You want the best knockouts of 2018? Take a look at our list of the best this year as the highly unofficial awards season marches on.
Most knockouts are sudden. Not many are this sudden. But when Yair Rodriguez ended his November bout against Chan Sung Jung with one second left in the fifth round, it wasn’t just a spectacular end to an instant classic, it was the kind of knockout that required a couple rewinds on the DVR to see what exactly happened. So what happened? A beautifully placed elbow that ended the night of “The Korean Zombie” before he hit the mat and eliminated all contenders for the top spot 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 231 main event against featherweight champion Max Holloway.
In this May clash of Brazilian superstars, it was Lyoto Machida putting an emphatic end to the storied UFC 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.
Amanda Nunes rocked Cris Cyborg early and often in their UFC 232 SuperFight, with the right hand being the weapon of choice for “The Lioness.” When the final blow landed it was clear that the fight was over, and it was a shocker as Cyborg lost for the first time in over 13 years.
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.
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.
Fighting with the berserker style epitomized by a prime Wanderlei Silva, Jessica Andrade put it on Karolina Kowalkiewicz from the time their fight began until it ended with a rarity in women’s MMA – a one-punch knockout.
Stipe Miocic was the clear favorite leading up to his SuperFight with light heavyweight king Daniel Cormier, and if there were those who thought Miocic would lose his heavyweight title, they probably didn’t see it coming via first-round knockout. But that’s just what happened when DC landed a short right that put Miocic on the deck. The follow-up barrage finished the job, and a new champion was crowned.
You watch fights long enough and you assume that you’ve seen it all. You haven’t, and Niko Price proved it against Randy Brown with one of the most bizarre finishes in UFC history. As the two grappled on the mat, Price held Brown’s head in place with one of his feet and proceeded to fire off hammerfists until the fight was stopped. Simply put, you have to see it to believe it.
There is nothing like having the kind of power to turn the outcome of a fight on a dime and take a victory from the jaws of defeat. Derrick Lewis has that kind of power, and after falling behind to Alexander Volkov in their October matchup, he needed a third-round finish to win. He got it, hurting then halting Volkov with 11 ticks left on the clock.