Who doesn’t love a good upset?
In 2021, MMA saw its fair share of underdogs who defied the odds – in the UFC, Bellator and beyond. While everyone has an opinion of who should win and who should lose, the oddsmakers largely get the final say on what history reflects.
This year, with the help of MMA database Tapology, MMA Junkie has compiled the top 10 betting upsets of 2021. Fights that were eligible were those which numerous major online sports books recognized, and which Tapology recorded prior to line close.
Check out the top 10 MMA betting upsets of 2021 below, per Tapology. Note that only major MMA promotions were included in the tally.
Corey Samuels (+450) def. Isaiah Hokit (-715) | Bellator 261
Full result: Corey Samuels def. Isaiah Hokit via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 0:10
Bellator is known for building blue chip wrestling prospects. So when wrestling standout Isaiah Hokit stepped into the Bellator cage, many viewers expected him to breeze through. But Corey Samuels spoiled the party when he knocked Hokit out just 10 seconds into their Bellator 261 bout.
Adriano Moraes (+460) def. Demetrious Johnson (-700) | ONE on TNT I
Full result: Adriano Moraes def. Demetrious Johnson via knockout (knee and punches) – Round 2, 2:24
It’s always weird when a seemingly unfinishable legend gets knocked out for the first time. So at ONE on TNT I when former UFC flyweight champion and all-time MMA great Demetrious Johnson was finished with strikes for the first time, Adriano Moraes turned the MMA world upside down.
Daniel Torres (+470) def. Salahdine Parnasse (-810) | KSW 58
Full result: Daniel Torres def. Salahdine Parnasse via TKO (punch) – Round 1, 1:49
Daniel Torres wasn’t supposed to win at KSW 58, but he did. Against one of the world’s top featherweight champions, Salahdine Parnasse, Torres etched him name into MMA notoriety in 109 seconds with a knockout blow. Parnasse got his revenge 11 months later, however, when he defeated Torres in a rematch via unanimous decision.
Maheshate (+475) def. Achilles Estremadura (-700) | DWCS 46
Jordan Young (+480) def. Omari Akhemdov (-675) | 2021 PFL Championship
Full result: Jordan Young def. Omari Akhmedov via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 1:32
In what turned out to be Jordan Young’s final MMA fight, he picked up arguably the biggest win of his career and did so in come-from-behind fashion when he rallied to defeat UFC alum Omari Akhmedov at 2021 PFL Championship. Less than two months later, Young died at 27. A cause of death is not yet known.
Johnny Campbell (+585) def. Henry Corrales (-900) | Bellator 258
Full result: Johnny Campbell def. Henry Corrales via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:12
Henry Corrales is a staple of the Bellator division and seems to provide a tough out for any fighter on the roster. That’s why non-rostered fighter Johnny Campbell’s dominant finish came as such a surprise when he submitted Corrales at Bellator 258.
Gleison Tibau (+625) def. Rory MacDonald (-950) | 2021 PFL 5
Full result: Gleison Tibau def. Rory MacDonald via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Robbery or no robbery, the record remains the same. Gleison Tibau defeated Rory MacDonald at 2021 PFL 5 via split decision. While many disagree with the two judges who scored the fight in his favor, Tibau still picked up a win over arguably one of the biggest name opponents he has fought to date.
Ben Parrish (+630) def. Christian Edwards (-1000) | Bellator 266
Full result: Ben Parrish def. Christian Edwards via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 0:38
In what was perhaps Bellator’s most prolific upset of the year, “Big Tuna” Ben Parrish became an instant fan favorite. Up against Christian Edwards, a fighter being touted by many as potential Jon Jones-esque prospect, Parrish defied the odds when he flattened Edwards in front of a packed San Jose, Calif., crowd at Bellator 266.
Julianna Peña (+700) def. Amanda Nunes (-1125) | UFC 269
Full result: Julianna Peña def. Amanda Nunes via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 3:26
Julianna Pena is the UFC women’s bantamweight champion. That’s a statement that wasn’t on anyone’s bingo board entering 2021. Well, except for maybe Peña herself. Through self belief and smart game-planning, Peña defied the odds when she defeated Amanda Nunes via second-round submission at UFC 269.
Ethan Hughes (+750) def. Mahmoud Sebie (-1250) | Bellator 271
Full result: Ethan Hughes def. Mahmoud Sebie via TKO (ground-and-pound) – Round 3, 4:05
It was not the most high-profile bout of 2021 and perhaps flew under some MMA fans’ radars, but Ethan Hughes cashed as a near eight-to-one favorite at Bellator 271. Taking on hyped Egyptian Olympic wrestler Mahmoud Sebie, Hughes earned himself a multifight deal with Bellator when he dominated his opponent en route to a third-round TKO.