Can a UFC Decision Be Overturned? (3 Famous Overturned Fights)

As is the case with most sports, the referees and judges in UFC are often criticised by fighters and fans when the decision does not quite go their desired way.

Decisions are often demanded to be overturned by fighters and their teams however, as regulated by the UFC, a result can only be appealed and overturned if it breaks specific rules in the company. While it is possible to overturn a result, cases of successful appeals are sporadic in UFC history.

But why can a UFC fight be overturned? And which high-profile battles have been overturned in recent years?

Can UFC Fighters Appeal Bad Decisions?

Unless the fighters can prove that there was any deliberate or malicious act that resulted in their loss, UFC fighters cannot appeal bad decisions.

Mistakes or errors by referees would see appeals upheld and results overturned or annulled, however, this is rarely successful in the UFC.

Can UFC Decisions Be Overturned?

As any combat sport decision has the potential to be overturned, UFC decisions can be overturned if the fight result is affected by rule violations, counting errors, or misdeclarations. 

Decisions can only be overturned by the official committee if foul play is discovered after the fight. The fight is often ruled as a no-contest if the rule infringement is committed by the winner of the bout.

Why Can a UFC Fight Be Overturned?

A fight in UFC can be overturned for several reasons with rule violations, counting errors, and misdeclarations being the most important of the group. For the fight to be overturned the fault must not lie with the fighters or their team.

Counting Errors

A counting error is when the incorrect total is added up by the three judges following a fight. As the UFC is judged with a 10-point scoring system, every round must have a winner – the winner of each round receives 10 points from the judges and the loser receives 9 or less.

While this one is a rare occurrence, the most famous example remains the first fight between Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall. While “Mighty Mouse” was initially announced as the winner via decision, UFC president Dana White later declared it a draw, citing a counting mistake on the athletic commission’s part.


A misdeclaration in UFC is when an incorrect decision is announced/made during or after the fight – often leading to an incorrect result or announcement.

One of the most recent incidents where this occurred was at the start of UFC 207 where Tim Means and Alex Oliveira fought. Means delivered a devastating knee strike to the head while Oliveira had his knee on the mat which is considered an illegal move, Olveira was then unable to continue however referee Dan Miragliotta ruled the bout a no-contest.

After the confusion, UFC would rule the knee strike as a legal move, consequently overturning the decision.

Rule Violations

Viewed as the most common reason for a UFC decision to be overturned, a rule violation being broken has occurred many times throughout the company’s history. Rule violations can cover anything from failed drug tests to illegal strikes with the former often being contested by the fighters.

Many fighters have appealed their failed tests over the years, blaming tainted supplements or misleading performance medications as the result of the rule violation.

In one of the most memorable rule violations, Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz fought in 2015 with Silva winning by unanimous decision. The result was eventually overturned to a no contest after it was discovered that Silva tested positive for two types of drugs. Interestingly it was also discovered that Diaz also tested positive for marijuana.

Overturned UFC Fights (3 Most Famous)

Brock Lesnar vs Mark Hunt at UFC 200

Seen as a highly anticipated fight at UFC 200 between the unstoppable force of Brock Lesnar vs the knock-out master Mark Hunt, UFC fans were eager to see this titanic clash of the heavyweight division.

Lesnar scored a unanimous decision victory after dominating the majority of the fight, however, his victory was later overturned following two positive drug tests for an estrogen blocker. The fight was officially declared as a no-contest and resulted in Hunt filing a lawsuit against UFC for the fight.

Anderson Silva vs Nick Diaz at UFC 183

An exciting bout between two UFC stars that ended in a drug testing disaster, the fight between Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz at UFC 183 was interesting, to say the least.

Silva would ultimately pick up the victory via unanimous decision in the fifth round, however, his success was short-lived after testing positive for two PEDs (drostanolone and androsterone).

To make the scandal worse, Diaz tested positive for marijuana, forcing the fight to be ruled as a no-contest. Silva was additionally fined the entirety of his winner’s bonus and 30% of his pay for the show whilst Diaz was briefly handed a five-year suspension that was later reduced to 18 months.

Demetrious Johnson vs Ian McCall at UFC on FX

In the first fight ever in the UFC flyweight division, Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall clashed heads in the semi-final of the title tournament. Fast, explosive and thrilling, this bout served as the perfect advertisement for the newly inaugurated weight class.

Sadly, the fabulous fight was marred by an avoidable blunder in the aftermath. Johnson was announced the winner on the judges’ scorecards, but UFC president Dana White then declared it a majority draw, citing a counting mistake on the athletic committee’s part.

Luckily for the fans, this controversial outcome sparked another war between the two fighters, with “Mighty Mouse” emerging as the clear winner on the second occasion. DJ went on to beat Joseph Benavidez in the tournament’s final and establish himself as one of the most dominant champions in UFC history and the ultimate flyweight GOAT.

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James Worthington

James is a sports writer from Leicestershire with a strong interest in football, boxing, and rugby union. He has considerable experience in the sports media industry, having worked with numerous professional sports clubs in the UK and the Netherlands. See James' portfolio

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