Six months are in the books for 2018, so it’s time to celebrate the best of the best in the Octagon with the highly unofficial half-year awards. Enough set-up, let’s get to the lists for the biggest knockouts and best fights. Find part one of our half-year awards here.
We have all seen Frankie Edgar get rocked in a fight – sometimes multiple times – but “The Answer” always shook off the blows and roared back. Yet against rising star Brian Ortega in March, Edgar got caught early and couldn’t recover, with a left elbow setting up a flush right uppercut that lifted the former champion off his feet and put him on the deck. The hammerfist that followed was mere window dressing for the biggest win of Ortega’s career and the one that put him in the UFC 226 co-main event against featherweight champion Max Holloway.
2 – Lyoto Machida-Vitor Belfort (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
In this May clash of Brazilian superstars, it was Lyoto Machida putting an emphatic end to the storied career of Vitor Belfort with a front kick eerily similar to the one Anderson Silva landed on “The Phenom” in their 2011 bout. From a technical and aesthetic viewpoint, it was exactly what fight fans want to see in a knockout.
3 – Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos-Sean Strickland (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
I’ve been doing these lists for a long time, and as I’ve mentioned before, if a knockout begins with “spinning,” it’s a good bet to land here. In May, Brazilian action hero Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos added the durable Sean Strickland to his permanent highlight reel with a spinning wheel kick that ended what was expected to be a back-and-forth three-round war in the opening stanza.
4 – Dan Hooker-Jim Miller (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Like Frankie Edgar, we’ve seen Jim Miller get stung by hard shots and keep marching forward. But when New Zealand’s Dan Hooker landed a flush knee on Miller in April, it was lights out for the Jersey veteran, who suffered only the second knockout loss of his career against Hooker.
5 – Yoel Romero-Luke Rockhold (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Considering that UFC middleweight champ Robert Whittaker has gone ten rounds with Yoel Romero, he’s a pretty good source and someone to listen to when he talks about how scary Yoel Romero’s power is. Luke Rockhold probably wouldn’t disagree after being on the receiving end of the Cuban’s heavy hands in their February bout. Scary is probably the only appropriate word to describe when Romero hits the sweet spot, and this KO is another example.
1 – Robert Whittaker-Yoel Romero 2 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
This is what you want in a championship fight. High-level action, intensity, drama, momentum swings and a close, some would say controversial, final verdict that went Whittaker’s way. Would I want to see Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero do this a third time? Absolutely.
2 – Dustin Poirier-Justin Gaethje (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Everyone expected a war out of Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje and they got everything they asked for and more, with Poirier walking through the fire Gaethje threw at him with patience and poise before stopping the Arizonan in the fourth round.
3 – Calvin Kattar-Shane Burgos (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Another reminder of something that sets MMA apart from boxing are the meetings that match two hot prospects against each other before they’ve hit the top of the sport. And when Calvin Kattar and Shane Burgos threw down, they proved why these are such compelling matchups. And yes, Kattar left the Octagon with the win, but Burgos’ stock didn’t drop an ounce in the process.
4 – Drew Dober-Frank Camacho (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
With three UFC appearances and three Fight of the Night bonuses, Frank Camacho has rapidly become a must see fighter, and while he has emerged from those three bouts with a 1-2 record, I bet if you’ve seen him compete, you remember the fights and not the result. In this one, it was Dober taking the decision in a 15-minute bout where each welterweight left it all in the Octagon.
He’s everyone’s favorite rising star, and Zabit Magomedsharipov’s fan base only grew after his three-round win over Kyle Bochniak. No, it wasn’t a to the wire fight where the outcome was in doubt after the final horn, but in a fight Magomedsharipov was heavily favored in, Bochniak stayed in his opponent’s face from start to finish, willing to take one to give one, thrilling the fans at Barclays Center and taking a well-deserved Fight of the Night bonus.