Like all sports, MMA is full of surprises. When the unexpected happens, we are all reminded that the underdog is never truly out of it, and how even the best fighters in the world need to fight hard to maintain success.
In 2013, we saw some great “No Way!” moments. Let’s relive 5 of MMA’s best surprises in 2013. Later this week, we’ll take a look at 5 more.
5. Vitor Belfort Knocks Out Luke Rockhold
This never should have happened. Rockhold was the Strikeforce middleweight champion, and supposed to be the next big thing in MMA. He shredded Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in Strikeforce to win the title, then subsequently dismantled Tim Kennedy. With a great mix of stand-up, leg kicks and Jiu-Jitsu, combined with intelligence, Rockhold had everything going for him. He wasn’t ready, however, when he stepped inside the cage with Vitor Belfort, who these days appears to be a combination of Popeye after eating his can of spinach and The Incredible Hulk after getting really angry.
Belfort is on the comeback trail and is one of the surprise stories of 2013, but Rockhold should never have allowed himself to get his lights knocked out by a guy seven years older than him. He’s too good. Nonetheless, it happened, and Rockhold must start back at the bottom, while Belfort appears to have turned back the clock.
4. Robbie Lawler Defeats Rory MacDonald
OK, it was impressive when Lawler knocked out Josh Koscheck simply because it had never been done before. He also knocked out the tough Bobby Voelker, another impressive feat. But then Lawler went ahead and upset Rory MacDonald, the guy in line to be the next James Bond in the welterweight division.
Lawler won a split decision over MacDonald, in an outcome that no one could have predicted. MacDonald was the rising UFC star many thought would run the table in the division once Georges St-Pierre retired. Instead, Lawler seemed to have the Canadian beat psychologically before the two even entered the cage. MacDonald was clearly afraid of Lawler’s punching power and just couldn’t let loose and free his hands to overpower Lawler. MacDonald is by far the better fighter, but it’s hard to win if you don’t fight. You have to be yourself if you are going to be anything in this world and if you live or fight in fear, your worst fears will probably come true. Now MacDonald must go back to picking out his favorite designer glasses and practicing his best menacing stares, while Lawler is getting ready for a title shot against Johny Hendricks.
3. Ronda Rousey is a PPV Hit
UFC President Dana White said he would never promote women’s MMA. Now he can’t get enough it. He launched women’s MMA in the UFC last February with Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche in the main event from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. With Rousey as the sexy, sassy diva going against Carmouche, the first only gay fighter in MMA, the fight had a great natural build to it. Rousey, of course, is the best female fighter in the world. Going into that fight she had tapped out six consecutive opponents via arm bar submission. Combined with her attitude and wicked microphone skills, Rousey instantly became the Hulk Hogan and Muhammad Ali of women’s MMA.
Still, it was a risk to put WMMA in the main event of a UFC PPV. Well it happened, and Rousey showed that she is the fourth biggest PPV draw behind St-Pierre, Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez. Her first PPV effort reportedly sparked about 450,000 PPV buys, a great number for a woman in the main event of a combat sport. Next up, Rousey fights Miesha Tate, in the co-main event at UFC 168.
2. Jon Jones gets beat up, but keeps his title
Just to remind us all that no one is invincible, Alexander Gustafsson decided to slap around UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 165. Gustafsson beat Jones up worse than anyone could have ever dreamed. After the fight, Jones’ lips were puffy and swollen, and his eyes were nearly closed. He looked like the loser of the fight. He won a controversial decision, but many observers believe that Gustafsson won. Regardless of the decision, both fighters showed great skill and heart in the fight, but Gustafsson came out looking like a big star, while Jones lost a lot of the sheen that had made him sparkle.
1. Chris Weidman dethrones Anderson Silva
It happens to every fighter. Every pound-for-pound great eventually loses. The great Anderson Silva finally lost. What was most surprising about Silva’s fall from the top, was how it happened. Silva actually got himself knocked out by clowning around inside the cage, daring Weidman to hit him. One minute, Silva is acting like George Jefferson, faux-fighting for laughs, and the next he’s flat on his back getting owned by a guy with nine professional fights under his belt. Silva practically knocked himself out.
With the way he was disrespecting his opponent, giving his chin up for anyone to take it, Joe Rogan probably could have knocked him out that night. Weidman won the title and stunned the world with a second-round knockout. At UFC 168 this Saturday Weidman will have to do it again. Win or lose, no one will ever forget the night he knocked out Anderson Silva.