7 Great Upsets in Sports History


One of the greatest things about sports is that on any given day, David can topple Goliath. You can never count a team out until the clock runs out and the numbers don’t lie. In sports, hope can be a dangerous thing, but these instances proved that sometimes miracles can happen. Here are some examples of when teams and athletes shocked the world when the odds were stacked highly against them.

Giants defeat Patriots, Super Bowl XLII

The New England Patriots put together the best regular season team in history. Tom Brady broke Peyton Manning’s TD record, throwing 50 touchdowns. Nearly half of them were thrown to Randy Moss, who caught a record 23 touchdowns. New England was supposed to fulfill the prophecy of a perfect 18-0 season, but in a close game Eli Manning escaped pressure and threw a ball corralled by the helmet of David Tyree, leading to a game winning drive. This game is widely regarded as the biggest upset in Super Bowl History.

Holly Holm defeats Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey was an undeniable force at the top of her game when she took on Holly Holm at UFC 193. Holm was a 12.5 to 1 underdog, but managed to knock Rousey out within a minute in the second round. The defeat sent shockwaves throughout the sport, and Rousey hasn’t won a fight since.

Miracle on Ice

During a time of international strife between the United States and the Soviet Union, a lot of implications were put on the game between their respective National Hockey Teams when they met in a medal game in Lake Placid, New York at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Soviet team had won the gold medal in the previous 6 winter games, and had many professionals on their team. The United States team had all amateur players, yet found a way to defeat the heavily favored Soviets 4-3. The team lead by legendary coach Herb Brooks went on to win the Gold Medal.  To this day, this game remains a huge source of American pride.

Leicester City’s 2015-16 Season

In this particular case, this upset took place throughout an entire season as soccer team Leicester City won the Premier League, the top league in English football, at 5000-1 odds. The top flight European soccer leagues have very little parody, where a select few stay at the top while others mostly play for pride and a nice paycheck. For Leicester City to do this in a league against world-class teams and players is a feat that will always be remembered. Leicester’s miracle season was due to the great leadership from experienced manager Claudio Ranieri, and striker Jamie Vardy, who helped lead the charge to a 10 straight wins to separate the Foxes from the rest of the pack.

Buster Douglas defeats Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson was the World Heavyweight Champion with a record of 37-0 in his career when he took on #7 ranked Buster Douglas in Tokyo in 1990. Douglas was a massive 42-1 underdog, but prevailed in this bout. This would be Douglas’ crowning achievement, as he went on to lose his next few matches, never getting near the top. There was wide rumors of a rematch between Douglas and Tyson but it never materialized.

Gardner defeats Karelin

In the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, American Greco-Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner defeated Russian Aleksandr Karelin in the gold medal match. Karelin hadn’t lost a match in 13 years, and hadn’t even conceded a point to an opponent in 6 years. Gardner’s victory flies under the radar as one of the greatest individual feats in Olympic history.

Appalachian State defeats Michigan

In the opening weekend of College Football in 2007, Appalachian State stayed in a close game at the “Big House” at the University of Michigan. Michigan was ranked #5 in the country in FBS, and had high expectations of winning a national championship. App State was a highly ranked team in the FCS, which is a second tier of college football teams. 110,000 Michigan fans left absolutely stunned as Appalachian State defeated Michigan 34-32, making it arguably the greatest upset in the history of the sport. It was the first time an FCS team defeated an FBS team.

The greatness of sports is that there’s always a chance for the unlikeliest of thrills. If we’ve learned anything since June, (Cubs and Cavaliers came back and won championships down 3 games to 1, Patriots won the Super Bowl down 25 points) it’s that nothing is over until the clock hits zero, or the last out is recorded. So if you root a team or an athlete who is a perennial underdog, don’t lose hope. Keep yourself open to the spectacle of sports.