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By the Numbers: The art of the flying knee

In a battle of the best inside the Octagon, sometimes fighters feel the need to leave the comfort of the canvas to attack from the air. Not everyone can pull it off and many more have missed than connected, but if a flying knee does land - it is as elegant as it is brutal.

Here is a list of the best flying knee knockouts in UFC history.

James Irvin vs. Terry Martin - UFC 54
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Like NBA legend Dominique Wilkins, the highlight reel was made for James “The Sandman” Irvin. At the time, UFC commentator Joe Rogan called it the “best flying knee” he had ever seen. Maybe coincidentally, it was the first recorded flying knee finish in UFC history. The opening five minutes did not go Irvin’s way, as wrestler-boxer Terry Martin scored on a pair of takedowns and kept The Sandman busy defending two more takedowns. The second round was a completely different story, as Irvin dramatically took a couple slow steps toward Martin before going vertical right as his opponent ducked for another takedown attempt. The meeting of knee to head was a sure-fire knockout and The Sandman never needed to even look back to know he was victorious.

Spencer Fisher vs. Matt Wiman - UFC 60
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Actually, it was his second flying knee to connect that ended the fight. Spencer “The King” Fisher was a rare breed of fighter who could throw every striking technique imaginable and did. Coming off his first of several classic clashes with Sam Stout, Fisher played the young veteran as he tangled with The Ultimate Fighter 5’s Matt Wiman, who was making his UFC debut. Fisher had a knack for getting his opponents heated to play his stand-up game, where he would capitalize, and which played out perfectly in the second round against Wiman. It was a back and forth first round, but The King had landed a flying knee, a hard elbow that cut Wiman and, better yet, got Wiman rattled, angry and jawing. A little over a minute into the second round, Fisher landed a solid right hand that Wiman felt compelled to prove it didn’t hurt him by doing some taunting gesture. As Wiman dropped his attention, Fisher dropped Wiman with a vicious flying knee.

BJ Penn vs. Sean Sherk - UFC 84
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Skipping knee? Hovering knee? It had the least hang time, but then-UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn’s flying knee was no less devastating than the rest on this list. Pretty much every Penn fight seems to have bad blood ahead of it and the battle between current champ and former champ Sean Sherk was no different. For nearly three full rounds, this motivated Penn outboxed the wrestler Sherk with really no end in sight. With only seconds left in the third period, Sherk bounced off the fence with his mind half-preparing for the next round, but “The Prodigy” struck like a snake with a short-hopping knee, which dropped Sherk and drove “The Muscle Shark” to the canvas. Penn would deliver a barrage of punches to secure the stoppage and retain his UFC lightweight title.

Thiago Alves vs. Matt Hughes - UFC 85
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From 2006 to 2008, one entered the second round with Thiago Alves at their own peril. Amazingly, “Pitbull” earned five consecutive KOs inside the Octagon in that second period, with the final finish being Alves’ greatest. The main event of UFC 85 was a generational collision, with eventual UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes attempting to wrangle the Muay Thai wrecking machine who was a decade his junior. The first period saw Alves’ improved takedown defense and the second period saw the Pitbull’s terrifying knockout power. As the two got back to standing from a scramble early in the round, Alves took a running start and drove his flying knee hard into the chest and shoulder of the former UFC welterweight champ. With Hughes prone and dazed on the mat, Alves landed one more punch before the referee stopped it.

Pablo Garza vs. Fredson Paixao - The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale
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The first ever UFC featherweight fight ended in less than a minute via flying knee. Not in his wildest dreams could “The Scarecrow,” Pablo Garza, have imagined his UFC debut going any better. With two wily submission artists clashing in the UFC’s introduction to the 145-pound division, no one was expecting a knockout finish, as Garza had only one TKO on his record and the veteran Fredson Paixao had previously only ever lost by decision. Garza and Paixao barely even touched the other prior to the thunderous flying knee, which The Scarecrow timed wonderfully on a takedown attempt by the highly decorated BJJ black belt. Arguably, the most exciting division currently in the UFC had a most auspicious beginning.

Carlos Condit vs. Dong Hyun Kim - UFC 132
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Carlos Condit is a finisher. Across 30 career wins, “The Natural Born Killer” owns two decision victories - that’s it. In no uncertain terms, Condit can and will strike with a knockout blow or secure a submission at any point in a bout. At UFC 132, the former WEC welterweight champion met a then-undefeated Dong Hyun Kim, who owned five wins inside the Octagon. This was a big welterweight bout, with the winner being one huge step closer to a title shot. After scrambling, striking and, mostly, circling each other for the first few minutes of the opening round, Condit had Kim with his back against the fence for just a second when The Natural Born Killer erupted with a flying knee that put Kim down once and for all.

Yoel Romero vs. Clifford Starks - UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Melendez
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When the UFC signed a former Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling who hadn’t fought professionally in a year and a half, could they have ever expected a flying knee knockout in his Octagon debut? Yoel Romero is the king of the unexpected as he spent the first minute plus against fellow wrestler Clifford Starks throwing side kicks, hook kicks, super low leg kicks, a punch to the thigh and, of course, a flying knee that flattened Starks. It took about 90 seconds of Romero’s bouncing in and out all around the Octagon mixed with his circular hand movements to frustrate Starks and leave him flat-footed for the briefest of moments. At that point, “Soldier of God” exploded with a knee and that was all she wrote.

