UFC Octagon

Best UFC knockouts of the past decade

One of the reasons for MMA’s ascension as a sport is that there are so many ways to win, which makes for huge jeopardy and excitement. While the technical nuances of grappling and jiu-jitsu are exciting to MMA fans and connoisseurs alike, there are a few things better in combat sports than a highlight reel knockout.

 

Here is our list of the best UFC knockouts of the last decade:

 

  1. Cody Garbrandt vs. Raphael Assuncao (2020)

This was a huge fight for Garbrandt. He had won the bantamweight championship in spectacular fashion against Dominick Cruz in 2016, before consecutive knockout losses against fierce rival TJ Dillashaw was followed by a knockout loss against Pedro Munhoz set him on a considerable skid. He was matched against Assuncao, himself on a two-fight skid, and on paper looked to be a compelling fight. It was a competitive encounter across the first two rounds and looked to be heading to the final round. That was, until the closing seconds of the second. With both fighters feigning to get the other to commit, Cody ducked low, prompting Assuncao to commit forward, with Garbrandt popping back up with a swinging right hook to end the fight right on the buzzer.

  1. Anthony Pettis vs. Stephen Thompson (2019)

With nicknames of ‘Showtime’ and ‘Wonderboy’ respectively, this encounter between two of the most dynamic strikers in the sport always had the potential for fireworks, and it delivered. Thompson had begun the fight the stronger of the two. While Pettis was moving forward and pushing the pace of the fight, Thompson’s karate stance and pinpoint accuracy had seen him largely pick off an advancing Pettis from the outside. Then, with just five seconds to go in the second, Pettis had backed up towards the fence bringing Thompson towards him, before leaping forward with a perfectly executed Superman punch to end the fight.

  1. Corey Sandhagen vs. Frankie Edgar (2021)

This was a tough watch for many MMA fans. Former lightweight champ and perennial contender Edgar is a legend of the sport, almost universally loved by fans. He was on a downward trajectory in his career having seen some inconsistency across his fights in the couple of years leading into this fight. Sandhagen was an emerging talent within the bantamweight division and a dangerous opponent for Edgar. Giving up a considerable height and reach advantage, Edgar began the first round looking to push the pace and work up close to deny the space. Just 28 seconds into the fight, however, his pressure caused him to walk into one of the most brilliantly executed flying knees which left Edgar stiff and motionless.

 

  1. Jiri Prochaska vs. Dominic Reyes (2021)

Off the back of this fight, Prochazka would go on to win the UFC lightweight title in what was only his third fight within the organisation. He came from Rizin as their defending light heavyweight champion, but despite a good reputation, was still somewhat of an unknown quantity in terms of what he could achieve within the UFC. Reyes, on the other hand, was coming off the back of consecutive title fight losses, against Jan Błachowicz and a controversial decision loss to pound-for-pound great Jon Jones. The fight was absolutely chaotic from start to finish. Both fighters came out of the blocks swinging and regularly connecting to the point that they were battered, bruised and both visibly starting to wane. Prochazka was certainly getting the better of the contest and having got back to his feet following a brief scuffle on the ground, Prochazka backed Reyes up to the cage and began swinging menacing punches and elbows. Reyes looked like was trying to see out the remaining 30 seconds when Prochazka swung for a right elbow, missed, and followed it with a spinning left elbow to send Reyes face down and put the division on notice.

  1. Kevin Lee vs. Gregor Gillespie (2019)

Kevin Lee was looking to build some momentum back into his career after falling short of the interim lightweight title against Tony Ferguson. After an initial win against Edson Barbosa, he then suffered two losses against Al Iaquinta and Rafael Dos Anjos. The task of then facing undefeated prospect and formidable wrestler Gregor Gillespie was a tough ask. The fight started well, with some good stand-up exchanges from both fighters, then halfway through the opening round, Lee threw a punch combination with a left high kick behind it, catching Gillespie square on the jaw as he pulled away. It landed so flush that Gillespie was out before he even hit the ground and landed in a heap against the cage.

  1. Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva (2013)

Squeaking into this decade by one month, this knockout was iconic more for its optics and implications than anything. At the time, Silva was the king of the UFC. He was undefeated in 16 fights since joining the UFC, including winning the middleweight title and defending it nine times, as well as competing and winning at light heavyweight. If there was one critique of Silva, it was that he did have a tendency to play around during fights; faking, feigning and gesticulating to get under his opponents’ skin. It had always worked, but there was always a feeling that the wrong opponent, at the wrong time, one day he could get caught out. Chris Weidman turned out to be that opponent. Undefeated at the time, Weidman was a big prospect but not many believed he would defeat Silva. He had started well, with the fight extremely competitive. Weidman caught Silva and in an attempt to mock his opponent, Silva started pretending he was wobbled, gesturing his head side to side. Weidman pounced on the opportunity and swung a left hook which turned Silva’s joking to reality in a second, sending him down and out both literally and figuratively red-faced.

