Israel Adesanya (L) faces off with Sean Strickland (Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The Biggest UFC Shocks of 2023 So Far

The huge UFC Fight Nights tend to give us plenty of surprises, as unfancied fighters upset the odds by defeating their more heavily backed opponents. 2023 has been a classic year in terms of MMA shocks, but what have been some of the biggest shocks of the year that we still can’t quite believe happened?

Brendan Allen Beat Andre Muniz at UFC Vegas 70

This fight suddenly took on more importance when the cancellation of Krylov vs Spann meant this became the main event at UFC Vegas 70. Brazilian-born Muniz had won nine in a row before this February showdown and had built up a strong record of submissions on his way to a 5-0 UFC record. Allen was on a three-fight winning streak but the Brazilian was widely regarded as being the favorite.


However, it was the American who started well before both traded punches and kicks in a fairly even contest. The third round saw Muniz start strongly before Allen took control. The American ended the contest by grabbing his rival’s leg and pinning him, forcing Muniz to submit with a rear-naked choke.   

Allen followed this win with another win over Bruno Silva to rise to number ten in the coveted UFC middleweight list. As for Muniz, he recently lost again – to Scotsman Paul Craig – and is currently ranked as number 15, so with the benefit of hindsight perhaps it wasn’t as big a surprise as it appeared to be at the time.

Allen is scheduled to fight Craig in Las Vegas on November 18, as one of the most exciting upcoming fights planned for the remainder of this year. A look ahead to the upcoming UFC events reveals the likes of UFC – UFC 295: Jones vs Miocic in November and UFC – UFC 294: Makhachev vs Oliveira 2 the month before that, with the betting on MMA fights already available on many of these events, letting us see who the favorites are and who would be a surprise winner. For example, UFC 295 betting shows Jon Jones at -420 with rival Stipe Miocic at +315.

Sean Strickland Beat Israel Adesanya at UFC 293

The buildup to this fight at UFC 293 in Sydney was relatively low-key, partly because it was widely expected that two-time champ Adesanya would dispose of his American rival fairly easily. This bout was for the UFC Middleweight Championship and while Strickland entered it with a good winning record, most analysts thought that his style was perfect for Adesanya to beat.

However, it soon became clear in a tight contest that the pre-match odds on the New Zealanders that made him hot favorite weren’t as accurate as we’d thought.  This epic battle ended with the judges having to decide who won, and they all gave it to Strickland with a 49-46 score in each case.

The majority of fans agreed with the decision, as the American had shown his class and had kept Adesanya at bay very cleverly during the five rounds. What comes next for Adesanya after this unexpected loss which means that he’s now lost two in three? Well, there’s already been some talk of a possible rematch, with respected commentator Daniel Cormier suggesting that it’s time to move on and that Strickland taking the title has opened up the possibility of interesting match-ups with other promising fighters who deserve a shot.

Alexa Grasso Surprised Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 285

These fighters are currently in the news after the controversial split draw between them at Noche UFC that was held in Las Vegas recently.  It turns out that not everyone was happy with the decision to call it a draw, and it’s even led to calls for the UFC to change its rules to end this sort of decision. The 47-47 scorecard followed a strong finish by Grasso and we’ll need to wait to see if they get another rematch.

Of course, this fight only happened because Grasso shocked Shevchenko in their original battle that occurred at UFC 285, with the Mexican winning with a submission by a face crank in the fourth round.  It was a heavily-anticipated fight but few people gave Grasso much chance of upsetting the odds.

Shevchenko was rightly the favorite in their first bout – and many fans also predicted that the Kyrgyzstani would also win their re-match comfortably. She’d been unbeaten for several years as she climbed to the number one spot in the list of the female flyweight rankings. However, despite appearing to be in charge for much of the original fight, she has now been unable to beat her Mexican rival on two occasions.

What will the next big UFC shock be? These fights come thick and fast during the year, so it seems likely that we don’t need to wait too long to see the next unexpected victory that takes our breath away.