Godofredo Pepey vs. Noad Lahat - UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Henderson 2
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Let’s just say The Ultimate Fighter Brazil featherweight finalist is a wild man. After two close decisions in his first two UFC bouts, Godofredo Pepey has become a Brazilian Chris Lytle with the highest of stakes being raised with each punch, kick or, perhaps, flying knee thrown. In his five fights inside the Octagon since those decisions, Pepey hasn’t even seen a second round, as he lost by knockout twice before winning three straight Performance of the Night bonuses, including this flying knee knockout of grappling ace Noad Lahat. It was a slugfest from the start, as Pepey was literally throwing himself around as he reached for headhunting hooks. As the two reset after a stalemate scramble, Pepey went for the homerun with a double flying knee. His bleached blonde mohawk was a blur as he jumped and landed his left knee flush to Lahat’s face.

Chris Beal vs. Patrick Williams - UFC 172
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The Ultimate Fighter 18 alum produced a picture perfect flying knee knockout in his UFC debut, which netted him a Performance of the Night bonus as well. At UFC 172, the only prelim on UFC FIGHT PASS was the only one needed as “The Real Deal” Beal and Patrick “The Animal” Williams went back and forth for the opening five minutes before the cataclysmic finish in the second round. As Williams casually moved laterally along the fence, Beal executed an excellent flying knee, which knocked out The Animal on the spot and The Real Deal walked off to begin his celebration. One couldn’t draw a better looking flying knee than Beal delivered on the biggest stage.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Mark Hunt - UFC 180
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It wasn’t the highest, but it was, by far, the biggest flying knee KO in Octagon history. The interim UFC heavyweight title was up for grabs as Fabricio Werdum tangled with short notice replacement and heavy-hitter Mark Hunt in Mexico City. The first round was filled with surprises as former K-1 kickboxing phenom Hunt went to the ground with one of the most accomplished BJJ black belts the UFC has ever known. The second round held even more surprises, like that time when Werdum faked a takedown attempt, which Hunt lowered himself to defend, then flew upward with a crushing knee to claim UFC gold. That happened halfway through the period and blew the roof off the Arena Ciudad de Mexico.

Makwan Amirkhani vs. Andy Ogle - UFC on FOX: Gustafsson vs. Johnson
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It took eight seconds. Honestly, it looks like it only took six seconds. Either way, “Mr. Finland,” Makwan Amirkhani, flew across the Octagon as fast as he could and delivered a flying knee and then an uppercut to score a lightning fast KO of Andy Ogle. A long, long time ago (2006) in a galaxy far far away (Japan), Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto flew across another promotion’s ring as fast as humanly possible and delivered a flying knee KO in four seconds. Basically, Mr. Finland’s ultra-fast finish in Sweden is the Octagon’s equivalent.

Thomas Almeida vs. Brad Pickett - UFC 189
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Since turning pro, Brazilian wunderkind Thomas Almeida has won 20 straight fights, four straight UFC fights, four straight UFC bonuses, three straight finishes and, of course, one of them was a flying knee KO of Brad Pickett in Las Vegas. Kicking off or jump kneeing off the phenomenally entertaining UFC 189 main card was “One Punch” versus “Thominhas.” The first round was vintage Pickett with hooks-a-plenty, which did drop and bust open his much younger opponent. Only moments into the second round, the action turned into “what you can do, I can do better” as Pickett went for his own jump-knee, which didn’t land and then Almeida returned fire with his own knee that ended the contest.

Jeremy Stephens vs. Dennis Bermudez - UFC 189
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Two flying knee knockouts on the same card?! Madness. Actually, Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens’ jumping finish came only one fight removed from Almeida’s. On any other night, Dennis Bermudez and Stephens’ brawl would have been a shoo-in for Fight of the Night, but UFC 189 had the instant-classic between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald. Nevertheless, these two featherweights threw hot fire at the other for a wild two rounds with multiple knockdowns and crimson to spare. As the third period started with similar intense action, Lil’ Heathen backed himself against the fence and timed a perfect flying knee counter as the always-aggressive Bermudez came forward. Already owning two highly memorable third-round knockouts inside the Octagon, Stephens most likely scored his greatest with this flying knee KO of Bermudez.

Diego Rivas vs. Noad Lahat - UFC Fight Night: Hendricks vs. Thompson
While no fighter has won two UFC bouts via flying knee, one unlucky fellow has lost two UFC bouts via flying knee - Noad Lahat. Despite not securing a finish, the opening round could not have gone any better for “Neo,” as he took Diego Rivas down and proceeded to put on a grappling clinic. Lahat had a guillotine choke then a rear naked choke then an arm-triangle choke then a second guillotine choke. Amazingly, Rivas survived and fought through them all to make it to the next round. With his opponent’s intentions of another submission-fest well-known, Rivas got Lahat to bite on a feint to shoot for his takedown, which is when Rivas exploded out and up with a fight-ending flying knee.

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