It’s the same story every year. Without fail, the best knockout category is always the toughest to narrow down to a Top Ten. For 2012, it seemed like it was even harder to pick, but here they are, and let the debates begin…
10 – Rustam Khabilov-Vinc Pichel – TUF 16 Finale
It’s not your traditional knockout by any means, and officially the bout ended with the follow-up strikes landed on Vinc Pichel by Russian newcomer Rustam Khabilov. But for all intents and purposes, the fight was over after the series of suplexes Khabilov delivered on Pichel, something not seen in such devastating fashion since Dan Severn ragdolled Anthony Macias back at UFC 4. The finish was the talk of the MMA world after the fight, and for good reason.
9 – Mike Pyle-Josh Neer – UFC on FX 3
Josh Neer doesn’t get knocked out. The definition of steel-chinned, the Iowa toughman has gone through dozens of fights, some documented, some not, some amateur, some pro, and only twice has he lost by knockout. The first man to do it was Mark Miller in a 2007 IFL match. The second was submission specialist Mike Pyle, who survived some rocky moments to send Neer down and out, face-first, in their June bout in Florida. It was a shocking result, one made less so when the dust settled on 2012 and you saw that all of Pyle’s wins had come by knockout.
8 – Stephen Thompson-Dan Stittgen – UFC 143
When it was announced that Stephen Thompson was making his Octagon debut at UFC 143 in February, diehard combat sports fans were excited to see the unbeaten kickboxing star getting his shot in the big show in MMA. Cynics, on the other hand, were waiting for him to fall so they could say that a pure kickboxer just couldn’t compete at the elite level in this hybrid sport. Thompson answered many of those questions against Dan Stittgen, the main one being, if he hits you flush with a kick to the head, it doesn’t matter who you are – you’re going down. That was the end result for Stittgen, who was knocked out with a picture perfect head kick at 4:13 of the first round.
7 – Donald Cerrone-Melvin Guillard – UFC 150
Like Josh Neer, Melvin Guillard isn’t a guy who gets knocked out. But in this sport, you can only go so long until your number is called, and on August 11 in Denver, the number of “The Young Assassin” was up. Yet what made this knockout so memorable was that Guillard appeared to be one solid shot away from finishing off Cerrone before getting caught with a kick to the head and a follow-up right hand that put the lights out. It only took 76 seconds, but it was the well-deserved Fight and Knockout of the Night.
6 – Ryan Jimmo-Anthony Perosh – UFC 149
Canada’s Ryan Jimmo lost his first pro fight, then went on to win his next 16, including victories over UFC vets Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Wilson Gouveia, Marvin Eastman, and Jesse Forbes. But it wasn’t until 2012 that he got his call to the Octagon. Many said it was the six decision wins in his previous seven bouts that kept the UFC from pulling the trigger, but once he got his call to the big show, he left the impression he needed to, ending matters with Anthony Perosh in just seven seconds. Now that’s a “Big Deal.”
5 – Pat Barry-Shane Del Rosario – TUF 16 Finale
If there was an award for pre-knockout of the year, Pat Barry would have it nailed down, no questions asked. So while it was his right hand that eventually finished Shane Del Rosario’s evening, the left hook “HD” landed seconds earlier really spelled the beginning of the end. And this wasn’t any ordinary left hook. It landed flush, made an audible thud, and the look on Del Rosario’s face was one where it was as if he was saying ‘who just hit me in the head with a baseball bat?’ That punch was scary.
4 – Siyar Bahadurzada-Paulo Thiago – UFC on FUEL TV 2
If you’re going to use a nickname like “The Great,” you’ll need to back that up in the Octagon, and that’s just what Siyar Bahadurzada did in his UFC debut against Paulo Thiago in April. Using a short right hand to give the Brazilian the first non-decision loss of his seven year pro MMA career, Bahadurzada made a statement that lasted a lot longer than the 42 seconds it took to complete their fight.
3 – Anthony Pettis-Joe Lauzon – UFC 144
Let’s not mince words here. The Anthony Pettis that showed up against Clay Guida and Jeremy Stephens just wasn’t the “Showtime” we had come to know and love from his flashy days in the WEC. But at UFC 144 in February, the king of the highlight reel returned in style, knocking out fellow contender Joe Lauzon with a left kick to the head in just 81 seconds. After the bout, the gracious and self-effacing Lauzon simply tweeted “I'm in Japan for a few more days and was gonna look at buying a sword, but I think I'm gonna invest in a helmet instead.” The rest of the lightweight division would be wise to do the same.
2 – Cung Le-Rich Franklin – UFC on FUEL TV 6
As you get older, you’re not always as spry as you used to be, so jumping off the couch and cursing at the result of a fight doesn’t happen as often as it did when you were younger, if at all. That all changed with one right hand from Cung Le on November 10. That shot, which knocked out former middleweight champ Rich Franklin instantly, almost killed a laptop with the speed at which I hopped off the couch, scaring my wife and daughter in the process. It was a frightening finish to say the least, and one that reminded me that yeah, even at 44, my couch jumping skills are still intact.
1 – Edson Barboza-Terry Etim – UFC 142
The ESPYs may have gotten it wrong in not awarding this its Play of the Year award, but the finalist there is a winner here, and in a year with some spectacular knockouts, Edson Barboza’s wheel kick finish of Terry Etim at UFC 142 in January was far and away the best. It had it all – speed, power, technique, accuracy, and pure ‘wow’ effect. Etim was out the second he got caught by Barboza, and the scary part is that when asked about the finisher, the Brazilian Muay Thai expert said, “To be honest, no, I don't train that kick much. I like to train the basic things like body kicks or low kicks. But I’ve known how to do that kick since I was eight years old, when I started training Muay Thai. I think I have been keeping it inside of my mind, and when I need it I throw it out.” Wow.
Honorable Mention – Benny Alloway-Manuel Rodriguez, Daron Cruickshank-Henry Martinez, Michael McDonald-Miguel Angel Torres, Dan Hardy-Duane Ludwig, Eddie Wineland-Scott Jorgensen, Johny Hendricks-Martin Kampmann, Brad Pickett-Yves Jabouin, Tim Boetsch-Yushin Okami, Roy Nelson-Dave Herman, Lyoto Machida-Ryan Bader
2011 - Kongo-Barry
2010 - Velasquez-Lesnar
2009 - Silva-Griffin
2008 - Evans-Liddell
2007 - Gonzaga-Cro Cop
2006 - Silva-Franklin I
2005 - Liddell-Couture II