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The five greatest upsets in sporting history

GIVEN that her last three fights before UFC 193 lasted a grand total of 64 seconds, it’s little wonder Ronda Rousey entered her clash with Holly Holm as the unbackable favourite.

But the Melbourne crowd was left stunned on Sunday after Rousey was floored by a brutal kick to the neck in round two.

Holm’s knockout win is already being hailed as the greatest sporting upset of the decade, if not one of the greatest of all time.

In honour of that stunning outcome, we’ve plundered the archives and come up with what we think are the five biggest underdog victories in the history of sport.

Buster Douglas knocks out Mike Tyson (1990)

On the back of Ronda’s shock loss, one can’t help but remember another giant of American fighting being toppled at the peak of their powers.

Although 1990 was a tumultuous year for Mike Tyson out of the ring, he was all but unstoppable with the gloves on prior to his heavyweight world championship bout with James ‘Buster’ Douglas.

Indeed, ‘Iron Mike’ was so well fancied that the odds on Douglas to win were a whopping 42 to 1.

Anyone who took the punt was soundly rewarded, as Buster used his longer jab range to punish Tyson’s left eye en route to a knockout win in the 10th round.

It was the first defeat of Tyson’s professional boxing career.

Miracle on Ice (1980)

Having won six of the last seven gold medals, the Soviet Union entered the 1980 Winter Olympics as the obvious favourites in the men’s ice hockey event.

But the United States had other ideas when they met their Cold War rivals in the medal round at Lake Placid – despite the fact nobody gave them a hope in hell.

For while Russia boasted many of the world’s finest hockey players, the USA team was made up entirely of amateurs and college athletes.

Yet it was Herb Brooks’ men who triumphed, netting two unanswered goals in the third period to claim a 4-3 victory on their way to the unlikeliest of gold medals.

To this day, that ‘Miracle on Ice’ remains arguably the most treasured moment in all of American sport.

Greece win the European Championship (2004)

When you think about the giants of European football, the Hellenic Republic does not even enter the equation.

Greece came into Euro 2004 as just another table-filler, having previously appeared at the tournament just once (1980).

But Otto Rehhagel’s highly defensive outfit managed to survive a tough group, qualifying for the knockout phase ahead of both Russia and Spain – one of the pre-tournament favourites.

They then proceeded to beat the defending champions, France, in the quarterfinals, before repeating the dose against a highly fancied Czech Republic side in the semis.

That set up an unlikely final date at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, where the Greeks capped a remarkable campaign by beating Portugal, the host nation, for the second time in the tournament.

Rulon Gardner stuns Aleksandr Karelin at the Sydney Olympics (2000)

As far as underdog stories go, it’s hard to beat Rulon Gardner’s stunning performance in the Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2000 Olympic Games.

That event was the undisputed domain of one Aleksandr Karelin – the greatest athlete in the history of the sport.

Not only had Karelin been undefeated since 1987, he had not conceded a single point for six years prior to Sydney 2000.

But Gardner, a 29-year-old American who wasn’t even tipped to push for a minor medal, scored in the first round of his medal match with the fearsome Russian and held on to claim gold with a 1-0 victory.

Gardner also competed at the Athens Olympics, where he won bronze in the 120kg category, after which his fitness deteriorated to such a degree that he appeared on The Biggest Loser in 2011.

Australia II wins the America’s Cup (1983)

Even before the boats had set sail from Newport, Rhode Island, the 1983 America’s Cup was surrounded by an unprecedented level of media focus.

Part of that was down to the United States press venerating one of the nation’s great sporting legacies, as the New York Yacht Club had held the title for an unbroken run of 132 years.

But there was also controversy, as US skipper Dennis Conner and the American media were openly critical of the challenging Royal Perth Yacht Club’s revolutionary winged-keel vessel.

The authorities deemed Australia II to be a legitimate entry, however, and what ensued changed the nature of the America’s Cup forever.

Having lost the first two races, John Bertrand’s team fought back to become the first challengers to push the America’s Cup beyond a fifth race.

They then won the sixth by comfortable 3:25 margin to take the contest to a seventh and final race, where Australia II ultimately triumphed after a gruelling back-and-forth struggle.
That landmark victory sparked a day of nationwide celebrations in Australia, leading Primer Minister Bob Hawke to famously proclaim: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”

What do you think of our list? Did we miss anything? Tell us your all-time favourite sporting upsets in the comments section below.

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