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Alexa Grasso of Mexico reacts to her win over Valentina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan in the UFC flyweight championship fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
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The Upsets | 2023 UFC.com Awards

Our Writers Vote On Who Pulled Off The Most Improbable Victory Of The Year

The highly unofficial awards season continues with the biggest upsets of 2023 and how we saw them on fight night ...

1 - Alexa Grasso vs Valentina Shevchenko 1

Alexa Grasso | Crowning Moment
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Alexa Grasso | Crowning Moment
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Alexa Grasso is the new UFC flyweight champion!

The Mexican challenger took full advantage of a tactical mistake by Valentina Shevchenko in the fourth round to secure the rear-naked choke finish.

This was an ultra-competitive fight the whole way through, with Grasso surprising Shevchenko in the first by fighting from a southpaw stance. While the champion turned to her grappling to build a lead heading into the championship rounds, Grasso remained focused and continued to make the most of her opportunities.

MORE 2023 UFC.COM AWARDS: The Newcomers | 

When Shevchenko missed a spinning back kick, Grasso instantly climbed onto her back and attacked the choke, getting her hooks in, flattening her out, and eventually drawing out the tap.

This was an incredible performance from Grasso, who became the third fighter from Mexico to claim championship gold this year, joining Brandon Moreno and Yair Rodriguez. Just an amazing effort from the new champion!

2 - Sean Strickland vs Israel Adesanya

Sean Strickland reacts after a unanimous-decision victory over Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in the UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 293 event at Qudos Bank Arena on September 10, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Sean Strickland reacts after a unanimous-decision victory over Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in the UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 293 event at Qudos Bank Arena on September 10, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Sean Strickland is the new UFC middleweight champion after venturing to Sydney and out-working Israel Adesanya over five rounds.

The challenger landed the most telling blows of the fight throughout, hurting Adesanya late in the first to set the tone for the contest. In every round, Strickland was the one pressing the action, making the champion work going backwards, never giving him a square target to hit. For five rounds, Adesanya couldn’t find the target and Strickland just kept touching him, connecting with force in spurts and pressuring the entire way through.

VIDEO: Sean Strickland & Dricus Du Plessis Get Into Fight In Crowd At UFC 296

Strickland swept the scorecards with 49-46 scores across the board, authoring one of the biggest championship upsets in UFC history.

3 - Bobby Green vs Grant Dawson

Bobby Green reacts after defeating Grant Dawson in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on October 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Bobby Green reacts after defeating Grant Dawson in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on October 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)

Bobby Green didn’t waste any time dispatching Grant Dawson, closing out the show with a sudden stoppage win.

Dawson looked to engage on the feet right away, and Green clocked him with a left hand that put him on the canvas. Dawson covered up as the follow-up blows came crashing down and referee Keith Peterson was forced to step in and halt the action.

See Which Big Fights Are Happening In 2024

Just a massive victory for Green, handing Dawson his first UFC victory while registering the biggest win of his lengthy professional career. That’s now consecutive finishes for the 37-year-old veteran, who should find himself with a number next to his name next week.

4 - Bobby Green vs Tony Ferguson

Bobby Green celebrates his submissionvictory over Tony Ferguson in a lightweight fight during the UFC 291 event at Delta Center on July 29, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Bobby Green celebrates his submissionvictory over Tony Ferguson in a lightweight fight during the UFC 291 event at Delta Center on July 29, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Bobby Green got back into the win column while handing Tony Ferguson a sixth consecutive loss on Saturday’s pay-per-view main card.

“King” was the sharper, more active fighter throughout, rallying from an early knockdown in the first to still out-hustle the former interim lightweight champion. He busted up Ferguson from top position for a good portion of the middle frame, and remained a step ahead of the former contender throughout the third, sealing the impressive effort by submitting Ferguson in the final seconds of the fight.

View Green's Athlete Profile

This was an excellent veteran effort from Green, who remains an under-appreciated stalwart in the lightweight division. As of right now, his UFC resume is bookended by submission finishes, the only two of his UFC career. For Ferguson, that’s now six consecutive losses, with the last three coming by stoppage.

5 - Alexa Grasso vs Valentina Shevchenko 2

Alexa Grasso Octagon Interview | Noche UFC
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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Alexa Grasso Octagon Interview | Noche UFC
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The championship conclusion to Noche UFC was captivating, as Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko battled tooth and nail for five rounds, running level at times and trading big moments in others in a thoroughly entertaining main event.

Round 1 was relatively even, Shevchenko landing early before Grasso shifted southpaw and found success with her jab. In the second, the champ dropped the challenger with a right hand that sent her tumbling backwards, only for the former titleholder to respond by winning the third, threatening with a mounted guillotine and effective groundwork throughout.

The championship rounds were tense and tight. In the fourth, Grasso landed a series of short knees to the head of Shevchenko before rushing a back take and losing position, with “Bullet” landing an elbow that opened up Grasso later in the frame. And in the fifth, the former champion started well, picking at Grasso before a mistake allowed the Mexican titleholder to take her back and spend the remainder of the round landing shots and threatening with choke attempts.

Dana White's UFC 296 Post-Fight Press Conference

As the horn sounded, the crowd erupted, with the outcome uncertain. When the totals were read aloud, we had ourselves a draw, with each woman winning 48-47 on one card and the third official seeing the fight even.

