Where do you rank Stipe Miocic’s Heavyweight Title win on the list of shocking title fight finishes? Which past title upsets make your top five, and why?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Not very high. While Werdum was a big favorite to win, and rightfully so, no one has ever made it past two title defenses in the UFC Heavyweight division. When you’ve got guys that big and strong swinging at each other, the odds of getting knocked out with a single punch are pretty high. The odds of avoiding a single punch for an extended duration in MMA are just not good. Anyone can get caught with a clean shot, and when it’s by a heavyweight, there’s always a good chance that person person’s lights are going out. So while Miocic’s title win was unexpected, it certainly doesn’t fall in the category of “shocking.” As far as shocking title upsets go though, there have been plenty.
5. Frankie Edgar ends B.J. Penn’s relevance at 155 pounds: Nope, didn’t see that one coming. Edgar had made a name for himself as an undersized, technical fighter with a lot of heart, but victories over Sean Sherk and Matt Veach didn’t do much to inspire confidence he was going to wrest the belt from the greatest lightweight the sport had ever known. While his decision win was arguable, his subsequent dismantling of Penn cemented his status as an elite fighter and champion.
4. T.J. Dillashaw obliterates Renan Barao: As far as underdogs go, Dillashaw was one of the biggest to ever take the cage when he challenged Barao for the Bantamweight Title. The Baron was on an insane 32-fight undefeated streak, and many were arguing that he had taken his place as the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world. Dillashaw entered the fight 1-1 in his previous two, with his win coming by way of decision over Mike Easton. He was really just another body to put in front of Barao, at least that’s what everyone thought. Dillashaw had other ideas though, pressing the pace from the beginning and knocking the champion down in the first round. Going into the fifth, and easily up four rounds to none, the challenger stepped on the gas and finished the Brazilian off with a massive head kick and subsequent punches.
3. Matt Serra Knocks out Georges St-Pierre: All time great GSP only has two losses on his resume. The first is understandable, St-Pierre was a young fighter with seven fights under his belt when he fought one of the most dominant champions the sport had seen in Matt Hughes. The submission loss only made him better, and after beating Penn in a title eliminator, he TKO’d Hughes in a rematch and became a champion. His very next fight was against 9-4 Matt Serra, a man who won his title shot via The Ultimate Fighter. Anyone can get caught, and GSP certainly did, with Serra catching the Candian square on the jaw and sending him crashing to the canvas. Serra lost the title to GSP in his first title defense, and went 1-2 over his next three before retiring with an 11-7 record.
2. Chris Weidman catches Anderson Silva clowning: Silva was the most dominant fighter in the UFC at the time and had made 10 straight title defenses. Chris Weidman was just the next man up, because well, someone had to fight Silva. With only 9 fights in his short career, the people who turned into this fight weren’t doing so because they wanted to see something competitive. They were watching because they wanted to see what kind of crazy highlight the Spider could provide them with this time. In a career full of things no one had ever done, Silva got caught on the chin while he was taunting and mocking the challenger. The site of the greatest fighter in MMA crashing to the ground and the end of his streak remains one of the more surreal moments I’ve seen in MMA.
1. Holly Holm kicks the consciousness from Ronda Rousey: Raise your hand if you gave Holly Holm a chance going into the Rousey fight. There’s probably about five hands raised at the moment – Holm, her husband, and her trainers. I’m fairly certain the Vegas odds were against Holm even making it out of the first round, to say nothing of actually winning the fight. Everyone realized a couple minutes in that Rousey was not only going to run all over Holm, but we actually had a real fight on her hand. Rousey ended the first round battered and bloody, unable get past the more advanced striking that the athletic Holm brought to the table. With a kick that resonated around the world, Holm finished the job in the second round, as an unconscious hit the canvas. Not only was it one of the most shocking upsets in UFC history, it was one of the most shocking moments in sports I’ve ever seen.
Note: I did not include Conor McGregor’s 13 second knockout of Jose Aldo on the list, as he was favored to win this fight (Vegas picked him, and so did I), so it didn’t qualify as an upset. It was a shocking way to win, nonetheless.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Been a hell of a year or so, ain’t it? Conor McGregor winning in 13 seconds over Jose Aldo. Holly Holm decapitating Ronda Rousey, then gakking it away to Miesha Tate (who couldn’t beat Rousey once if they fought 42,000 times). Rafael dos Anjos beating Anthony Pettis’ jaw so badly that Pettis to this day still can’t eat Wheaties. Fabricio Werdum Caining Cain Velazquez. Dominick Cruz returning from a 51 month layoff (minus 61 seconds against Takeya Mizugaki) to defeat T.J. Dillashaw. Go back a year or so from those and you have Chris Weidman knocking out a clowning Anderson Silva, who has since shown zero desire, inclination, or ability to consistently dominate anyone he’s since fought). And that’s just the last three years.
