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BTN: Kicks Ain't Just for Soccer

In honor of the World Cup, By The Numbers celebrates some different kinds of kicks...

Daron Cruickshank" title="UFC lightweight Daron Cruickshank" style="width: 300px;" src="" align="left">With the World Cup in full swing, would like to point out that kicks are not just useful for scoring goals on the pitch, but they’re darn good at finishing opponents inside the Octagon in a highlight reel fashion. Whether it is a roundhouse to the head or a solid thwack to the liver, a well-timed and well-thrown single kick can end a bout in the first round as well as it can in the last. Here is a list of the UFC’s memorable kicking wins thus far in 2014.

1. Luke Rockhold vs. Costa Philippou - UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Philippou

As former two-time US Olympic freestyle wrestler and UFC light heavyweight Daniel Cormier has said, you don’t train at a place called “American Kickboxing Academy” without picking up how to strike. Longtime AKA teammate Luke Rockhold started his MMA career as a BJJ specialist, which was on full display in Rockhold’s most recent outing against Tim Boetsch with an inverted triangle-kimura win. But the former Strikeforce middleweight champion is an explosive athlete on the feet as well, with Rockhold notching 3 first round KO/TKO wins since 2010 including the Knockout of the Night of Philippou in January. Halfway through the opening round, Rockhold, acting as the aggressor, walked Philippou to the cage and landed consecutive left kicks to the right side of Philippou’s body with the second dropping the former professional boxer to the mat.

2. Nikita Krylov v. Walt Harris at UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Thomson

With all 15 of his previous wins via first round finish, it’s pretty easy to assume that Nikita “Al Capone” Krylov is ready to empty his bag of tricks as quickly as possible. In his second Octagon appearance, the Ukrainian Kyokushin Karate fighter literally kicked off his bout against the enormous Walt Harris with a lead right high kick. It wasn’t a tap to get the scrap started, it was a bite-down-on-your-mouth-piece-and-give-it-all-you-got explosion of a head kick that Harris was not prepared for and vainly attempted to block at the last second. The impact of the strike sent Harris reeling, which Krylov followed by cleaning up with a few punches.

3. Daron Cruickshank vs. Mike Rio at UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Thomson

As these two former The Ultimate Fighter: Live housemates met in the cage, everyone knew that if the fight stayed standing it would favor Daron Cruickshank and if the fight hit the floor then it would favor Mike Rio. Amazingly, both of those scenarios played out for Octagon enthusiasts in the second round of their clash. While “The Detroit Superstar” showed off an array of hook kicks and punches early in the second stanza, Cruickshank shot for a takedown on Rio, got it, and, immediately, “The Wolverine” turned the tables on Cruickshank by jumping on a heel hook opportunity. Cruickshank worked his way out of the dangerous situation that he initiated and returned the bout back to the feet, where it was to his advantage. Right as Rio stood up, Cruickshank greeted his opponent with an incredible wheel kick to the face. The impact and accuracy of the flashy kick stunned Rio against the fence, where Cruickshank swarmed with punches to cause the referee to call a stop to the action.

4. Donald Cerrone v. Adriano Martins at UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Thomson

Where does “Cowboy” get that 6th gear from? Watching the opening couple minutes, it appeared that Brazilian all-around threat Adriano Martins was giving top lightweight Donald Cerrone a run for his money in the striking department. Following a few shots from Martins that appeared to wake up the Team Jackson star, “Cowboy” returned fire and began to take control of the fight with renewed vigor. With less than 30 seconds left on the clock, Martins seemed ready for the first round to come to a close with the pair swatting at each other’s lead hands, but Cerrone skipped a beat, stepped forward, and crushed Martins with a right high kick. No need for ground and pound, the fight is over, and “Cowboy” had earned his 3rd Knockout of the Night bonus.

5. Luke Barnatt v. Mats Nilsson at UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa

Coming off back-to-back wins in his first two Octagon appearances, including a Fight of the Night bonus, Luke “Bigslow” Barnatt returned to his native soil of England to deliver his most masterful striking performance to date. The Ultimate Fighter 17 alum utilized his 84-inch reach and 6’6” frame both at distance with lancing punches and kicks, and in the clinch with a Thai plumb and knees. Following a series of punches that began to show damage on his opponent Mats Nilsson’s face, Barnatt scored partially with a right high kick and then “Bigslow” kept Nilsson at range with a front kick, which gave Barnatt the distance to attempt a “Superman” punch into a left high kick. The kick landed, wobbled Nilsson, and Nilsson covered up as Barnatt crowded him with strikes to illicit referee intervention.

6. Thiago Santos v. Ronny Markes at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Henderson 2

Two fights inside the Octagon and Thiago Santos still hasn’t seen beyond the first 60 seconds. In the TUF: Brazil 2 alum’s debut, Santos was on the receiving end of an immediate guillotine choke. As Santos needed to impress in his second outing, “Marreta” did just that by flooring Nova Uniao powerhouse Ronny Markes with a single body kick. The bout ended as soon as it started with the orthodox-stanced Markes eating a thudding left kick to the body from the southpaw Santos. It could have been the liver or, simply, getting the wind knocked out of him, but Markes dropped and Santos followed suit with punches and earned his first UFC win.

7. Daron Cruickshank v. Erik Koch at UFC Fight Night: Browne vs. Silva

These boots were made for walking and Daron Cruickshank’s thighs were made for kicking. Already a member of this incredible list, “The Detroit Superstar” scored a second head kick finish less than four months later as he faced fellow striker Erik Koch. One could see the confidence gained from his previous great performance as Cruickshank threw leg kicks early and often, including a feisty, turning low kick. Moments later, “The Detroit Superstar” leveled Koch with left high kick to the face that was set-up from a blocked right high kick. From there, Cruickshank solidified the win with elbows and punches on the ground.

8. TJ Dillashaw v. Renan Barao at UFC 173

It was only a matter of time. Either for someone to crack the code of Renan Barao - previously undefeated in his last 35 fights - or for TJ Dillashaw’s persistent head kicking to flatten the former UFC bantamweight champion. In the new champ’s masterful dethroning of the division’s old guard, Dillashaw attacked and attacked and attacked Barao from the opening minute to the referee pulling Dillashaw off his fallen foe nearly 23 minutes of fighting later. Leg kicks were aplenty, but the Team Alpha Male product worked high kicks into the beginning, middle, and end of his combinations from the first round until the last. After dominating for 4 full rounds, Dillashaw continued his assault in the final stanza and cut off Barao mid-punch with a left head kick that clearly rattled Barao. From there, Dillashaw capped off the memorable performance by firing off lefts and rights until the referee stopped it.  

9. Jon Tuck vs. Jake Lindsey - UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Khabilov

Usually, the best technique is the one your opponent would least expect. Such was the case when “Super Saiyan” Jon Tuck took newcomer Jake “The Librarian” Lindsey’s back halfway through the third round of their bout and began delivering short heel strikes to Lindsey’s defenseless stomach. Watching the MMA Lab-trained Guamanian chop away with his heel at Lindsey’s tummy made many Octagon enthusiasts remember the good ol’ days of Royce Gracie maniacally and methodically attacking his opponent’s back and kidneys with his heel strikes from his guard. After a few well-placed chops - that were no doubt tickling the liver of “The Librarian” - Lindsey tapped to the strikes, which earned Tuck his second UFC win and his first by finish.