It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2017. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
There are few guarantees in the fight game. The mixed martial arts landscape is rife with underdogs who pulled off the impossible and emerged victorious when no one thought he or she had a chance.
But while there are few guarantees in the fight game, Joanna Jędrzejczyk emerging from UFC 217 in November 2017 as the UFC strawweight champion seemed to be about as close to a sure thing as there was at the time. Jędrzejczyk was an overwhelming betting favorite and her opponent, Rose Namajunas, was looked at by many as just needing to be happy to be there.
Then a funny thing happened in Madison Square Garden that night.
Even though Jędrzejczyk is one of the most technically-skilled strikers in the UFC, Namajunas showed no fear to stand and trade with her opponent and managed to rock Jędrzejczyk with strikes. It took only three minutes for Namajunas to pull off perhaps the biggest upset in the UFC since Holly Holm dethroned Ronda Rousey in 2015. Just like that fight, the underdog wrestled the title from the favorite with a devastating knockout.
Namajunas’ victory over Jędrzejczyk was also her first to come via knockout, which basically meets the textbook definition of irony. Jędrzejczyk attributed her loss to a disastrous weight cut and appeared not to take Namajunas seriously as an opponent, which is often a potent mix for an upset loss. Those upsets don’t get much bigger than what we saw at UFC 217, which made this fight the pick of Combat Press as the “Upset of the Year.”
Other finalists: Nicco Montaño vs. Roxanne Modafferi, Josh Emmett vs. Ricardo Lamas
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2017 MMA Award winners.