Grasso retains her title in a classic encounter, and it will be interesting to see what happens from here. While not the result anyone wanted, this was an outstanding fight between two incredible talents.

6 - Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman 3

Leon Edwards of Jamaica reacts after defeating Kamaru Usman of Nigeria in the UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Leon Edwards of Jamaica reacts after defeating Kamaru Usman of Nigeria in the UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 286 event at The O2 Arena on March 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Each fight in the series between these two men has continued to get better, with the UFC 286 main event standing as the best of the bunch.

For all five rounds, the welterweight rivals ran close to level, with each man having moments where they landed good shots: Edwards chopping with loads of kicks, Usman pressuring constantly, working behind his hands, and neither really grabbing a clear advantage. They battled each other every step of the way, right to the final horn, leaving the outcome in the hands of the judges.

RELATED: Leon Edwards Reacts After Defeating Colby Covington At UFC 296

A third-round point deduction against Edwards for grabbing the fence to deny a takedown attempt loomed large, hovering as a pivotal moment in an ultra-competitive, freakishly close fight between two fighters with a ton of history between them.

When the scores were added up, Edwards emerged with a majority decision victory, retaining his title in an absolute classic against an all-time great that brought greatness out of him in the biggest moment of his career.

7 - Ariane Lipski vs Casey O'Neill

Ariane Lipski of Brazil punches Casey O'Neill of Scotland in a flyweight fight during the UFC 296 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Ariane Lipski of Brazil punches Casey O'Neill of Scotland in a flyweight fight during the UFC 296 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Ariane Lipski has never looked better.

The 29-year-old “Queen of Violence” took the fight to Casey O’Neill right out of the gate, showcasing her signature striking acumen and punishing power. After wobbling and then dropping O’Neill early in the second, the Brazilian transitioned into an armbar that drew out the tap.

RELATED: Ariane Lipski Celebrates After Defeating O'Neill

After struggling to find consistency in the early days of her UFC run, Lipski has now earned three straight victories, closing out her year with an upset finish of a ranked fighter. It’s taken some time, but the former KSW champ is starting to look like a dynamic and dangerous force inside the Octagon.

8 - Tom Aspinall vs Sergei Pavlovich

Tom Aspinall Octagon Interview | UFC 295
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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Tom Aspinall Octagon Interview | UFC 295
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Tom Aspinall is the interim UFC heavyweight champion!

After eating a shot from Sergei Pavlovich in the opening moments of the contest, Aspinall reset,  and landed consecutive rapid right hands to the temple of the Russian brute — the first shaking his equilibrium and the second sending him crashing to the canvas.

MORE ASPINALL: Post-Fight Interview | Post-Fight Press Conference | Athlete Profile

Aspinall is now 7-1 in the UFC, with his only setback coming as a result of an injury, and each of those victories coming by way of stoppage. He’s always profiled as a future contender, and now the big man from Saint Helens has championship gold around his waist.

England, you have another UFC champion in the midst!

9 - Dricus Du Plessis vs Robert Whittaker

Dricus Du Plessis of South Africa punches Robert Whittaker of New Zealand in a middleweight fight during the UFC 290 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Dricus Du Plessis of South Africa punches Robert Whittaker of New Zealand in a middleweight fight during the UFC 290 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Dricus Du Plessis is your next middleweight title challenger.

The South African continued his undefeated march towards the top of the middleweight division on Saturday, dispatching Robert Whittaker midway through the second round of the UFC 290 feature bout. He busted up the former champion in the closing minute of the opening round, and then hurt Whittaker again in the second and never let him off the hook, pounding out the finish, just as he said he would.

WATCH: Dricus Du Plessis 2024 Season Presser Backstage Interview

Now 6-0 in the UFC, “Stillknocks” is most likely going to fight for the middleweight title next. He’s a big, physical force in the 185-pound weight class, and a clash with Israel Adesanya will be fascinating.

10 - Shavkat Rakhmonov vs Geoff Neal

Shavkat Rakhmonov of Uzbekistan chokes Geoff Neal in a welterweight fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Shavkat Rakhmonov of Uzbekistan chokes Geoff Neal in a welterweight fight during the UFC 285 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Shavkat Rakhmonov just keeps winning.

The undefeated rising star picked up his fifth consecutive UFC win and 17th straight victory overall midway through the UFC 285 main card, getting the better of things in a competitive, tough fight against durable DWCS grad Geoff Neal. It was the toughest test of the 28-year-old’s career and despite some scary moments, he was able to pass.

In all three rounds, the ranked welterweights got after each other on the feet, with Rakhmonov offering greater variety and volume. Neal had him rocked early in the third, but couldn’t find the shot that put him down, resulting in Rakhmonov closing the distance and getting a chance to recover.

WATCH: Rakhmonov Reacts After Submitting Stephen Thompson

Late in the frame, the undefeated “Nomad” hurt Neal with a clean right hand, compounding the punishment with knees to the body, yet somehow, the Fortis MMA man remained upright. With under a minute remaining and the pair battling along the fence, Rakhmonov latched onto a standing rear-naked choke and found the finish.

This was the most entertaining fight of the year thus far, and elevates the stock of both competitors. Rakhmonov advances to 17-0 with 17 finishes with the victory, and should be facing a Top 5 opponent next time out.

Voters – Aziz Bawany, Thomas Gerbasi, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Gavin Porter, Zac Pacleb