MMA 2021 Year in Review: Upset of the Year

Julianna Pena, UFC 269
Julianna Pena, UFC 269 Pre-Fight Press Conference Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

It’s that time of year again — time for our year-end MMA awards. For the first time since we started handing them out at the end of each calendar year, we’ve included an Upset of the Year category. Yes, believe it or not, this was planned prior to UFC 269 — where the outcome of a certain co-main event absolutely shocked the world.

It’s no surprise who the 2021 Upset of the Year was awarded to, but we still give our reasoning below!

Upset of the Year 2021

Jay Anderson: Well, this is an easy one. Julianna Peña vs. Amanda Nunes. Hands down. The biggest upset in MMA since GSP vs. Serra.

Farzin Vousoughian: Peña vs. Nunes. It’s hard to pick another fight outside of this one. Amanda Nunes is always heavily favored. No one gave Julianna Peña a chance and she shocked the world.

Eddie Law: Julianna Pena subs Amanda Nunes, UFC 269. I mean, was there a bigger one? You could go Dustin Poirier’s KO of Conor McGregor in their rematch but Pena took out the Women’s MMA GOAT. Talked the talk, walked the walk and delivered the line perfectly on script like she had practiced with Nate Diaz before the fight. “I’m Not Surprised, Motherf*ckers!”

Alex Behunin: Julianna Pena defeating the GWOAT. It is still crazy just thinking about it and typing it out. I gave Pena 0% chance to beat Amanda Nunes and I even clowned her on Twitter, which I then came back and ate crow. It obviously gave me huge Rousey vs. Holm vibes and will be talked about forever. Well, until they rematch.

Gabriel Gonzalez: Julianna Pena vs Amanda Nunes. Because that happened.

Justin Gibbons: Julianna Peña vs. Amanda Nunes will most likely be the top of everyone’s upset list and rightfully so, as Amanda Nunes was such a dominant champion in the Bantamweight division for so long. On paper, Julianna Peña was not suppose to do what she did at UFC 269. Many people saw this fight as another Amanda Nunes defence, but Julianna Peña shocked the world by turning an entire division upside down with one rear naked choke.

Michael Lynch: Peña vs Nunes. No explanation needed.

Josh Evanoff: Julianna Pena def. Amanda Nunes. Quite literally any other answer is invalid. The only person who thought Julianna Pena could beat Amanda Nunes before the fight is now walking around with the belt.

Bryson Hester: My pick for upset of the year would have to be Amanda Nunes vs Juliana Pena, which just beat out Jan vs Glover. Though it could have been foreseen that a somewhat challenging fight was ahead thanks to Pena’s jiu jitsu skills, no one expected to see Amanda Nunes go down in that fashion.

Shawn Bitter: It has to be Julianna Pena dethroning the female greatest of all time Amanda Nunes. Pena was a huge underdog like all of Nunes’ past opponents. Pena lost round one but drew Nunes into a brawl. That’s where she started tagging Nunes and when the fight went to the mat Pena took the back and finished with the RNC.

Daniel Vreeland: Julianna Pena over Amanda Nunes. There’s not much to say about this one. When a GOAT loses, it’s the biggest upset of the year.

Dan Doherty: Julianna Pena vs. Amanda Nunes. I, like many fight fans, did not believe Pena had any shot at winning this fight. That feeling was amplified in the first round when it was clear that Amanda Nunes was the better fighter. But Pena never went away and stood toe-to-toe with Nunes. In the second round, I kept waiting for one of Nunes’ punches to knock down Pena but it never happened. Instead, Nunes’ insistence on not utilizing defense turned against her. Pena was the one who landed the big shot and subsequent submission. I wish she didn’t have the stupid mom champ comments after, but hey, the fight was crazy.

End Result: Julianna Pena takes it by a landslide! Zero surprise with this result, which saw Pena winning the cateogry in a clean sweep.