There is nothing quite like a good comeback in a fight. Watching a fighter bounce back from the brink of a stoppage or a massive deficit on the scorecards to land a game-changing punch or lock up a submission is an absolute thrill. This week, we’ve decided to celebrate these incredible momentum swings by compiling a list of the 10 best comebacks in UFC history.
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10. Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald
Back in 2010, former WEC champion Carlos Condit was given the task of welcoming Rory MacDonald to the Octagon. Given that MacDonald was making his debut with a flawless 10-0 record, and not a single decision among his 10 wins, its unlikely that many UFC welterweights were keen to serve as his welcome committee. But Condit stepped up – and he very nearly paid for it.
The first two rounds saw Condit absorb a lopsided thumping at the hands of his young foe. After a rousing speech from his coach Greg Jackson between the second and third rounds, however, a crazed Condit surged back, and ultimately put his young foe away with punches and elbows with just seconds to spare in the third frame.
9. Miesha Tate vs. Holly Holm
When Holly Holm stepped onto the canvas with Miesha Tate in March of 2016, she was riding high off a career-changing 2015 destruction of Ronda Rousey. As such, many fans expected her to handily defeat her veteran foe.
For most of the fight, it looked like thats the way things would go down. Though Tate enjoyed several fleeting moments of success with her grappling, the real story of the early rounds was Holm’s striking. She was just too much for Tate on the feet.
Then, in the fifth round, Tate laid it all on the line. Clearly aware that she was down on the scorecards, the former Strikeforce champ craftily found her way into position to lock up a standing rear-naked choke. From there, she applied pressure until Holm collapsed to the floor and eventually passed out. In a twist that seemed nearly impossible during the height of Ronda Rousey’s title reign, Miesha Tate was the UFC women’s bantamweight champion.
8. Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg 2
Dana White has said on several occasions that he considers this one of the best fights ever, and it’s easy to understand why.
It was Hughes and Trigg’s second time in the Octagon together. In their first fight, Hughes won with a rear-naked choke, and criticized his foe quite heavily for submitting to such a basic technique. In their second fight, Hughes almost had to eat his words.
After hurting Hughes with a low-blow that the referee missed, Trigg worked his way into position for a rear-naked choke of his own – and it looked deep. Miraculously, however, Hughes exploded out of this hold, carried his foe across the Octagon and slammed him to the canvas. From there, the momentum swing continued, as Hughes softened Trigg up with punches before locking up another rear-naked choke for the win. He had bounced back from the brink of a submission loss to move to 2-0 over one of his most hated rivals.
7. Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 1
Originally, Conor McGregor was supposed to challenge Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight title at UFC 196. When Dos Anjos was forced out of the bout with an injury just 11 days out, however, McGregor was forced to shift his focus to a late replacement in Nate Diaz.
Given McGregor’s previous dominance, and the fact that Diaz had literally been plucked off a yacht in Cabo to fill in for Dos Anjos, most fans expected the former to win. For the opening moments, it appeared that they would be right.
McGregor began the fight in typical fashion, battering his foe with his crafty striking arsenal. Clearly, however, McGregor didn’t understand just how durable Diaz is. After throwing everything he had at his foe in the first, he began to tire in the second. At that point, Diaz began to land with his own punches. When McGregor found himself on wobbly legs, he dove for an ill-advised takedown, and not long thereafter, gave up his back. Seconds later, he was tapping to Diaz rear-naked choke.
“I’m not surprised, motherf*ckers,” Diaz famously said of this come-from-behind, upset win.
6. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 2
After wresting the UFC lightweight title from the waist of our own BJ Penn, and defending it against the same man in an immediate rematch, Frankie Edgar set his sights on the only man he’d ever lost to: Gray Maynard.
In the first round of Edgar and Maynard’s second fight, it looked like Maynard might just have the champ’s number. For the duration of the opening stanza, challenger battered champion to the very precipice of consciousness, probably earning himself a 10-8 round as he did. Remarkably, however, Edgar was able to roar back in the second, winning that round, and going on to engage Maynard and back-and-forth, tit-for-tat, five-round war.
The end result of this one was a draw – Edgar’s comeback did not earn him the win – but the way he rebounded back from the fight’s lopsided first round earns him a spot on this list of the best comebacks in UFC history.
5. Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin
Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin’s 2010 title fight was frequently hyped as “the biggest fight in UFC history” – and this was supposed to be taken literally. The two heavyweights stood out as two of the most monstrous, cage-rattling behemoths to ever step foot in the Octagon. Given this, it was clear that somebody was going down.