  1. Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson (2022)

In a similar ilk to Frankie Edgar’s knockout, this was a bittersweet one for many UFC fans. Tony Ferguson was a firm fan favourite, thanks to his unorthodox fighting style and entertaining antics outside of the cage. His ill-fated fight against Khabib is often considered one of the “ones that got away” for UFC fans. At this stage, Tony had been on a downturn, losing three of his last three, when he had only lost three of his previous 25 fights. Matching him up against Chandler, who had been a revelation since his addition to the UFC roster and become a fan favourite in his own right, felt like a tough task for Tony. Somewhat surprisingly, Ferguson started the fight looking like he had turned back the years and had won the first round. Just 17 seconds into the second round though, Chandler landed a humongous front kick to the chin, reminiscent of Anderson Silva’s iconic knockout of Vitor Belfort back in 2011, rendering Ferguson instantly unconscious.

  1. Amanda Nunes vs. Cris Cyborg (2018)

This fight was billed as the battle to be named the greatest female MMA fighter of all time. Cyborg had been a leading light for female MMA, with multiple belts across different organisations, and was undefeated in 20 fights. She had also never been knocked out. Nunes, on the other hand, was rapidly emerging as a frontrunner for women’s MMA, defeating the likes of Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Valentina Shevchenko to be the bantamweight champion. She was stepping up to contend for Cyborg’s featherweight title to become the first female simultaneous two-weight champion in history. The fight began at a frantic pace, with both swinging somewhat wildly at each other. It was Nunes who landed the telling blow, with a crashing right hand as Cyborg chased her across the cage. This marked the beginning of the end, Cyborg was visibly rocked and Nunes swarmed her, landing blow after blow, before an overhand right sent Cyborg tumbling face first and make history in the process.

  1. Joaquin Buckley vs. Impa Kasanganay (2020)

A split-second moment of inspiration which propelled a fighter into worldwide headlines. Buckley was in only his second fight in the UFC and had lost his opening fight by knockout to Kevin Holland. He was still working part time in a supermarket and in need of a big performance against the undefeated Kasanganay. What we perhaps weren’t expecting was a finishing move more akin to a Jean Claude Van Damme film than a competitive cage fight. Mid-way through the fight, Kasanganay caught Buckley’s left leg during a kick, largely to disincentivise any further kicks. Instead, Buckley used Kasanganay as a springboard pivot for a spinning back kick with his standing leg. You could watch fighters try this technique in a competitive fight over and over again and likely see them fall flat on their face more times than they even made contact, much less perfect contact. This was Buckley’s one in a million execution, landing flush on the jaw and stunning everyone in the building. It was as much a ‘highlight reel’ UFC knockout as it’s possible to get.

  1. Yair Rodrigues vs. Korean Zombie (2018)

As far as crazy knockouts go, this one has everything. Crazy technique. Improbable timing. Pendulum swinging. Mexican Yair Rodrigues was one of the hottest prospects in the sport, catching many fans and pundits’ eyes with his exciting flair for wild striking. He had done enough to get a shot at former champ and UFC veteran Frankie Edgar, where he came up short and likely sent him crashing back down to earth. His next outing was against another tough and seasoned veteran in Jung Chan-sung aka Korean Zombie. It had looked like another tough night and a significant setback for Rodrigues, who knew he was down on the judges’ scorecards late into the championship rounds. With just seconds to go, he beckoned his opponent to trade with him. Zombie didn’t need much encouragement and steamed forward, only to be met with what I can only describe as a backward underarm elbow from Rodrigues, scoring him a seemingly impossible knockout just one second from inevitable defeat.

 

Top 5 UFC Knockouts:

  1. Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey (2015)

At the time of this fight, Ronda was the talk of the female combat sports world. In the four short years since she had turned professional, she had won 12 consecutive fights, all by finish, most of them in the first round. She had become an absolute megastar outside of the cage too and seemed for all the world like she was set to become a dominant force for years to come. When the fight with Holly Holm was scheduled, to some she was simply to be the next sacrificial lamb for Ronda to arm bar within a round. But to more seasoned fight sports fans, it was an eyebrow-raising match-up and a significant step up in competition for Rousey. Holm was a decorated, multiple-time world boxing champion who had transitioned into MMA about the same time as Rousey and was also undefeated. She represented a significant striking challenge Ronda hadn’t encountered before, and that’s how the fight played out. From the off, Rousey simply didn’t know how to contend with Holm’s striking and movement and had started to cut a forlorn figure prior to the knockout. After just a minute of the second round, an exchange saw Holm shrug Rousey to the ground and as she got up facing the wrong way, Holm swung a left high kick which landed on the button, sending Ronda to the ground and shockwaves around the combat sports world.

