With 2016 drawing to a close, IBTimes UK takes a look at five of the very biggest sporting upsets to have taken place in the past 12 months...

Leicester City defy gargantuan odds to win maiden top-flight title

Anyone with even a remote understanding of the modern sporting landscape won't be surprised to see Leicester top this particular list.

Having executed one of the great escapes from relegation courtesy of seven wins from their final nine matches in 2014-15, the Foxes parted company with manager Nigel Pearson and were again written off for the drop following what many saw as the lacklustre appointment of Claudio Ranieri. They then defied their odds as 5,000-1 outsiders to win the Premier League title and complete one of the greatest upsets in sporting history.

Premier League
Wes Morgan and Claudio Ranieri lift the trophy as they celebrate winning the Barclays Premier League John Clifton/Reuters

It was a truly terrific achievement built upon an insatiable team ethic and came as a pleasing jolt to English football's established, wealthy elite. Leicester finishing top of the group in their maiden Champions League campaign only added to an immortal fairytale that should not be diminished by an inevitable domestic regression this term, which has admittedly been more severe than anticipated.

Chicago Cubs break World Series curse

For those of a Chicago persuasion, 2016 will be best remembered as the year the beleaguered Cubs finally ended their 108-year wait for a World Series triumph with a thrilling, rain-delayed Game Seven victory over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs celebrate their World Series-clinching 8-7 game seven victory over the Cleveland Indians Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In addition to closing the longest major title drought in American professional sport, the win also helped break the "Curse of the Billy Goat". Since 1945, the team's miserable lack of success had been attributed to an infamous hex from tavern owner Bill Sianis, who proclaimed that the Cubs would not emerge victorious from that year's World Series against the Detroit Tigers and would never win one again after being denied entry into Wrigley Field for Game Four alongside a goat named Murphy.

The "Lovable Losers" lost both that game and the series and had not appeared in Major League Baseball's signature event since. Curiously, the Cubs sealed their first National League pennant in 61 years on the 46th anniversary of Sianis' death.

Danny Willett ends 20-year wait for another British winner at the Masters

Willett's year, it is fair to say, ended up being somewhat overshadowed by a miserable Ryder Cup debut in which he lost all three of his matches during Team Europe's 17-11 defeat to the United States at Minnesota. He became a target for American fans after a controversial column from brother Pete referred to them as "fat, stupid, greedy, classless, bastards".

Danny Willett
Danny Willett clinched his first major title at Augusta Andrew Redington/Getty Images

However, that sour experience should not be allowed to take the shine off a remarkable first major triumph at Augusta. The affable Yorkshireman took ruthless advantage of a quite epic meltdown from Jordan Spieth on the back nine to hit a bogey-free five-under par 67, becoming the first British player to claim a coveted Masters green jacket since Sir Nick Faldo donned his third in 1996.

Conor McGregor falls to first UFC defeat against Nate Diaz

Brash Irishman McGregor ended 2015 on a high when he inflicted a brutal 13-second knockout on Jose Aldo to become featherweight champion. He subsequently targeted the lightweight belt, only for Rafael dos Anjos to withdraw from their proposed bout at UFC 196 due to a broken foot sustained in training.

Nate Diaz stepped in as a replacement at short notice – and so began a truly explosive rivalry. Voluntarily stepping up two divisions in typically confident style, McGregor found the Californian's greater size, durability and range too difficult to handle and he ended up being submitted via a rear-naked choke in the second round. Such a surprising loss marked a first in the UFC, and only the third of his entire MMA career.

Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz
Conor McGregor initially took on more than he could handle against Nate Diaz at UFC 196 in Las Vegas Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Those hoping that defeat would mark the end of McGregor's inexorable rise were left sorely disappointed, however. 'The Notorious' recovered to set up a potential trilogy bout by comfortably outpointing Diaz in a high-profile rematch at UFC 202. Last month, he became the first fighter in company history to hold two world title belts simultaneously with an easy stoppage of Eddie Alvarez. He has since been stripped of the featherweight strap.

Ireland finally end New Zealand hoodoo in Chicago

Just three days after that extraordinary Cubs triumph, Chicago bore witness to the snapping of another long-running sporting streak in November when Ireland finally ended their 111-year New Zealand hoodoo with a 40-29 autumn Test victory in front of 60,000 fans at Soldier Field – home of the NFL's Bears.

Joe Schmidt's side, who paid tribute to the late Anthony Foley before kick-off, led by 17 points at half-time courtesy of tries from Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander and Conor Murray, but TJ Perenara, Ben Smith and Scott Barrett helped the All Blacks to come roaring back from a 30-8 deficit and reduce the lead to four with 15 minutes still to play.

Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip
Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip celebrate Ireland's famous defeat of the dominant All Blacks in Chicago Phil Walter/Getty Images

A devastating comeback seemed almost inevitable at that stage, but Ireland's defence held out and Robbie Henshaw touched down to clinch a first win over New Zealand in 29 attempts. The world champions saw their record-breaking winning streak curtailed at 18, although they exacted swift revenge a fortnight later with a 21-9 win in Dublin.