The Best MMA Underdog Upsets

April 5, 2016


The Best MMA Underdog Upsets

One reason MMA has become so popular over the past decade is due to just how unpredictable it is.

No matter how unbeatable a fighter may seem, one wrong move or lapse in concentration can lead to a surprise defeat in just a matter of seconds.

This is also one of the reasons that betting on MMA has become so popular. When you have real money on a fighter, you are holding your breath with every move they make in the octagon, especially when they are a strong favorite having a weak-looking moment.

Sometimes there are fights on the card where no one except the most adventurous bettors think that the favored fighter has any chance of losing. But when the unthinkable happens and the underdog pulls out a victory, it’s usually a match that you’ll talk about for years to come.

Below are five of our top MMA underdog upsets of the recent past.

2010: Joey Beltran upsets Rolles Gracie (UFC 109: Relentless)

An upset so bad it caused the UFC to revoke a contract immediately following the match. Rolles Gracie was expected by fans and bettors alike (as he was a -1500 favorite) to bring the Gracie name back into the MMA limelight against the relatively unknown Joey Beltran.

Beltran looked at first like the layup for Gracie that UFC probably intended him to be, getting caught early on in a rear-naked choke. After escaping and just three minutes into the match, Gracie looked visibly exhausted, and was quickly pummeled by the better-conditioned Beltran. Other members of the Gracie family called the performance ‘embarrassing’ and Rolles was released by the UFC shortly after.

2015: Holly Holm upsets Ronda Rousey (UFC 193)

After a rewarding judo career in which she won medals at the Olympics, Pan American Games, and Judo World Championships, Ronda Rousey decided to retire from the sport at 21 to take on a new challenge: MMA. At first though, it didn’t seem like much of a challenge for her, as she swept through her first dozen Strikeforce and then UFC fights with relative ease, winning many of them in a minute or less.




So dominant was she that she was signed on as the UFC’s first female fighter, and awarded the inaugural Women’s Bantamweight Championship. Her 7th defense pitted her against Holly Holm, a great fighter in her own right, but still a massive underdog (+635) against the seemingly-unbeatable Rousey. After frustrating Rowdy throughout the first round (the first MMA round she had ever lost), Holm downed the three-year reigning champ with a headkick just one minute into the second round, completing one of UFC and MMA’s greatest upsets ever.

Many of the public usually don’t go with their gut instinct, or forget to take the chance on betting on the underdog. Make sure you don’t miss out – check out this Canadian sports betting guide from If you are unsure on how to get started with betting on MMA or other sports, this guide has all the tips you need.


2014: T.J. Dillashaw upsets Renan Barao (UFC 173)

After losing his first career professional MMA fight, Renan Barao must have figured something out, as he went on a tear winning 32 straight matches and becoming UFC’s Bantamweight Champion in the process. His fourth title defense matched him against T.J. Dillashaw, a former NCAA wrestler that was just 11 fights into his young MMA career at 9-2.

Probably rightfully so, Barao was a -1250 point favorite against Dillashaw heading into UFC 173. But what what was expected to be a quick fight turned into a five-round slugfest, with the young underdog winning by TKO in the fifth by throwing a long onslaught of pinpoint punches. Announcer Joe Rogan called Dillashaw’s achievement the greatest performance he had ever seen in his life.

2013: Emanuel Newton upsets Muhammed Lawal (Bellator 90)

Everyone expected Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal to be a Bellator beast when he signed with the promotion in 2012. Winning his first Bellator match by KO, the Tennesseean and former Strikeforce star was a huge -1175 betting favorite heading into the Bellator Season 8 Light Heavyweight Tournament Semifinal. His opponent would be Emanuel Newton, a relatively unknown that had bounced around various other promotions before also signing on to Bellator in 2011.


Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Emanuel Newton (blue gloves) and Muhammed Lawal (red gloves) during their Bellator interim light heavyweight world title fight at the Long Beach Arena. Newton won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Eight of King Mo’s previous 10 wins came by TKO or KO, but Newton didn’t seem to mind that fact, as he came into the match swinging for the fences. Mo shrugged this assault off for the most part, until a missed right followed by a surprise spinning back fist stunned the King where he stood, felling him to the canvas in a first round upset, one of MMA’s biggest to date.

2007: Rameau Sokoudjou upsets Antonio Nogueira (PRIDE 33)

The middle of the card for PRIDE 33 showcased former Brazilian boxing champion and PRIDE Antônio Rogério Nogueira against a Cameroonian former kickboxer making his PRIDE debut in just his fourth professional MMA fight. Based on record and experience, the ‘African Assassin’ was pegged as a 16:1 underdog and perceived as a softball for the well known Nogueira.

But Sokoudjou quickly showcased his kickboxing background by loosening up ‘Lil Nog’ with a series of hard kicks to the legs and body, then with a crushing left that KOed him just 23 seconds into the bout. While Nog’s career would recover and he’d eventually become a UFC regular, Soko hopped around with various promotions before being released from Bellator in 2015 with a 16-13 career record, making this upset even more shocking in hindsight.




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