By Pete Hoffman
Over this past weekend, we saw a great knockout at the final “UFC on Fox” event in Milwaukee: Lightweight Edson Barboza landed a vicious kick to the stomach that took out Dan Hooker, who had endured multiple body blows throughout the fight.
Comparing MMA finishes is always good fodder for debate and commentary. With the 2018 coming to an end, here are the top 10 knockouts of the year:
Honorable Mention: Johnny Walker vs. Khalil Rountree Jr., UFC Fight Night 140
His name is Johnny Walker and he looks like New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge … The fresh-faced, 6-foot-6 light-heavyweight earns honorable mention status for taking down Rountree with some incredible elbows in his UFC debut on Nov. 17.
No. 10: Aaron Pico vs. Shane Kruchten, Bellator 192
Pico had a rude awakening at the beginning of his career. Bellator had hyped the 22-year-old featherweight as a superstar, but then he lost his first professional fight in 24 seconds by guillotine choke. A little over a year later, Pico is on a four-fight win streak, all by finishes in the first round. His best finish was toward the end of 2017, but his next best came by a nasty body blow delivered just 37 seconds into his fight against Kruchten in January. The hype is real.
No. 9: Jessica Andrade vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz, UFC 228
The women’s strawweight division has been dominated over the years by Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas. Andrade may not be as well-rounded as the two most recent champs, but what she lacks in talent, she makes up for in power. For instance, she completely dismantled Claudia Gadelha, another top contender in the division, last Septembe. In this September fight, she was able to finish Kowalkiewicz in the first round.
No. 8: Niko Price vs. Randy Brown, Fight Night 133
Price, who most recently was on the wrong end of a knockout in September, finished Brown in one of the oddest-looking knockouts of the year in July. Scrambling for position on the ground, Price pins Brown against the cage and finds a way to throw some devastating hammer fists from the ground to end the fight.
No. 7: Curtis Millender vs. Nick Barnes, LFA 30
Millender gave us this highlight less than two weeks into 2018. Midway through the second round, Millender lands a simple right cross in close quarters into a right headkick that hits right on the button. The knockout helped propel the welterweight into UFC, where he is 2-0 and riding an eight-fight winning streak overall.
No. 6: Yoel Romero vs. Luke Rockhold, UFC 221
Romero is an electrifying fighter who is often in the limelight for controversy. The February bout with Rockhold was scheduled as an interim middleweight title fight, with the winner to go on to face Robert Whittaker for the belt. But Romero missed weight, disqualifying the 41-year-old Cuban from becoming interim champ. It did not stop Romero from finishing Rockhold and giving him an unforgettable post-fight kiss on the cheek.
No. 5: Jacare Souza vs Chris Weidman, UFC 230
This middleweight bout at Madison Square Garden in November was very close, though Weidman appeared to be leading on the scorecards. Souza, a veteran fighter from Brazil, suffered a broken nose early on, but never stopped exchanging blows. In the third round, Souza found a rare opening and landed a perfect shot to Weidman’s temple that finished the fight.
No. 4: Lyota Machida vs. Vitor Belfort, UFC 224
Brazil’s Machida, two-plus weeks shy of his 40th birthday in May, gave a home crowd in Rio de Janeiro something to cheer about as he landed a perfect kick to Belfort’s face one minute into the second round of their middleweight bout. Machida has since left the UFC and is now in Bellator; Belfort is weighing retirement.
No. 3: Brian Ortega vs. Frankie Edgar, UFC 222
Edgar originally was set to fight Max Holloway for the featherweight title at the March pay-per-view, but Ortega stepped in on short notice due to Holloway’s injury. What makes this knockout so special is it was the first time Edgar ever had been stopped in the cage.
No. 2: Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov, UFC 229
This Oct. 6 card may be remembered for Khabib Nurmagomedov brawling into the crowd after submitting Conor McGregor, but a close second will be Lewis’ come-from-behind knockout of Volkov with 11 seconds left in the fight. Volkov clearly winning the first two rounds allowed Lewis to stand up and strike in the final 30 seconds of the third. The unforgettable KO gave the 33-year-old Lewis his first heavyweight title fight less than a month later at UFC 230, where he was submitted by Daniel Cormier.
No. 1, Knockout of the Year: Yair Rodriguez vs. “Korean Zombie,” UFC Fight Night 139
What better way to celebrate the UFC’s 25th anniversary than by having potentially the fight of the year headline the Nov. 10 card in Denver. Rodriguez and Chan Sung Jung each were coming off long absences from the Octagon. But they put on show for five rounds; what would have been a nail-biting decision ended with one second remaining in the fifth and final round as Rodriguez landed a vicious elbow out of nowhere.
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