2014 was an interesting year when it came to upsets. While the greatest of all time was not upset, there was certainly an upset this year that was comparable. Looking back things could have gone a completely different way.
Please note that TUF exhibition matches are eligible for this category. Again these matches were voted on by the writers here at MMA Freak and because of the varied opinions, there were several matches that were nominated but didn’t receive enough votes:
-Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez – UFC 181 saw the return of Pettis by a second round submission which was also a comeback.
-Felice Herrig vs. Randa Markos – TUF 20 Dark Horse Markos pulled yet another upset against Herrig in episode 9 in a submission.
-Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson – Hunt successfully knocked out Nelson at UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs Nelson on his old stomping grounds.
-Eddie Gordon vs. Dhiego Lima – Gordon knocked out Lima who finished both his matches during their time in the TUF 19 house.
-Tim Kennedy vs. Michael Bisping – Kennedy controlled Bisping at The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia Finale.
-Brad Tavares vs. Lorenz Larkin – Tavares defeated Larkin who was the odds on favorite and had more momentum going into the fight.
-Ovince St.-Preux vs. Mauricio Rua – St.-Preux dealt Rua the fastest upset of his career and did it as a eleven day late replacement.
And now for the the top 10 upsets of 2014. Please remember that these were based on the cumulative results of our writer’s votes:
10) Tyron Woodley’s defeat of Carlos Condit – UFC 171
The winner of this fight was supposed to get a title shot against the winner of the main event between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler. Carlos Condit had fought both Georges St.-Pierre and Hendricks for the title and a title shot respectively. Tyron Woodley on the other hand defeated Josh Koscheck and dipped in and out of title contention since coming over to the UFC from Strikeforce. The match lasted into the second round when Woodley kicked Condit in a way that caused him to land awkwardly on his right knee. Condit went to the mat in pain and the odds on favorite tore several ligaments in his leg and hasn’t competed since then.
9) Brandon Halsey’s defeat of Alexander Shlemenko – Bellator 126
Going into this fight Alexander Shlemenko had defended the Bellator Middleweight Championship three times but had lost his last fight against a returning Tito Ortiz. Brandon Halsey on the other hand won the four man Season 10 Middleweight Tournament for the title shot. Halsey was undefeated but was definitely an untested prospect at this point. It was for this reason that it was so surprising that Halsey not only defeated the heavily favored Shlemenko, but submitted him in 35 seconds. Shlemenko’s set to face Melvin Manhoef at Bellator 133.
8) Anthony Johnson’s defeat of Phil Davis – UFC 172
It had been over two years since Anthony Johnson had fought in the UFC and in that earlier stint he’d fought primarily at welterweight. However, in his return to the UFC, Johnson was fighting two weight classes heavier and was facing top contender Phil Davis. Not surprisingly, Davis was the Vegas odds favorite and many argued that light heavyweight competition outside of the UFC was completely different to the competition inside the UFC. For this reason, many were surprised by Johnson’s complete domination of Davis for all three rounds of their bout. Davis would go onto rebound and Johnson would eventually earn a title fight against Jon Jones.
7) Andrei Arlovski’s defeat of Antonio Silva – UFC Fight Night 51
The last time Andrei Arlovski and Antonio Silva met in a MMA match, Silva controlled Arlovski to a three round victory. Since that time Silva was transferred to the UFC roster directly from Strikeforce, while Arlovski spent three years fighting in various promotions before being deemed worthy to return to the UFC. This was Arlovski’s chance for redemption for a match at a time where his career was going downhill. Not only did he proceed to knockout Silva, but he did it on Silva’s home grounds. For it he was awarded a Performance of the Night bonus.
6) Herica Tiburcio’s defeat of Michelle Waterson – Invicta FC 10
This match was quite a shocker to say the least. Everyone knows who Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson is who had successfully defended the Invicta FC Atomweight Championship. However, not many had heard of Herica Tiburcio who was not only making her Invicta promotional debut, but was also making her atomweight debut. Needless to say her successful guillotine choke and overall effort against Waterson was a shock to many. Not only did she take the championship but also two bonuses with the victory.
5) Anthony Lyons’ defeat of Jonathan Brookins – Legacy FC 34
For the majority of MMA fans who probably don’t watch AXS TV on a regular basis, this upset probably went under the radar. TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins spent about a year away from MMA following his release from the UFC to study yoga in India. He made his return at Legacy FC 29 where he submitted Cody Fuller and then faced Austin Lyons at Legacy FC 34. Brookins bizarre choices of not working on his striking in training camp nor bringing any cornermen proved his undoing as Lyons, who was listed a thousand point underdog, was able to outscore Brookins for a decision win. Brookins would get another chance at redemption when became the Bantamweight King of Pancrase.
4) Rafael dos Anjos’ defeat of Benson Henderson – UFC Fight Night 49
In some ways this fight was surprising and in other ways it was not. Benson Henderson had won both of his fight since loosing the UFC Lightweight Championship to Anthony Pettis while Rafael dos Anjos had just rebounded against Jason High. Both fighters certainly had title hopes that required a win to be kept alive. While an upset was certainly possible, what wasn’t expected was that dos Anjos would hand Henderson the first knockout loss of his career. After a win against Nate Diaz, dos Anjos would earn the shot against Pettis.
3) Phil Davis’ defeat of Glover Teixeira – UFC 179
With both men coming off of defeats, a win was crucial to keeping title hopes alive. Glover Teixeira had already faced Jon Jones and lost while Phil Davis chances at Jones were set back when he lost to Anthony Johnson. Teixeira going into the fight was the odds on favorite and had a history of being difficult to other wrestlers due to his training background. However, this was nullified by Davis who controlled Teixeira the whole fight. Teixeira would injure his knee while training for Rashad Evans while Davis lost to Ryan Bader on January 24.
2) Randa Markos’ defeat of Tecia Torres – TUF 20
There were a lot of expectations going into The Ultimate Fighter 20 considering the amount of talent in the cast. Tecia Torres was certainly considered a favorite and was seeded fourth in the competition. Not many knew who Randa Markos was let alone if she’d win a match. However, in the first match of the season, Markos managed to pull her first upset against Torres. Markos would pull another upset against Felice Herrig in the next round while Torres would replace an injured Justine Kish and defeat Bec Rawlings.
1) T.J. Dillashaw’s defeat of Renan Barao – UFC 173
This match would later go onto define the saying “Never trust the odds”. Renan Barao hadn’t lost a match since his MMA debut in 2005 while T.J. Dillashaw was essentially an afterthought given the title shot when other contenders got injured. The Vegas odds had Dillashaw listed as an underdog but over a thousand points and not many were giving him a chance. That’s why it was surprising when Dillashaw successfully knocked down Barao in the first round and continued to control him for the better part of four rounds. Then to top it all off in the fifth round, Dillashaw left no doubt in anyone’s mind when he finished Barao to gain the championship and upset of the year.
Stay tuned for the continuation of the Best of 2014 Series.