Knockouts, they’re the single most divisive element to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. They can be breath-taking and beautiful, and they can be shocking and damn-near disturbing. The difference between the two, is down to the eyes of the beholder, as well as the utilization of either finesse and technique, or pure power and timing.
For this list, I present to you the 5 very best knockouts from within MMA’s premiere organization, based upon the jaw-dropping moment in which they occurred, but disregarding the story behind them. What I mean by this, is that many knockouts are considered to be great based upon who pulled them off, and what happened leading up to that moment. Conor McGregor KO’ing Jose Aldo in 13-seconds will forever be an all-time great moment, but taking away the gravity of the situation and the intense rivalry between the two fighters, and it falls short of my list of the very best, non-narrative driven, knockouts ever.
So without further ado, here is my list for the 5 greatest knockouts in Ultimate Fighting Championship history:
5. Rashad Evans Thaws The “Ice Man”
UFC 88: Breakthrough - Rashad Evans vs. Chuck Liddell (September 9th, 2008)
This KO is seriously overlooked when it comes to the greatest of all-time debate.
The speed at which Rashad Evans uncorks his overhand is like a gun going off. Chuck Liddell has absolutely no idea that’s it’s coming, and who can blame him? The way his body crumples to the floor, limp and lifeless, it can’t be unseen. It’s simply iconic.
4. Gabriel Gonzaga Folds Mirko “Cro Cop”
UFC 70: Nations Collide - Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović (April 21st, 2007)
Even without the context that Gabriel Gonzaga was regarded as a grappler, and “Cro Cop” was the established and renowned kickboxer, this one is still incredible.
They circle each other, with both looking as though they’ve got a good feel for the range, then bam! Gonzaga unleashes a murderous head kick over the guard of Mirko. It is shin-to-bone connection at its finest, and to see it executed at such close quarters, it’s just spectacular.
3. Jorge Masvidal Lands The Fastest KO In UFC History
UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos - Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren (July 6th, 2019)
Officially it took 5 seconds, but if it weren’t for the referee, Jason Herzog, having to stand on the other side of the Octagon for the beginning of the fight, we could have been looking at just 3 seconds.
I’ve seen this countless times and it never fails to shock and amaze me. The sight of Masvidal running full force before leaping into the air with a flying knee, directly into Askren’s head as he looks to shoot a takedown, is just unforgettable. It is virtually the only way to win a fight within the opening seconds, and Jorge Masvidal has done it, and we’ll probably never see anything quite like it again.
2. Joaquin Buckley Goes Mortal Kombat On Impa Kasanganay
UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen - Joaquin Buckley vs. Impa Kasanganay (October 10th, 2020)
Nothing quite sums up all of our reactions to this knockout better than John Gooden on commentary saying, “this is real life ninja stuff!”. It was perhaps not the most eloquent way of putting it, but it personifies the message that what we had just witnessed, was like something out of a movie or video game.
Not only did it take tremendous amounts of confidence for Buckley to even consider attempting it, but the nerve of him committing to it with the power that he did, is down-right unbelievable. Questions can be asked about Kasanganay holding onto Buckley’s kick for a fraction of a second too long, but you can’t take anything away from this truly one-of-a-kind knockout.
Bonus Video: Joaquin Buckley shatters his opponent with the coldest KO in UFC history:
1. Edson Barboza Wheel Kicks Terry Etim Stiff
UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes - Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim (January 14th, 2012)
MMA is often looked upon as “cage fighting”, and not as what it stands for - Mixed Martial Arts. Well, this knockout is the epitome of art within MMA. It is the definition of an expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.
Barboza saw his opening, and he unleashed a lethal spinning kick, the likes of which has never been matched. It is not only picture perfect, but unlike any knockout on this list, or any knockout in UFC history, it is the flawless execution of speed, accuracy, timing, and power, all of which leads to a truly devastating result.