The Rundown: Greatest Upsets In Sports (The Holly Holm Tribute List)

Last Saturday night in Melbourne – well, Sunday morning in Melbourne; Saturday evening here – Holly Holm did what many believed was impossible when she knocked out Ronda Rousey just 59 seconds into the second round to become the new UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

It was a win that sent shockwaves not just through the MMA world, but through the mainstream as well, as everyone from Good Morning America to late night talk show hosts were discussing the shocking result.

In light of Holm’s triumphant underdog performance, we’re reflecting on some of the other amazing upsets in sports history.

Upset outlasts Man O’War (1919)

You can’t do a list about the biggest upsets in sports history and not include a horse named Upset that is responsible for the one-and-only loss the great Man O’War ever incurred. The loss came in the Sanford Memorial Stakes at Saratoga, where despite being behind by several lengths early, jockey Johnny Loftus guided arguably the greatest thoroughbred of all-time to a second place finish, falling a half-length short of making up the distance.

New York Jets defeat Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl III (1969)

The first game to officially carry the “Super Bowl” moniker, Joe Willie Namath made sure to make it memorable, guaranteeing that his New York J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! would defeat the heavily-favoured Colts and Johnny Unitas. And then they went out and did it.

U.S.A. defeats USSR in Ice Hockey at 1980 Winter Olympics

“The Miracle on Ice” is still one of the most unexpected performances in sports history. The Russian side was a juggernaut, featuring Tretiak, Mikhailov and Kharlamov, plus youngsters that would become household names in the future like Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov. But Mike Eruzione’s goal with 10 minutes to go in the third game the U.S. a 4-3 lead that held up, leading to a memorable call from Al Michaels and eventually a Disney movie.

North Carolina State beats Houston for the NCAA Title (19893)

Coach Jim Valvano’s N.C. State team was the first Cinderella of the NCAA Tournament and their win over top-seeded Houston, which featured future NBA Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwam, remains one of the best upsets in tournament history, predating Villanova’s upset of No. 1 Georgetown two years later.

“Buster” Douglas stops Mike Tyson (1989)

James “Buster” Douglas was a good fighter, but he was supposed to be the man that stood between “Iron Mike” and Evander Holyfield. Instead, the 42-1 underdog shocked the world with a 10th knockout of the undisputed heavyweight champion. He’d lose the belt to Holyfield in his next fight, but his legacy lives on in lists like these.

Rulon Gardner wins gold (2000)

Alexander Karelin went 13 years without suffering a loss. Rulon Gardner wasn’t supposed to medal and had lost to “The Experiment” three years earlier. But when they met in the gold medal match in the 2000 Olympics, it was the American who scored an unexpected 1-0 win over the Russian.

Golden State makes history against the Mavs (2007)

Never in NBA history had an eighth-seed beaten a No. 1 seed in a seven-game series, but then the Dallas Mavericks met Baron Davis and the Warriors and history changed. BD & Company ousted Dirk Nowtizki and his running mates in six, with Davis playing on a gimpy hamstring and having his own “Willis Reed Moment.”

Appalachian State shocks Big Blue (2007)

No. 5 Michigan thought they were starting their season with a fun, little home game against the reigning D-III champs, but the Mountaineers walked into Ann Arbour looking to give the Wolverines a game and walked out as the first FCS team to ever beat a FBS school. The loss landed them the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week and sent Michigan out of the rankings.

Giants deny Patriots a perfect season (2008)

New England was unstoppable all season, steamrolling teams on the way to the Super Bowl, where victory the 10-6 wild card entrants seemed like a sure thing. With 2:39 left, the Giants were down 14-10. Then David Tyree caught the ball against the side of his helmet on a crazy play, Plaxico Burress caught a beautiful ball in the corner of the end zone and the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season was dashed.

Roberta Vinci ends Serena Williams’ Grand Slam chances (2015)

With the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles already in her pocket, Williams was two wins away from completing the Grand Slam when she took the court against the unseeded Vinci. Williams cruised through the first set, winning 6-2, but Vinci never wavered, won the second 6-4 and outlasted the fading top seed to win 6-4 in the deciding frame.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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