May 30 - The Canadian Corner: Year Of The Upset
2007 has been a crazy year in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. The amount of upsets has been
staggering, as a lot of heavily favored fighters have all ended up biting the dust. Relative unknowns
are popping out of the woodworks like crazy and jumping onto the scene. Here is a look at several of
the biggest upsets of the year.
On the February 24th, 2007 at the PRIDE event Second Coming, it was a night filled with many
upsets. To me, one of them stands out above the rest. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, one of the top 205
lb fighters in the world, was stepping into the ring with complete unknown Rameau Thierry
Sokoudjou. To get an idea of how big of an underdog Sokoudjou was here, take a look at this betting
line from about a week before the fight:
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira -2300
Nogueira was such a favorite you would have had to bet $2300 on him to make just $100. Sokoudjou
had a mere 2-1 pro MMA record at this point, and that record came on smaller shows, and not against
anyone of note. Nogueira was ranked by many in the top 3-5 of 205 lb fighters in all the world at the
time. This was expected to be a complete rollover for Nogueira, as no one had ever really heard of
Sokoudjou before. This was one of those fights where it was "blink and you miss it" as Sokoudjou
blasted Nogueira with two stiff leg kicks and then a vicious left hook to the chin just 23 seconds in
and sent him to the mat, out cold, absolutely shocking the crowd in attendance and the
commentators on the PPV. The complete unknown knocking out the championship contender in
under a minute.
By far the most talked about upset of the year came at UFC 68 on March 3rd, 2007, when Randy
Couture came out of retirement to take the UFC Heavyweight Championship from Tim Sylvia. It was
widely thought that Sylvia, at 6'8" and 250 pounds would easily be able to control the 43-year old
Couture, who had not fought in about a year since retiring after losing to Chuck Liddell at UFC 57.
Couture had not fought at heavyweight in 5 years. He was facing a man who was much younger,
taller, heavier, and seemingly would have had everything going his way in the fight. Many analysts
predicted a Sylvia KO, and even those who picked Couture would have acknowledged they figured
Sylvia would end up winning in the end. How could Couture get the monster Sylvia on the ground?
Couture proved everyone wrong by demolishing Sylvia for five rounds, controlling the fight with
repeated takedowns and actually beating Sylvia quite handily on the feet as well, despite an obvious
disadvantage in both size and strength. He executed a picture perfect game plan and pulled off an
upset that will be talked about for a long time in the annals of MMA.
The upset train kept on rolling at the next UFC, UFC 69: Shootout, in Houston, Texas. Georges St.
Pierre was at the time the UFC Welterweight Champion. With the exception of a split decision over
B.J. Penn at UFC 58, St. Pierre had looked unstoppable, completely dominating the competition,
including former champion Matt Hughes to win the title at UFC 65. He came for his first title defense
at UFC 69 facing lightly regarded Matt Serra, who had won his title shot by winning the tournament on
The Ultimate Fighter IV: The Comeback. Serra had fought basically his entire career at 155 lbs, and
would be facing St. Pierre, who is a huge 170 lb fighter. Serra was thought to have an advantage on
the ground, but even the UFC hype special basically painted him as having absolutely no shot. Serra
had fought in the UFC before and is no unknown, but if Matt Hughes, the dominant wrestler, could not
get St. Pierre off his feet, how could Serra do it? He would get demolished by St. Pierre, who many
had touted as the best all around fighter in all of MMA. Serra simply wouldn't be able to compete with
St. Pierre's wide array of skills, and St. Pierre would just go right through him en route to another fight
with Hughes. On this night, Serra shocked the world by knocking out St. Pierre in very impressive
fashion in the first round and becoming the UFC Welterweight champ. I remember watching this fight
with a large group of people, and when Serra knocked out St. Pierre, about 7 jaws all hit the floor at
once. No one could believe what had happened.
Next at UFC 70, there was yet another upset of epic proportions. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic was the #2
ranked Heavyweight in the world. He has a laundry list of highlight reel knockouts, and is heavily
considered to be the most feared striker at Heavyweight, with his signature knockout being a high
head kick. He came into UFC 70 to face Brazilian fighter Gabriel Gonzaga, and again, this is another
case where many people looked ahead, as they were pegging Filipovic to face Randy Couture for the
heavyweight title this summer in what could have been the biggest money match in UFC history. Even
though Couture himself had come out predicted that Gonzaga, a Brazilain Jiu-Jitsu black belt and
veteran of 3 UFC victories, would actually defeat Cro Cop, many people still believed Cro Cop would
be able to handle Gonzaga fairly easily. Couture's prediction came true, and Gonzaga controlled the
entire fight, taking Cro Cop down early in the first round and actually bloodying him a bit with his
ground attacks. After a late standup in the round, Gonzaga shocked the entire world by knocking Cro
Cop out with a big right head kick. The big favorite goes down to his own signature KO.
Finally, I finish up by talking about the most recent huge upset, that coming at the UFC 71: Liddell vs
Jackson show. Jackson knocking out Liddell could be considered a big upset, but the biggest upset
came on the undercard, as again a complete unknown in Houston Alexander shocked the world by
defeating Light heavyweight title contender Keith Jardine. The UFC could not find anyone to face
Jardine at UFC 71, as they would literally call up teams and camps and ask if they had anyone at 205
lbs who could take the fight. Eventually, they found Alexander, who is a DJ for Power 106.9 in Omaha,
Nebraska. Alexander was 6-1 and had fought on some smaller shows, but wasn't considered on the
level of a Jardine, a UFC veteran who had only one loss in the Octagon, and a heavily disputed
decision loss at that. The fight began and Jardine popped Alexander with a right and down he went.
Alexander rose his to his feet immediately and then basically destroyed Jardine with punch after
punch, finally stopping the fight in under a minute after knocking out Jardine's mouthpiece with an
uppercut. It was complete and total domination.
This is one of the great things about the sport of MMA and the UFC in general. You watch a PPV, and
you really can never know what will happen. All it takes is a single punch, kick, or anything for huge
upsets to take place. This is what drives people to watch these shows, because it is always more fun
to watch something when you do not know what will happen. These kinds of upsets will likely
continue, and it is only a good thing for the sport, which will gain appeal from the unpredictability
factor of it all.
Until next time, this has been the Canadian Corner.