 

  1. Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo (2015)

Now the biggest name in MMA by a country mile, this was the first fight which showed Conor McGregor was far more than simply a loudmouth contender. Despite victories against some seriously tough competition, including Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway and Chad Mendes, many dismissed Conor’s ascension through the featherweight division and felt he would get found out against long-term and extremely dominant champion Jose Aldo. Aldo was unbeaten in 17 fights and had never been knocked out and off first glance, the Brazilian looked to be a heavy favourite. It was an extremely long and tempestuous build-up to the fight with a series of confrontational press conferences and it felt like Conor was getting under Aldo’s skin. Nevertheless, it remained to be seen how this tension would translate into the fight. Just 13 seconds into the encounter, Aldo over-extended and Conor landed the perfect short, left-hand counter to send Aldo down and out. Footage later emerging of Conor backstage repeatedly practising the exact technique he finished the fight with added an extra layer to this incredible finish.

  1. Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman (2022)

A brilliant UFC knockout in its own right, but the circumstances around it elevate the achievement even further. Leon Edwards had been overlooked for a title shot for years and when he finally got the call, he had a tough task ahead. Kamaru Usman had bulldozed through the division to the extent he was closing in on record-breaking numbers. He had already defeated Edwards once before and, despite a good opening round for Leon, the rematch looked like it was going exactly how you could have been forgiven for expecting it to go. Usman’s wrestling and pressure nullified Edwards’ threat throughout and it seemed like a somewhat soul-crushing points defeat for the Brit. On his stool prior to the fifth and final round, Edwards cut a subdued figure, but a rousing, Rocky-esque speech from his corner spurred him on. With little over two minutes left of the fight, Edwards’ feints had created an opening for him to land a hellacious left high kick which landed as flush as a head kick can land, dropping Usman to take the belt back to Birmingham.

 

  1. Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren (2019)

The fastest UFC knockout in history at just five seconds. Masvidal was on a high after his impressive knockout of Darren Till in his previous outing, and the build-up to this fight had created a fair bit of animosity between the fighters. Askren had recently been traded from ONE Championship and entered the UFC as an undefeated champion. While his skillset was fairly limited to wrestling and ground and pound, he had managed to find a balance that was effective in MMA, if not particularly fan-friendly. He had recorded a somewhat controversial victory against Robbie Lawler in his first UFC fight and the match-up with Masvidal on paper appeared to be an interesting clash of styles. As the pair stood across from each other before the fight started, Masvidal looked relaxed and almost smug, backing up against the cage with his hands behind his back. Once the fight began, he took two steps to the right, then sprinted directly at Askren, whose wrestling training led him to drop his head in an attempt to take Masvidal down. Masvidal lunged with a flying knee which landed square on the side of Askren’s jaw, knocking him instantly unconscious. The follow-up punches to his fallen opponent before the referee stepped in were famously dubbed by Masvidal to be “super necessary” at the post-fight press conference.

 

  1. Francis Ngannou vs. Alastair Overeem (2017)

Best UFC Knockout Francis Ngannou knocks out Alistair Overeem in the first round during UFC 218

Heavyweight encounters are often billed with a warning not to look away for a second, as trained fighters of their size can knock anyone out at any moment. Never has there been a more relevant MMA fighter to exemplify that than Francis Ngannou. He looks exactly what you would think a heavyweight champion would look like, and he certainly hits like one too. His journey from sand mines in Cameroon to the heavyweight division of the UFC was remarkable within itself, but the apparent ease by which he was dispatching some of the best fighters in the world illustrated he was a special talent and a force to be reckoned with. After clocking up five finishes in his first five UFC fights, he was pitted against Alastair Overeem, a decorated veteran who was a former Pride, Strikeforce and K1 heavyweight champion. Overeem was an elite striker and set to be another step up in competition for Ngannou following his first-round victory over former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski in his previous fight. The fight started cautiously, with Overeem using experience to fight at distance and avoid the whistling haymakers from Ngannou. As with heavyweight fighting, he was doing a decent job at it until the second he wasn’t. During an exchange, Ngannou threw a winging left uppercut which snapped Overeem’s head back so violently it practically lifted him off his feet. It was a truly astonishing punch.