The year 2021 is coming to a close. With one UFC event left on the calendar, we compile this year’s five biggest underdog wins based on the UFC betting odds.
UFC’s Best Underdog Wins of 2021
5. Li Jingliang over Santiago Ponzinibbio
- Odds: Li Jingliang +270, Santiago Ponzinibbio -340
- Event: UFC on ABC: Holloway vs Kattar
- Date: January 15, 2021
We kick off the list with one of the biggest upsets: “The Leech” Li Jingliang shocked the returning Santiago Ponzinibbio with a first-round knockout. Jingliang (18-7-0) opened at +235 but was bet up to +270 when the lines closed.
— MMA mania (@mmamania) January 16, 2021
The Chinese fighter was supposed to be a “tune-up fight” for Ponzinibbio (28-5-0), a former top-ten fighter. But Jingliang turned the tables on him while busting online gambling parlays everywhere.
4. Derrick Lewis over Curtis Blaydes
- Odds: Derrick Lewis +350, Curtis Blaydes -460
- Event: UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Lewis
- Date: February 19, 2021
Arguably the most violent knockout this year, Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis flattened Curtis Blaydes (15-3-0, 1 NC) and sent chalk bets online to hell. Lewis (25-8-0, 1 NC) was supposed to be Blaydes’ final test en route to a title shot. Instead, he got caught by an uppercut as he shot for a takedown and was unconscious before he hit the floor.
Derrick Lewis doing this to Curtis Blaydes really isn’t talked about enough pic.twitter.com/fLvWENxZP3
— Jason Williams (@jasoneg33) May 1, 2021
Lewis, in turn, was rewarded a shot at the interim title. The knockout win also broke the record for most knockouts in the heavyweight division and tied for most in the UFC with 12. This would be Lewis’s fifth win as an underdog in the promotion.
3. Anthony Hernandez over Rodolfo Vieira
- Odds: Anthony Hernandez +370, Rodolfo Vieira -500
- Event: UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
- Date: February 12, 2021
No upset list is complete without a hype train getting derailed and this one was courtesy of Anthony Hernandez. A product of Dana White’s Contender Series, Hernandez (8-2-0, 1 NC) was supposed to be short work for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prodigy in Rodolfo Vieira.
— La Sueur (@LaSueur_off) February 14, 2021
Things took a twist in the second round. Vieira (7-1-0) would win the first round but would run out of gas and get submitted not unlike another heavy favorite later on this list. All his gold medals and acclaim didn’t do him much as Hernandez, a loser of two of his three UFC fights, secured the biggest win of his career.
2. Gerald Meerschaert over Makhmud Muradov
- Odds: Gerald Meerschaert +400, Makhmud Muradov -600
- Event: UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Chikadze
- Date: August 28, 2021
Gerald Meerschaert getting flatlined in 17 seconds against Khamzat Chimaev will always live in infamy. But the rugged underdog would add perhaps his biggest scalp by submitting the highly touted prospect, Makhmud Muradov despite being a 4-1 underdog when the lines closed.
— UFC Español (@UFCEspanol) August 29, 2021
Meerschaert (33-14-0) would survive Muradov’s (25-7-0) onslaught and secure a rear-naked choke in the second round to cash as the best UFC bet that evening. The win also gave Meerschaert the middleweight division record for most submission wins with seven.
1. Julianna Pena over Amanda Nunes
- Odds: Julianna Pena +600, Amanda Nunes -1000
- Event: UFC 269: Oliveira vs Poirier
- Date: December 11, 2021
Was there going to be anything else? UFC 269 was an event filled with upsets but none were bigger than Julianna Pena submitting UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. Pena (11-4-0) was 6-1 to beat Nunes (21-5-0) and 10-1 to finish her.
In a fight similar to the Hernandez-Vieira fight, Nunes dominated the first round and looked every bit like the -1000 favorite she was. But come the second, Nunes fought undisciplined and was hurt by Pena on their feet. She would panic and go to her wrestling, which led to Pena submitting her to turn the MMA world upside down.