So where does Miocic’s KO of Fabricio Werdum sit? Clearly behind all of those, and probably behind many, many more. While I thought for sure that Werdum was going to coast, it was also very clear to most observers that Miocic had the power to end the fight at any moment with one flick of any one limb. And that’s exactly what he did to the cocky now ex-champion. Nothing shocking here. Lets move on.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
It’s certainly up there. The initial fights I would put in my top five would be Chris Weidman beating Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Title, Matt Serra beating Georges St-Pierre for the UFC Welterweight Title, and Holly Holm beating Ronda Rousey for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Title. Ricco Rodriguez beating Randy Couture for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Title is probably up there, too. As is Randy Couture beating Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight Title, and Frankie Edgar beating B.J. Penn for the UFC Lightweight Title. I also think you’d have to put T.J. Dillashaw beating Renan Barao for the UFC Bantamweight Title, Rafael dos Anjos beating Anthony Pettis for the UFC Lightweight Title, and Conor McGregor beating Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Title. Add in Anderson Silva beating Rich Franklin for the UFC Middleweight Title and you’ve got 10 on the list. That’s not even counting Randy Couture beating Chuck Liddell for the Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Title and probably others I’m blanking on at the moment. Anyway, I’d probably put Miocic beating Werdum for the UFC Heavyweight Title in the top 10 but not the top 5. Maybe in time I’ll rank it higher, but it’s hard to put it above too many of the list above.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
The first two shocking finishes that come to mind are Conor McGregor’s 13 second finish of Jose Aldo this past December and Andrei Arlovski’s finish of Paul Buentello in 15 seconds back in 2005 (don’t ask me why that one stands out in my mind, it just does). The speed in which those fights were finished make them difficult to dislodge with McGregor holding the top spot due to Aldo being one of the most dominant champs at the time. Ronda Rousey’s quick finishes of Alexis Davis and Cat Zingano are up there too, but I would put Miocic’s finish ahead of either of those since Rousey was expected to win handily and she did just that. Miocic’s finish is unique in that it didn’t happen immediately, but it was a very sudden ending with a punch thrown in a way that is difficult to put a lot of power into as Miocic was backing up when he landed his counter to the jaw of Werdum to put him out. So I guess I’m putting this on at #3 until someone else can remind me of a finish that is more shocking.
In terms of magnitude of upsets, this one doesn’t come close to making the top five upsets. I’m not saying that I wasn’t shocked because I was. I’m saying that Werdum had yet to complete a single title defense. Here is my top five:
#1. Holly Holm over Ronda Rousey: Rousey was the darling of the media and Hollywood as she was named the most dominant athlete in the world by Sports Illustrated and had the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger singing her praises in the pre-fight video. The question wasn’t if she could beat Holm, but how quick would she be able to do it with her last four fights lasting less than 150 seconds combined! Holm turned the MMA world (and Rousey’s world) upside down by not only beating the undefeated champion, but dominating and embarrassing her. Rousey hasn’t sniffed a cage since and there is no sign of her doing so any time soon.
#2. Matt Serra over Georges St-Pierre: It was hard not to make this one number one as Serra was supposed to be less of a challenge to GSP than Holm was to Rousey; Serra was a winner of TUF in a season that featured UFC washouts getting a second chance. What keeps it from taking the number one spot in my book is that GSP came back stronger than ever while Rousey hasn’t recovered and there are major signs that she never will.
#3. Maurice Smith over Mark Coleman: This one gets lost in the mix quite a bit since it happened so long ago as the dark ages of the UFC were dawning. Coleman was an unstoppable beast at the time that no one had any answers for. Smith received his title shot despite having an overall losing record due to being the last champion for Extreme Fighting. Smith essentially utilized a rope-a-dope strategy that allowed him to pick apart the muscle-bound Coleman as the bout drew to a close allowing Smith to dethrone the seemingly unstoppable Coleman. Coleman wouldn’t pick up another win for over two years after this as the book was then written on him (in addition to a nice payoff from Pride).
#4. Randy Couture over Tim Sylvia: As Sylvia has become more of a punchline as time goes by, this one seems to lose its luster more and more which is a shame. Sylvia was a legitimate champion who was scoring dominant (though admittedly boring) wins over the challengers to his title. Couture had left the heavyweight division years earlier as he could no longer handle taking on much larger opponents like Ricco Rodriguez and Josh Barnett. Did I mention that Couture was not only 43, but was coming out of retirement after having fought at 205 lbs for the three years before that aforementioned retirement? Syliva was unable to win a single round against the old man and was never the same fighter after this loss.
#5: Frankie Edgar over B.J. Penn: Edgar has gone on to carve out a career nearly as legendary as Penn’s now, but at the time he was seen as fodder for not just the most dominant lightweight champion we’d ever seen, but likely the most dominant champion the UFC had at the time. Penn was tearing through his opponents at the time (his bloodbath of Joe Stevenso and his complete destruction of Diego Sanchez as examples). Edgar’s initial victory wasn’t nearly as impressive as it was shocking since an arguement easily could have been made for a Penn victory, though he solidified it with a noncompetitive decision the second time they fought. We never saw the same B.J. Penn we knew and loved again after this loss.
[Photo (c) Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports]
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