Some of the best-laid plans of the UFC and its top fighters were thrown into upheaval this year. With 2007 only a few weeks away from ending and UFC 79 still on the docket, which of this year's upsets were the most unexpected and caused the most disorder? Here are my rankings of the top 5 UFC upsets in 2007:
1) Matt Serra defeats Georges St. Pierre by 1st round TKO April 7 at UFC 69
There was no better example of an unexpected, havoc-wreaking upset in 2007 than Georges St. Pierre's first round TKO loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69. St. Pierre went into this fight having just secured the UFC welterweight title against Matt Hughes in his previous fight. He was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and one of the UFC's cover boys. His first title defense against TUF 4 champ Serra was regarded as nothing but a formality in what was expected to be a long title reign for the young Canadian.
There was also nothing in Serra's past that could have prepared spectators for what took place that night at Houston's Toyota Center. After all, Serra's mere inclusion as a TUF 4 cast member spoke volumes about his UFC career. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master went into the fight with a middling 5-4 UFC record and had only recorded one non-decision UFC win.
What made this upset even more stunning was the manner by which Serra claimed victory. His only chance to win was supposed to be on the ground, but he defied all odds and staggered St. Pierre standing with punches early and often. Whether or not St. Pierre was ready mentally or physically, this upset -- and the ferocity with which it occurred -- was one for the ages.
2) Gabriel Gonzaga defeats Mirko Cro Cop by 1st round KO April 21 at UFC 70
Mirko Cro Cop entered the UFC in early 2007 as one of the promotion's prized recruits from the now-defunct PRIDE organization. A Croatian heavyweight who had dazzled MMA fans for years with his personal story (he was both a member of the Croatian special police and Parliament) and his kicks to opponents' heads, Cro Cop was brought in with the belief that he would soon be challenging for the UFC's heavyweight crown.
After a solid UFC debut victory over Eddie Sanchez in which he unleashed that kick, Cro Cop looked to be on schedule for the title shot. That is, until Gabriel Gonzaga stepped in and crumpled him awkwardly with an eerily familiar head-rattling kick of his own. While Gonzaga had displayed solid skills leading up to this fight, no one could have expected him to own Cro Cop the way he did. Even before landing the blow that will forever be a part of UFC highlight packages, Gonzaga had done quite a bit of damage grounding and pounding Cro Cop against the cage.
3) Forrest Griffin defeats Mauricio Rua by 3rd round submissionSeptember 22 at UFC 76
Mauricio Rua was another PRIDE fighter who debuted in the UFC with much fanfare. Rua was widely considered one of the top light heavyweights in the world and placed high on most pound-for-pound rankings. Even among bettors more familiar with TUF golden boy Forrest Griffin, Rua was a prohibitive favorite and was expected to soon lay claim to a title shot against Rampage Jackson.
However, Griffin was more physical and showed skill standing as well as going to the ground against Rua. While Griffin appeared to be leading on the score cards as the fight drew to a close, he put an exclamation mark on the upset by pulling off a rear naked choke against the gassed Chute Boxe prodigy. The fans in Anaheim erupted and another stunning 2007 upset was in the books.
4) Keith Jardine defeats Chuck Liddell by split decision September 22 at UFC 76
Both Chuck Liddell and Keith Jardine entered the Octagon sporting first round knockout defeats in their previous fights. Conventional wisdom strongly held that Liddell would use this opportunity to begin his comeback. Instead, Jardine fought a smart fight -- picking away at Liddell with leg kicks -- and even dropped the former champ in the second round. The second upset at UFC 76 left Liddell staring at a two-loss slump and left Jardine celebrating the biggest victory of his career.
5) Randy Couture defeats Tim Sylvia by unanimous decision March 3 at UFC 68
In hindsight, it may be easy to forget just how unexpected this victory was for Randy Couture. But remember, Couture had retired from MMA in 2006 after a second loss to then-light heavyweight champ Liddell. Not only was the then-43-year-old Couture coming back after almost a year-long layoff, but he was also moving up a weight class to square off against heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia. Sylvia was much taller, much heavier, and more than 10 years younger than Couture. But Couture defiantly announced his arrival with a first-round punch that sent Sylvia reeling, and he intelligently controlled the fight for five rounds before winning by unanimous decision.
6) Honorable Mention: Houston Alexander defeats Keith Jardine by 1st round TKO April 7 at UFC 69
Houston Alexander was an unknown to most UFC fans before he made his Octagon debut at UFC 69. Jardine, on the other hand, was on an upward trajectory, coming off a decisive TKO victory over Griffin in 2006. Jardine started out strong in this fight, but Alexander responded by unleashing a torrent of strikes that left Jardine using his face to brace his fall onto the mat.