What were the best knockouts of 2019 and how did we call them as they happened? The Highly Unofficial Awards season continues below…
Josh Emmett-Michael Johnson
Back in action for the first time since February 2018, featherweight contender Josh Emmett scored a spectacular come from behind third-round knockout of Michael Johnson, re-establishing his place among the best at 145 pounds.
The game plans were clear for both in the opening round, with Johnson looking to utilize his speed and reach while Emmett sought the bomb that would end his opponent’s night. And though Johnson led in volume, the harder shots were being landed by Emmett.
Johnson got into a rhythm in the second, and he looked comfortable as he implemented his stick and move strategy on the forward-marching Emmett. This cool carried into the final round, but as Emmett began to have his best moments of the fight, he then ended it, with a single right hand sending Johnson down and out at 4:14 of round three.
With the win, the No. 10-ranked Emmett moves to 14-2. Johnson falls to 20-14.
Jan Blachowicz-Luke Rockhold
Poland’s Jan Blachowicz spoiled the light heavyweight debut of Luke Rockhold, knocking out the former middleweight champion in the second round.
Both fighters traded kicks to begin the fight, with Rockhold subsequently seeking a takedown. He wasn’t able to get it, and in a long spell against the fence, Blachowicz landed a couple hard elbows. Once separated, Rockhold stayed busy with the kicks, but Blachowicz fired back and even rocked the Californian at the horn.
Rockhold came out aggressively to begin round two, but Blachowicz answered with his own blows that forced his foe to back off. Moments later, Blachowicz landed a flush left hand in the midst of an exchange and Rockhold fell hard to the canvas. Referee Herb Dean moved in to halt the bout, with the official time of the stoppage 1:39 of the second round.
With the win, the No. 6-ranked Blachowicz moves to 24-8. Rockhold falls to 16-5.
Jessica Andrade-Rose Namajunas
The fourth strawweight champion in UFC history hails from Brazil. And after fighting past plenty of adversity in the first round of her UFC 237 main event, Jessica Andrade is that champion, as she stopped Rose Namajunas in the second round at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Back in action for the first time since April of 2018, Namajunas came out fast, shooting a stiff jab in between fakes and right hands. Before the first minute was done, Andrade was cut over the left eye, and even though “Bate Estaca” aggressively went after the champion, Namajunas kept scoring at will. Andrade tried to slam Namajunas but nearly got caught in an armbar, allowing the Milwaukee native to get back to her feet. With 1:30 left, Namajunas sent Andrade stumbling to the canvas with a knee, and after some ground strikes, it was back to the feet.
The stick and move attack of Namajunas continued to pay dividends in round two, and while Andrade kept throwing and charging, too often the Brazilian was left hitting air. But as the two locked up against the fence, Andrade again lifted Namajunas for a slam, and this time it hit in devastating fashion, as Namajunas landed on her head and was stunned. Two strikes followed, with referee Marc Goddard stopping the fight at the 2:58 mark of the second round.
With the win, Rio de Janeiro’s Andrade moves to 20-6. Denver’s Namajunas, who was making the second defense of her title, falls to 9-4.
Anthony Pettis-Stephen Thompson
Anthony Pettis has been to the top of the lightweight division. Yet on Saturday night, it looked like the best might be yet to come for “Showtime” at welterweight, as the former world champion scored a highlight reel second-round knockout of Stephen Thompson in the UFC Nashville main event at Bridgestone Arena, announcing the arrival of a new contender at 170 pounds.
Refusing to let Thompson work at range, Pettis began walking his foe down as soon as the fight started, trying to stay close. Thompson was unbothered by the pressure, though, and he was busy with his kicks. Pettis tried to work the body with his kicks to slow Thompson down, and he was having success, but it was the work rate of “Wonderboy” that bloodied Pettis’ nose and took the round.
Pettis began going after Thompson’s legs in round two, and in response, Thompson began focusing on his hand attacks, as he whipped in a series of jabs and combinations upstairs. Yet just when it seemed like Thompson was the fresher of the two heading into the end of the round, Pettis stunned Thompson and the crowd with a flush right hand Superman punch that put the South Carolina native down hard. Two more right hands followed, with referee Herb Dean stepping in to stop the fight at 4:55 of the second stanza.
With the win, Milwaukee’s Pettis moves to 22-8. The No. 3-ranked Thompson falls to 14-4-1.
Jorge Masvidal-Darren Till
After nearly 16 years and 46 fights in the pro MMA game, welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal's win over Darren Till may be the biggest one of his career, as he knocked out the recent world title challenger in the second round of their UFC London main event at the O2 Arena.
