The unbeatable Ronda Rousey went down to defeat on Saturday night in UFC 193 at the hands of Holly Holm, a relative unknown who was a 14-1 underdog. There were immediate comparisons to Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson in February of 1990, which is considered by most the biggest upset ever in boxing history.
Few fights have gotten the attention of Douglas – Tyson and now Rousey – Holm, but there have been many historic upsets in the fight game, both boxing, and MMA.
Leaving out the Rousey vs. Holm and Douglas vs. Tyson fights, here’s an AXS Six-pack of the six “other” epic upsets in fighting history:
6. Frankie Randall defeats Julio Cesar Chavez, January 29, 1994. Chavez what undefeated in 90 professional fights. He was an overwhelming 18-1 favorite against Randall, largely because the challenger was even older and seen as being past his prime. Randall came out strong and won the early rounds. Chavez made a comeback, and the fight was close when Randall knocked the champion down in the 11th round – marking the first time in his career Chavez had been floored. Randall won a controversial split decision.
5. Muhammad Ali defeats George Foreman, October 30, 1974. Still a controversial figure after his early career success, conversion to Islam and disputes involving the Vietnam War draft, Ali was a heavy underdog against the “knockout machine” Foreman. Ali’s rival Joe Frazier had been beaten severely by Foreman, the undisputed heavyweight champion. Most though the same fate – or worse – awaited Ali.
However, during the fight that gave us our first look at the “rope-a-dope” strategy, Ali let Foreman punch himself out in the early and middle rounds. As a crowd of 60,000 watched in Zaire, Ali ultimately went on the offensive and scored an 8th round knockout to regain the heavyweight championship belt.
4. T.J. Dillashaw defeats Renan Barao, May 24, 2014. Barao was considered unbeatable leading up to UFC 173. He had not lost a fight in nine years – 33 straight fights – with his lone defeat coming in his first professional fight when he was 18 years old. With number one ranked contender Raphael Assuncao injured and unable to make the scheduled bout with Barao, Dillashaw was chosen as a replacement. Barao was a conservative 9-1 favorite going in, and no one thought he had a chance. But Dillashaw came out on the offensive, rocking the champion early and completing the dominating performance with a sixth round TKO.
3. Rashad Evans defeats Chuck Liddell, September 6, 2008. We are used to seeing Liddell toss around Rhino’s and cars on TV, but back in his day he was a monumental figure in UFC and a great champion. Meanwhile, Evans was the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter 2” the reality TV series and followed the familiar path up the ladder on his way to a championship shot. After postponements and some rescheduling, Evans got his chance to face Liddell in UFC 88. While training for the fight, Evans overhauled his fighting style in secret, and when they got into the ring, he overwhelmed Liddell. Midway through the second round, Evans hit Liddell with a right hand and knocked him unconscious, causing the former champion to release his bowels in the process. It was awarded knockout of the year for 2008. Evans would go on to win the Light Heavyweight title later that year.
2. Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston, February 25, 1964. The fight that launched the career of Clay – who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali. The flashy Olympic gold medalist wasn’t given much of a chance to beat the powerful heavyweight champion, going in an 8-1 underdog. Liston was coming off a pair of first round knockouts over former champion Floyd Patterson. He was considered by some at that point in his career one of the greatest heavyweights ever.
Clay came out swinging and moving quickly, not allowing the champion to land solid blows. In the middle rounds, Clay began to score more and more with punches to the face and body. The champion tired. Liston stayed on his stool and failed to answer the bell for the seventh round. Clay was declared the winner by TKO. It was the first time since 1919 that a World Heavyweight Champion had quit sitting on his stool. After changing his name, Ali won the rematch in a controversial first-round knockout a year later.
1. Matt Serra defeats Georges St-Pierre April 7, 2007. Serra was an unknown – a nondescript fighter who had won the right to meet St-Pierre by winning Season 4 of “the Ultimate Fighter” reality TV show. His chances of defeating the legendary St-Pierre were considered so remote he was an 11-1 underdog. Instead, he pounded the champion into submission. This was a real life “Rocky.” Serra dominated the fight early and won the UFC Welterweight title by TKO via punches at 3:25 of the first round. The bout was dubbed “the Upset of the Decade.” Serra would later lose a rematch with the UFC legend.
After winning the first fight, Serra uttered the following epic quote: “Joe, I’m really hungry, man,” he said to UFC color commentator Joe Rogan in the Octagon. “I was wondering if you and [UFC President] Dana [White] had some humble pie in the back?”