When the fight began, it looked immediately as though that somebody would be Lesnar. After being sent careening to the floor by one of Carwin’s toaster-sized fists, he began to turtle under a meteor shower of ground and pound – to the point that many fight fans argued the fight should have been stopped. Demonstrating the kind of championship heart that we did not previously know he had, however, Lesnar weathered the storm, and surged back in round two.
When the second round began, Carwin was running on fumes. His mouth hung open wide, and his muscles clearly weren’t operating the way he wanted. At this point, he was easily taken down by the monstrous Lesnar, who then crawled into position for an arm-triangle choke, and nearly popped Carwin’s head off with the power of his squeeze. It was undeniably one of the best comebacks in UFC history.
4. Mike Russow vs. Todd Duffee
Todd Duffee entered his 2010 bout with Mike Russow with mountains of hype behind him, and understandably so. He had, after all, scored one of the fastest knockouts in UFC history in his recent Octagon debut, levelling a game Tim Hague in just 7 seconds.
When Duffee and Russow were locked in the cage together, Duffee looked poised for another dominant win. Though it was immediately clear that Russow’s chin was going to be tough to crack, it was also clear that Duffee was the faster, stronger, and altogether more dangerous man in the cage. For the first round and the half his fight, the musclebound prospect treated his portly foe like a downright punching bag. Towards the end of the second round, however, Duffee began to slow. Though he remained in control of the fight, his diminished pace would ultimately be his undoing.
Late in the third round, when a slowing Duffee struggled to keep his hands up, Russow landed a blistering punch on his chin – and bam, lights out. Duffee would come to under the bright lights of the MGM Grand Garden Arena, having been on the receiving end of one of the best comebacks in UFC history.
3. Tim Boetsch vs. Yushin Okami
Back in 2012, the UFC made its long awaited return to Japan with UFC 144. The card was packed to the edges with competitive looking fights – but the main card middleweight bout between top contender Yushin Okami and hot-and-cold veteran Tim Boetsch was not one of them. Okami was simply expected to breeze past his foe, and for most of the fight, that’s the way it seemed to be going.
From a technique standpoint, Boetsch just didn’t seem to have much to offer his Japanese foe. By the time the second round ended he was soundly down two rounds to none, which meant that a finish would be necessary if he wanted to earn the victory.
Recklessly chasing the finish against an opponent as highly regarded as Okami was back then, of course, was extremely risky. In an incredible display of gutsiness, however, Boetsch decided he didn’t care. The gritty American plowed into Okami’s range, winging hooks, and driving him toward the cage. Once he had his Japanese foe trapped against the cage, he forced fed him a three-course meal of uppercuts, and polished him off with a desert of ground-and-pound.
Boetsch’s incredible comeback win drove the Octagon-side commentators into an absolute frenzy of excitement. Joe Rogan himself called it one of the best comebacks in UFC history.
2. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen 1
This fight could very easily take the top spot on this list, not only because it was one of the very best comebacks in UFC history, but because of the drama that led up to it.
In advance of his title shot against middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen talked more trash than any fighter had before. He plowed right over the English-Portuguese language barrier and embarrassed Silva with his venomous gift for the gab at every possible turn. He also promised he would defeat the long-time champ.
Against all odds, Sonnen looked like he was going to make good on his promise, as he dominated the seemingly unbeatable Anderson Silva for the better part of five rounds. But then, late in the fifth, with his back to the canvas, Silva threw his legs into position for a triangle armbar. Miraculously, he then locked the technique up, and earned the tap. The middleweight great had bounced back from one of the most lopsided beatings we’ve ever seen a challenger dish out on a champion, and kept his belt in the process.
1. Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry
The reason this fight takes the top spot over Silva’s come-from-behind defeat of Sonnen is simple. Silva bounced back from a scoring deficit to win his fight. Kongo, meanwhile, rebounded from the very fringes of consciousness to win his with a violent, one-punch knockout.
This fight began with a bang. Moments into the first round, Barry crashed into Kongo with a thudding punch, turning the Frenchman’s legs into spaghetti as he did. From there, a dazed Kongo was pushed to the brink of wakefulness by an onslaught of followup punches, as the referee stood ready to spring in to stop the fight. For whatever reason, however, the ref elected to let Kongo fight on, and after being dropped multiple times, the hulking Frenchman proved this was the right call. Still in a complete daze, he planted an absolute bomb on Barry’s chin. Seconds later, there came another, and this one sent the American spinning face first into the canvas. Kongo had essentially come back from the dead to land his kill shot, and it was an incredible thing to see.
That’s why this fight gets the top spot on our list of the best comebacks in UFC history.
This article was first posted on BJPenn.com on 13/1/17.