The Biggest Title Fight Upsets in UFC History

 

Snapstats: The Biggest Upsets in the History of UFC Title Fights

By @Fightnomics

 

Renan Barao is a monster. Or so we’ve been told. Going into UFC 173 the former UFC Bantamweight Champion had not lost since his professional debut back in 2005, 35 fights prior. And in his most recent performance, he stopped Team Alpha Male captain Urijah Faber. The most Alpha-est male of all was TKO’d in the first round. Then comes TJ Dillashaw, promoted from Sacramento’s JV team to be the next contender and written off as a seven-to-one underdog by the betting public.

But someone forgot to tell Dillashaw that he was going to lose. From the opening bell he dominated the fight, hurting Barao early, winning rounds, and eventually getting the TKO finish late in the final frame. It was the biggest upset in UFC title fight history, surpassing the likes of underdog champions like Matt Serra and Frankie Edgar. And this weekend we’ll get to see these two square off again – this time with Dillashaw as a slight favorite. What a difference a fight makes.

So in honor of TJ Dillashaw’s record breaking performance, here’s the full list of the biggest upsets in UFC title fight history. Which ones surprise you the most?

Click to enlarge:

UFC Biggest Title Fight Upsets

Upsets happen at a predictable rate in MMA. Odds here are mostly provided by 5Dimes.com, except for some older fights where the best source available was used. For more on the nuances and accuracy of historical betting odds, get the book “Fightnomics” at Amazon.

It’s worth noting that 10 of the top 16 biggest championship upsets were finishes, something that is also true for regular (non-title) MMA fights. When a big upset happens, more often than not it’s a TKO or submission set up by a knockdown. This is the proverbial puncher’s chance that continuously haunts the Octagon and the gamblers of the world. However, TJ Dillashaw tops the list and yet he was also clearly winning rounds before the eventual finish, making the record he now holds all the more impressive. It’s hard to say it was a fluke for five rounds.

In the number two spot is Frankie Edgar in his (first) upset of BJ Penn at UFC 112. The betting public was so shocked by his victory, they made him a big underdog again in their rematch at UFC 118 four months later. Some guys just don’t get the respect they deserve!

Third on the list is the man most people think of when considering title fight upsets: Matt “the Terror” Serra. His TKO upset of Georges St-Pierre was at the time unprecedented, capping off an unlikely run through a veteran-based season four of the Ultimate Fighter that offered the show’s tournament winners a title shot (which remains a fantastic idea, by the way, whenever a champ has a long injury layoff). GSP 2.0 would return to claim his belt in the rematch, and would then go a ridiculous (and still technically active) 12-fight win streak. But that one night in Houston reminded everyone that no champion is invincible.

Six of the biggest title fight upsets came from a rotating cast of heavyweights involving Frank Mir, Tim Sylvia, Randy Couture, and other famous names from the UFC glory years. It seems back then that no one could hold onto a belt for very long, especially at heavyweight.

In more recent years, Chris Weidman and Demetrious Johnson have both captured UFC belts as big underdogs. But Weidman not only upset Anderson Silva once, he did again (like Frankie Edgar) in a rematch as an underdog once again, albeit a smaller one not worthy of being on the list.

And let’s not forget Forrest Griffin, the blue collar yeoman of Ultimate Fighter Season 1 fame. His unlikely title shot came against PRIDE crossover Rampage Jackson, and took five full rounds to complete. Griffin made never have nearly as flashy as Rampage, but the UFC Hall of Fame has certainly rewarded Griffin’s contributions to the sport.

If we count seasons of the Ultimate Fighter as being at least an accolade or “title” of sorts, there’s been a solid share of upsets there as well. Six TUF winners overcame a betting line of +240 or more on their way to being the winner of the coveted “six figure contract.”

UFC Biggest TUF Title Upsets

Apparently watching a TUF tournament isn’t a great method of research for the finals, as many of these upsets occurred in three-round decisions, although these guys certainly helped deliver surprise endings to the show. Unfortunately, history hasn’t been kind to the top winners on this list, as the top three are no longer with the UFC. It remains to be seen about the prospects of the other three, but so far so good.

Remember, in MMA every underdog is a live one. And this time around, that means Renan Barao shouldn’t be written off too early against Dillashaw.

“Fightnomics” the book is now available on Amazon!
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