Dalby’s Upset Win Joins Ever-Growing Pantheon of Surprising Upsets

November 15, 2023
3 weeks

Since its creation 30 years ago, the UFC stated that it didn’t want to be like boxing. One of the most critical aspects of that has been not protecting undefeated fighters. Once you make it to the big time, the UFC was willing to match fighters up with whoever would take the bout, even if it was a bad stylistic matchup for a top prospect.

Gabriel Bonfim was 15-0 entering his welterweight bout with Nicolas Dalby last Saturday night in São Paulo, Brazil. Most of Bonfim’s career wins had come outside the UFC, and the promotion wanted to test him against a veteran. Nicolas Dalby, 39, was Bonfim’s opponent and a well-traveled veteran who had been cut by the UFC once before.

Entering as a +455 betting underdog, meaning anyone who bet $100 on Dalby would return $455 profit, the Dane wasn’t thought to be in Bonfim’s league. But Dalby scored the upset, but not in a flash-in-the-pan way. Dalby didn’t find one lucky punch that earned him the TKO 4 minutes, 33 seconds into the second round.

Dalby used unrelenting pressure to make MMA breaking news. In the second round, Dalby finished Bonfim, who was visibly tired, with a knee and followed up with punches to close the show. It was a memorable upset in the UFC. Here’s a look at a few others that shook up the world.

Headkick Heard Round the World

Everyone should have seen it coming. Ronda Rousey has always been married to her judo, but she came into the MMA world as a pioneer. Rousey could utilize her one superior skill, grappling, because the sport was young and other well-rounded female fighters didn’t quite exist yet. 

But even with how Rousey’s career ended, even the worst of the MMA news websites would have to acknowledge her impact. UFC President Dana White had said the promotion would never stage women’s fights. But then White got behind Rousey as she became the UFC’s first women’s bantamweight champion.

After six consecutive title defenses, White signed Holly Holm, a decorated professional boxer, to challenge Rousey on Nov. 15, 2015, at UFC 293 in Australia. Despite Holm’s striking prowess, she was a +800 betting underdog. Holm battered Rousey from the opening horn of the first round.

Holm didn’t let Rousey take her down and peppered her with a jab. By the second round, a visibly tired Rousey was in trouble. Just 59 seconds into the round, Holm unleashed a headkick that knocked Rousey to win her the title.

Rousey would fight once more against Amanda Nunes before retiring. Holm lost the championship in her next fight to Meisha Tate and has spent the past seven years chasing after that moment.

Strickland Outpoints Adesanya

Betting-wise, Sean Strickland beat Israel Adesanya to win the UFC middleweight championship on Sept. 10, 2023, which wasn’t a massive shock at UFC 293 in Australia. But from a perception standpoint, Strickland’s victory was shocking to a large part of the fanbase.

Adesanya was a middleweight champion for years and has defended his belt several times. After vanquishing frequent tormentor Alex Pereira last April, many thought Adesanya was on the way to racking up more title defenses. However, the UFC asked Strickland to fight after Driscus du Plessis could not fight for the title.

Strickland surprised everyone by utilizing a defensive, shoulder-roll style of striking. Strickland’s ability to block and defend himself from Adesanya’s striking was something to watch. Strickland nearly scored a knockout at the end of the first round before coasting through the final four rounds to win a unanimous decision. Strickland was a +425 underdog.

Serra Halts GSP’s Momentum

After defeating Michael Bisping for the middleweight championship, Georges St-Pierre retired in 2017 as a two-division UFC champion. GSP, who retired with a 26-2 record, is better known for his time with the welterweight championship. He made nine consecutive title defenses at welterweight before retiring the first time.

GSP has the most wins, 12, in the history of UFC welterweight title fights in his career. Matt Serra finished his career with 11 wins total. One of those came against GSP at UFC 69 in August 2007. Serra stumbled GSP with a hook and would finish GSP with ground-and-pound 3 minutes, 25 seconds into the first round. Serra was a +850 underdog.

Serra would struggle with injuries and wouldn’t fight again until he rematched the then-interim champion GSP a year later. GSP would unite the titles with a second-round armbar win over Serra. While Serra would never get a rubber match against GSP, his win over GSP in his prime remains one of the promotion’s greatest upsets in a title fight.

Dobson Sets the Standard

Shana Dobson was never going to have a long UFC career. Dobson was given a shot at the UFC main roster after beating Ariel Beck to win on The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion Finale. After a few losses, the promotion began to use her as a gatekeeper for top prospects coming into the UFC.

Dobson would lose to Casey O’Neill and Priscila Cachoeira by KO early in their respective UFC careers. But Dobson’s performance against Mariya Agapova would allow her to make UFC history.

In the second round, Dobson knocked out Mariya Agapova on Aug. 22, 2020. She became the largest betting underdog, at +1100 on the moneyline, to ever win a fight in the UFC. Agapova was viewed as a decent prospect and came into the fight with a 9-1 record. This would start a stretch where Agapova would lose three of four fights. Agapova lost to Gillian Robertson and Maryna Moroz by submission as well.

Dobson would retire from her MMA career with a 4-5 record. She was 1-4 in the UFC, but her one victory ended up creating a record that could stand for quite some time.

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