The 5 biggest upsets in UFC championship history
After Thiago Santos almost caused one of the biggest upsets in a championship bout against Jon Jones at UFC 239, here are five past title shocks.
5) Michael Bisping def. Luke Rockhold | UFC 199 | 4 June 2016
Seventeen days. That is all Bisping had to prepare before he knocked out Rockhold in the first round to become UFC middleweight champion.
That sharp turnaround – following an injury to Chris Weidman – and Rockhold’s submission win in their first fight just a year earlier, meant Bisping was a 5/1 underdog at the opening bell.
The Englishman had been set to go down as one of the best 185ers to never win the belt, but he dropped rival Rockhold with two perfect left hands before several unanswered strikes against the cage saw him finally crowned champion.
Rockhold, who has not looked the same fighter since that defeat, was knocked out in similar fashion by Jan Blachowicz on his debut at light heavyweight at UFC 239.
Bisping – who defended his belt once, avenging his brutal defeat by Dan Henderson, before losing the belt to Georges St-Pierre – has now been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
4) Holly Holm def. Ronda Rousey | UFC 193 | 15 November 2015
Crack. Down goes the most dominant female champion the UFC has ever seen.
The head kick which ended Rousey’s reign as UFC bantamweight champion is one of the most iconic MMA moments of the past decade.
Holm was priced as high as 25/2 when the fight was announced, ending up at around 5/1 when the opening bell sounded.
The former boxing world champion dominated Rousey from the off, exposing her below-par striking before knocking her out with that famous kick.
Holm lost the title against Miesha Tate in her next fight and looks to be coming to the end of her career after another failed title challenge against two-weight champ Amanda Nunes in July.
3) Matt Serra def. Georges St-Pierre | UFC 69 | 7 April 2007
St-Pierre is one of the greatest champions in the history of the UFC. There is no debate on that.
That he recovered from this loss to Serra – named the ‘Upset of the Decade’ by the UFC – to defend the welterweight title nine consecutive times adds to his legacy.
St-Pierre was a 2/25 favourite when Serra caught him behind the ear before finishing the fight with some brutal ground-and-pound in the very first round.
It’s surprising that Serra was priced at just 5/1 on the night, as this is widely considered the greatest upset in a title fight in UFC history.
Serra, who was inducted to the UFC Hall of Fame in 2018, lost the title in an immediate rematch, as St-Pierre went on to cement his status as one of the greatest ever.
2) Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk | UFC 217 | 4 November 2017
Jedrzejczyk was well on the way to becoming the greatest female UFC champion of all time when Namajunas pieced her up in the first round to claim her strawweight belt at UFC 217.
The challenger was priced at nearly 6/1 to beat Jedrzejczyk, who was set to equal Ronda Rousey’s record of six title defences.
It was not just the result which shocked however, with the manner of Namajunas’ victory providing the biggest surprise.
Instead of taking the fight to the ground, where she had a clear advantage, Namajunas went toe-to-toe with one of the best strikers in UFC history and knocked her out.
The 27-year-old won a unanimous decision in their rematch before losing the title to Jessica Andrade in May, with her future in the sport now unclear.
1) T.J. Dillashaw def. Renan Barao | UFC 173 | 24 May 2014
There are obvious question marks over this one after Dillashaw’s two-year doping ban, but this was, statistically, the biggest shock ever in a UFC title fight.
Barao was widely considered the world’s best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist coming into the fight, riding a monstrous 32-fight win streak.
Dillashaw was priced at 7/1 to claim the belt as he became the biggest betting underdog to win a title fight in the history of the promotion.
The American dominated Barao for four rounds before finally sealing the finish in the fifth with a nasty combination.
He went on to defend the bantamweight title twice, losing it to Dominick Cruz before becoming a two-time champion 18 months later against Cody Garbrandt.