“I need that belt wrapped around my waist,” said the 34-year-old Masvidal.
Masvidal raced out at the bell and threw a kick that landed low. After a brief break, the fight got underway again and Till floored Masvidal with a straight left. Masvidal weathered the follow-up attack and got back to the feet, but the two went back to the mat moments later. After a brief stay on the canvas, the fighters rose and Masvidal settled in, landing kicks to the leg of Till. Another left by Till got Masvidal’s attention, and while the Floridian shook off the blow, he knew he was in a fight. With a minute left, Masvidal began marching forward and he landed a pair of 1-2s, prompting a clinch against the fence by Till.
Till got in Masvidal’s face to start round two, landing some shots that were answered by kicks from “Gamebred.” An inadvertent eye poke from Till brought a visit from the Octagonside physician, but Masvidal was cleared to continue and he quickly took Till down. Till rose quickly and the two took turns throwing and landing strikes. Yet in the midst of the back and forth, Masvidal suddenly struck with a flush left to the head. As Till fell backwards, another left finished the fight, with referee Marc Goddard calling a stop to the bout at 3:05 of the second round.
With the win, the No. 11-ranked Masvidal ups his record to 33-13. The No. 3-ranked Till falls to 17-2-1.
Kevin Lee-Gregor Gillespie
The pay-per-view main card got underway in the lightweight division with an appetizing matchup between former interim title challenger Kevin Lee and Gregor Gillespie, who entered with a perfect 13-0 record, including five finishes in his first six UFC starts.
These two stayed low in their stances, pumping out punches to start, with Gillespie opening up a small cut under the Lee’s left eye. As they continued to trade in the center of the cage, Lee uncorked a left high kick that turned off Gillespie’s lights in a flash, sending the Long Island native falling into the cage.
After earning just a single victory in his last four fights, this was an incredible comeback performance from the 27-year-old Lee, who makes an impressive statement in his return to lightweight by handing Gillespie the first loss of his career.
(By E. Spencer Kyte)
Niko Price-James Vick
Cape Coral welterweight Niko Price did it again, scoring a first-round knockout of James Vick that will make its way to highlight reels around the sports world.
Expected to be a Fight of the Night candidate, Price and Vick went chasing after that bonus from the time the fight began, first on the feet and then on the mat. But after Vick seemingly turned the tables on Price on the mat and postured up to land some ground strikes, Price landed with an upkick to the head, and that was it for Vick, who took a couple subsequent punches before referee Herb Dean called the fight off at 1:44 of the opening frame.
With the win, Price moves to 14-3 with 1 NC. Vick, a former lightweight contender who was making his 170-pound debut, falls to 13-5.
Aleksandar Rakic-Jimi Manuwa
Austria’s Aleksandar Rakic announced his arrival to the light heavyweight elite in the UFC Fight Night co-main event, knocking out longtime contender Jimi Manuwa in less than a minute to extend his current winning streak to 12.
“Remember my name,” said Rakic, now 4-0 in the Octagon. “I am the new dog in the park.”
After trading leg kicks to open the bout, Rakic went upstairs and ended matters emphatically, with his left kick to the head landing flush and putting Manuwa out before he hit the mat. There was no need for a follow-up from Rakic, as referee Kevin Sataki stepped in and stopped the bout 42 seconds into the opening round.
With the win, Rakic moves to 12-1. London’s Manuwa falls to 17-6.
Valentina Shevchenko-Jessica Eye
In the UFC 238 co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko successfully defended her UFC flyweight crown for the first time in emphatic fashion, knocking out No. 1 contender Jessica Eye in the second round.
Shevchenko’s opening body kicks landed with a thud, immediately getting Eye’s attention. Moments later, Shevchenko scored a takedown and went to work. Eye made it back to her feet with a little over a minute left, but Shevchenko scored another takedown and kept Eye grounded until the end of the round.
Shevchenko started the second round the same way she began the first, but then she moved her kick upstairs, and a flush left to the head put Eye down and out in frightening fashion. The official time of the knockout was :26 of round two.
With the win, Shevchenko moved to 17-3. Eye falls to 14-7 with 1 NC.
Jorge Masvidal-Ben Askren
Jorge Masvidal scored the fastest knockout in UFC history, taking just five seconds to end his rivalry with fellow welterweight contender Ben Askren in emphatic fashion.
Cool, calm and collected before the bout began, Masvidal raced out of his corner as soon as they were waved into battle, and as Askren leaned over to seek a takedown, “Gamebred” landed a flush flying right knee that knocked the former Olympian out on impact.
The No. 4-ranked Masvidal moves to 34-13 with the win. The No. 5-ranked Askren falls to 19-1 with 1 NC.