Whether they bust your parlay or make you a bundle, upsets in mixed martial arts are always exciting moments to experience. Today, we take a look at some of the biggest upsets of the past year.
Julianna Pena (+700) def. Amanda Nunes (-1125)
You can’t talk about upsets in MMA without bringing up Julianna Pena’s shocking defeat of former bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes. ‘The Lioness’ entered the contest on a 12-fight win streak, laying waste to former and current UFC champions including Valentina Shevchenko, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm. With an impressive hit list, it was no surprise that Nunes came in as the heavy favorite.
Despite her credentials, the ‘Venezuelan Vixen’ never once lacked confidence. With a strong game plan and a belief in herself, Pena shocked the world by bringing a fight that nobody, including Nunes, expected. Pena overwhelmed the champion with forward pressure and strikes before scoring a takedown and sinking in a rear-naked choke to make MMA history.
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Ethan Hughes (+750) def. Mahmoud Sebie (-1250)
Not exactly a high-profile affair, but at Bellator 271, Ethan Hughes scored a huge upset over Olympic wrestler and social media sensation Mahmoud Sebie. He represented his native Egypt and competed in the men’s Greco-Roman 75kg event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. After transitioning to mixed martial arts, Sebie earned three straight victories, all by knockout including two victories coming just seven days apart. With striking skills and an elite wrestling background, it’s no wonder why Sebie was a massive favorite.
Enter Ethan Hughes who came into the bout with a 2-0 professional record after going 5-0 as an amatuer. Hughes had two stoppages in his professional career when he stepped into the cage against Sebie. Fight fans were shocked when the Olympic wrestler repeatedly failed to take down Hughes. As the fight went on, Sebie noticeably slowed down allowing Hughes to score his own takedown in the third round and finish the bout with some ground-and-pound, scoring one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Ben ‘Big Tuna’ Parrish (+650) def. Christian Edwards (-1000)
Christian Edwards entered Bellator 266 with a ton of hype. Coming into the event with an undefeated record of 5-0, Edwards was quickly being compared by fight fans to Jon Jones. When talking to Cageside Press, Edwards confidently stated that his skills were far beyond what Parrish could handle. “As an opponent, I’m not looking past him in any way, shape, or form, but also at the same time, like, as an opponent, like skill-wise is not there with me,” said Edwards. “Like, not even close if being honest,”
Despite coming in with a 4-1 record, all four victories by way of submission, Ben Parrish was getting little respect from his opponent and MMA bettors. It would only take 38 seconds for ‘Big Tuna’ to prove them all wrong. Parrish delivered Bellator’s most prolific upset of the year when he absolutely flattened Edwards with a massive overhand left less than a minute into the first round.
Gleison Tibau (+625) def. Rory MacDonald (-950)
While the decision was controversial, the end result was one of the biggest upsets in PFL history. At 2021 PFL 5, Rory MacDonald, who many felt was the favorite to win the welterweight tournament, took on fellow former UFC competitor Gleison Tibau. Despite outstriking Tibau by a significant margin, MacDonald lost the bout via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 28-29) prompting MacDonald to call for an investigation during the PFL post-fight press conference.
PFL stats showed that MacDonald outstruck Tibau 81-32 in total strikes. A majority of that advantage was in leg strikes where MacDonald landed 31-2, on top of outpunching Tibau 48-30 in total arm strikes. Only one takedown occurred in the bout which was landed by MacDonald.
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