The UFC was able to navigate through a global pandemic in 2020 and put on a year's worth of memorable fights, including five high-profile upsets.
2020 was an unusual year for the sports world, including the UFC. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in worldwide lockdowns and global travel restrictions, effectively putting a stop to professional sports for some time.
However, as other promotions struggled to stay afloat, the UFC flexed their muscles and continued to bring fight fans a weekly serving of high-level mixed martial arts action.
In 2020, the UFC put on 41 events featuring 456 fights, exhibiting the world's best mixed martial artists. Of course, these fights produced a multitude of memorable moments.
5 of the UFC's most stunning high-profile upsets in 2020
Every year, the UFC sees several of high profile upsets, and 2020 was no different. Here are the five greatest high profile upsets of the year.
1. Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Shahbazyan - 1 August 2020)
Derek Brunson established himself as a top contender in the UFC's middleweight division by stopping Edmen Shahbazyan's hype train in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Shabazyan.
Brunson was coming into the fight off back-to-back wins over Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch. Shahbazyan, meanwhile, was undefeated at that point, with four straight wins inside the UFC Octagon.
Oddsmakers had the undefeated Shahbazyan as the favorite to win, but Brunson had other plans. Brunson battered Shahbazyan en route to a third-round TKO win.
The win propelled Brunson to seventh in the UFC's middleweight contender rankings. Shahbazyan, meanwhile, absorbed his first career loss.
2. Marlon Vera vs. Sean O'Malley (UFC 252 - 15 August 2020)
Veteran UFC bantamweight Marlon 'Chito' Vera picked up the biggest win of his UFC career when he stopped the undefeated Sean O'Malley by first-round TKO at UFC 252.
'Suga' Sean O'Malley burst onto the UFC scene by embarking on a streak of four consecutive wins, including back-to-back finishes of Jose Alberto Quinonez and Eddie Wineland.
Against Vera, who was coming off a loss to Song Yadong, O'Malley was the favorite.
Early on, it looked like O'Malley was on his way to another win as he battered Vera with kicks to the leg and body. O'Malley appeared to sustain an ankle injury, and Vera took advantage by finishing the fight with elbows.
Vera's win over O'Malley earned him a spot in the top 15 of the UFC's bantamweight ranks. O'Malley, meanwhile, absorbed the first defeat of his young career.
3. Glover Teixeira vs. Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Santos - 7 November 2020)
Veteran UFC light heavyweight Glover Teixeira cemented his spot as the top 205-pound contender after a hard-fought third-round submission win over recent title contender Thiago Santos.
The 41-year old Teixeira was coming off four consecutive wins, and looked to make it five straight against the returning Santos.
Santos, meanwhile, was coming off a razor-thin split decision loss to former 205-pound king Jon Jones, in what many believed was Jones' toughest test yet.
Coming into the fight, Santos was the odds-on favorite to win. In the opening moments of the bout, Santos looked to be on his way to an early finish and another shot at the UFC light heavyweight title. Yet Teixeira survived and went on to submit an exhausted Santos in the third round:
Teixeira scored his impressive fifth straight win and his second straight against a former world title contender. He is likely the next challenger in line to fight for the UFC light heavyweight championship.
4. Jan Blachowicz vs. Dominick Reyes (UFC 253 - 27 September 2020)
Speaking of ageless wonders, Jan Blachowicz rose to the pinnacle of the UFC light heavyweight division at 37 years old, knocking out Dominick Reyes to become the new UFC light heavyweight champion at UFC 253.
Blachowicz's UFC career got off to a rocky start, winning just twice in his first six fights in the promotion. The Polish star bounced back, however, winning seven of his next eight to earn a shot at the newly-vacated UFC light heavyweight title.
Standing in Blachowicz's way was Dominick Reyes, who was coming off a close unanimous decision loss to Jon Jones in a light heavyweight title bout.
Heading into the bout, Reyes was the favorite to become the new UFC light heavyweight king. Bookies hadn't factored in the incredible of his opponent though. By the end of UFC 253, it was Blachowicz who would hoist the title after a second-round TKO win:
Blachowicz became the first UFC light heavyweight champion not named Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier since 2010.
5. Charles Oliveira vs. Tony Ferguson (UFC 256 - 12 December 2020)
The final pay-per-view of 2020 provided one last upset for the year, as Charles Oliveira grappled his way to a unanimous decision win over Tony Ferguson.
Oliveira was already a top contender at 155, having stitched together six straight victories heading into 2020. Oliveira kicked off the year with a submission win over Kevin Lee, before finding himself in a high-profile bout against former interim champion Ferguson.
Ferguson, on the other hand, was coming off a grueling five-round TKO loss to Justin Gaethje, and was clamoring for another octagon appearance before the end of 2020. Ferguson got his wish when he was matched up with the surging Oliveira.
Ferguson was the favorite, but Oliveira proved to be too good on the ground and earned a unanimous decision win.
Oliveira's win over Ferguson helped him break into the top five of the UFC lightweight rankings.Published 28 Dec 2020, 22:50 IST