored with a hard right hand that was answered by a hook from Poirier, both proceeding to go back and forth until the horn.

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Poirier attacked McGregor’s leg to kick off round two, while McGregor’s punch accuracy continued to impress. Poirier took the shots well and stayed busy, and after stunning McGregor with a left hand against the fence, he unloaded with both hands, ultimately dropping the Irishman with a right hand. Another big right hand followed, and referee Herb Dean stepped in, stopping the fight at 2:32 of round two.

“We’re 1-1,” said Poirier. “Maybe we have to do it again.”

With the win, the No. 2-ranked Poirier moves to 27-6 with 1 NC. The No. 4-ranked McGregor falls to 22-5.

The Trilogy Concludes July 10 | Order UFC 264: Poirier vs McGregor 3

3. Terrance McKinney vs Matt Frevola

Terrance McKinney Notches One Of The Fastest KOs In UFC History | UFC 263
Terrance McKinney Notches One Of The Fastest KOs In UFC History | UFC 263
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Eight days after an LFA win, newcomer Terrance McKinney made a spectacular short-notice debut in the Octagon, scoring the fourth fastest finish in UFC history with a seven-second finish of Matt Frevola.

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As soon as the two lightweights were waved into battle, they touched gloves and then McKinney landed a quick 1-2 that put Frevola on the canvas. Seconds later, the follow-up barrage brought in referee Jason Herzog to stop the fight at :07 of the opening stanza, making it the fastest finish in UFC lightweight history.

With the win, McKinney moves to 11-3. Frevola falls to 8-3-1.

MORE HALF-YEAR AWARDS: The Newcomers

2. Jan Blachowicz vs Israel Adesanya

Jan Blachowicz of Poland punches Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in their UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jan Blachowicz of Poland punches Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in their UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz cemented his place atop the 205-pound division in the main event of UFC 259 with an impressive, workmanlike effort in defeating middleweight champ Israel Adesanya via unanimous decision.

In the process, he handed Adesanya his first pro loss and spoiled the Nigeria native’s attempt to become the fifth simultaneous two-division champ in UFC history.

Scores were 49-46, 49-45, 49-45 for Blachowicz, who made his first successful title defense in improving to 28-8. Adesanya falls to 20-1.

Adesanya was the busier of the two as the fight began, Blachowicz marching forward and knowing that he only needed to be right once in order to end the fight against the 185-pound boss. Adesanya was giving him enough to think about, though, as he was leading the action and not waiting to counter.

The fight heated up in the second, with Blachowicz getting more aggressive with his attacks. Adesanya kept mixing up his strikes, and coupled with his feints, he was keeping Blachowicz off balance. Midway through the round, Blachowicz locked up for the first time with the challenger, but Adesanya broke free quickly and resumed his steady stream of kicks with the occasional punch tossed in. A low kick by Adesanya brought a brief halt to the bout with a little under 90 seconds left, but the fight resumed quickly, Adesanya remaining the busier fighter.

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Blachowicz got off to a fast start in round three, landing some hard punches before scoring a brief takedown. That sequence seemed to fire up the challenger, who began scoring with more telling blows. With a little over three minutes left, Blachowicz clinched with Adesanya against the fence, but “The Last Stylebender” stayed busy and broke loose. Down the stretch, each fighter got in solid blows before a late clinch by the champion.

As the fourth began, Blachowicz clinched briefly before landing with a hard right followed by a stiff jab. In the second minute, Adesanya got flat-footed and fired away, but that opened him up for a Blachowicz takedown. Using his size effectively, Blachowicz leaned on Adesanya and got into side control with a little over a minute left. Strikes followed from the Poland native, who kept Adesanya grounded until the horn.

Blachowicz’ jab was sharp early in the fifth round, and Adesanya responded in kind, seemingly the fresher of the two fighters. But midway through the frame, the champion got a much-needed takedown. Adesanya tried to scramble his way free, but Blachowicz wasn’t having it, and he stayed busy, finishing the round on top.

1. Anthony Hernandez vs Rodolfo Vieira

Anthony Hernandez attempts to secure a choke submission against Rodolfo Vieira of Brazil in their middleweight fight during the UFC 258 event at UFC APEX on February 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Anthony Hernandez attempts to secure a choke submission against Rodolfo Vieira of Brazil in their middleweight fight during the UFC 258 event at UFC APEX on February 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Anthony Hernandez delivered a shocker in middleweight action as he submitted the previously unbeaten Rodolfo Vieira in the second round.

Vieira (7-1) dropped Hernandez to the mat within 20 seconds, and moments later he had Hernandez in deep trouble as he moved into the mount. Hernandez hung tough, forcing Vieira to look for an arm before the two rose to their feet. Vieira kept the pressure on against the fence, and once they broke with under two minutes left, Hernandez fired off strikes, rocking Vieira before attempting a choke. Again, they separated, and Hernandez had Vieira hurt and on the verge of a stoppage before the horn saved the Brazilian.

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Hernandez (8-2, 1 NC) kept the heat on in round two, and he continued to rock the exhausted Vieira, cutting him with an elbow before getting him to the mat and stunning the MMA world by submitting the decorated jiu-jitsu black belt with a guillotine choke at 1:53 of the second frame.

Also receiving votes – Namajunas-Zhang, Muniz-Souza, Di Chirico-Buckley, Lewis-Blaydes, Nzechukwu-Ulberg, Sterling-Yan, Li-Ponzinibbio, Moreno-Figueiredo 2, Phillips-Song

VOTERS – Thomas Gerbasi, Christoph Goessing, Cory Kamerschak, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, Gavin Porter