The past year was a very exciting one for MMA, possibly the best the sport has ever seen. It was filled with great fights and finishes, and we’ve never experienced so many cards packed to the brim with awe-inducing knockouts.
While it’s tough to come up with the best knockouts in such a stacked year, I’ve narrowed it down to my top ten. Check them out on the first day of 2014. As always, give me your favorites in the comments below and Happy New Year!
10) Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. James Te Huna, UFC Fight Night 33:
With talk of a move down to middleweight or even retirement swirling, “Shogun” badly needed a win when he faced noted power striker Te Huna in the co-main event of December’s UFC Fight Night 33 in Australia. Rua beat Te Huna at his own game, flooring him with an absolutely picture-perfect left hook in the first round. “Shogun” got back on track in a big way, proving that he could still get the job done at light heavyweight.
9) Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson, UFC Fight Night 32:
“The Phenom’s” first appearance on this list was so shocking because he became the first man to finish the normally iron-chinned “Hendo” with strikes. His third amazing knockout of 2013, Belfort continued to impress by actually lifting Henderson off the canvas with an uppercut, following with a flurry of punches before sealing the deal with another headkick. Unbelievable stuff.
8) Emanuel Newton vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Bellator 90:
This fight, which was part of the light heavyweight tournament at Bellator 90, was supposed to be another tailor-made win for “King Mo” as he steamrolled his way towards his first Bellator title. Newton didn’t get the memo, however, knocking Lawal out with a pinpoint spinning backfist that instantly turned “King Mo’s” lights off. Newton followed that up with a decision win over Lawal at Bellator 106, earning the interim 205-pound championship and proving his first victory was no fluke.
7) Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping, UFC on FX 7:
This was the win that kicked off Belfort’s unstoppable 2013. Heading into the bout opinions were mixed about who would win. Belfort quickly put an end to that speculation, knocking out Bisping with a vicious second round headkick and some follow-up punches. It destroyed Bisping’s shot at a middleweight title shot and catapulted “The Phenom” back into title contender status. He would go on to notch two more devastating knockouts to begin 2014 as the next man to face champion Chris Weidman for the title.
6) Josh Thomson vs. Nate Diaz, UFC on Fox 7:
Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Thomson made his return to the UFC against a very tough opponent in Nate Diaz, who was coming off a one-sided loss to Ben Henderson for the UFC 155-pound strap. Thomson made a statement by doing something no other fighter had ever accomplished, wobbling Diaz with a second round high kick. Thomson swarmed in and sealed the deal on an amazing win. He’ll now face Henderson in a title eliminator bout at this month’s UFC on Fox 10. 2014 is shaping up to be a huge year for the AKA-trained “Punk.”
5) Travis Browne vs. Alistair Overeem, UFC Fight Night 26:
After getting knocked out by Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in a fight he was winning at UFC 156, former Strikeforce heavyweight champ Overeem desperately needed a win to stay relevant in the UFC. “The Reem” came out strong with a series of brutal Muay Thai knees, crumpling Browne to the point where the bout was nearly stopped. However, “Hapa” weathered the storm and somehow came back with an awe-inspiring front kick that hit Overeem right on the chin. A few Browne hammerfists signified the greatest comeback we’d see all year, propelling the surging Browne to a fight with experienced veteran Josh Barnett. Another knockout capped off an amazing year for “Hapa,” who will now fight Fabricio Werdum for the heavyweight number one contender spot.
4) Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold, UFC on FX 8:
Belfort’s third and final appearance on this list was the most impressive in my eyes. Rockhold ended his Strikeforce career as the promotion’s final middleweight champion and appeared intense and focused to take the UFC 185-pound scene by storm against Belfort. That didn’t matter, however, as “The Phenom” uncorked a jaw-dropping spinning heel kick to end Rockhold’s night in the first round. The win was the second of Belfort’s three “knockout of the night”-winning performances of the year. Belfort’s striking has simply become otherworldly; it will be beyond interesting to see if he can put out Weidman’s lights the same way he did versus top competition in 2013.
3) Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann, UFC on Fuel TV 8:
This fight could also be labeled “Fight of the Year” for its rousing back-and-forth display of heart and determination. Giving the fans at Super Saitama Super Arena something to remember, Stann went toe-to-toe with the vicious “Axe Murderer” despite knowing he could probably neutralize him by making the fight less exciting with a takedown. Stann floored Silva on several occasions, but ultimately ate an absolutely devastating second round flurry that ended his night. It turned out to be his last MMA fight. Silva was incredibly respectful of Stann’s willingness to put on a show for the fans. He’ll now go on to coach TUF: Brazil 3 against arch nemesis Chael Sonnen, hopefully putting an end to this long-winded rivalry sometime in 2014.
2) Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt, UFC 160:
Hunt came in as everyone’s feel-good fan favorite after racking up four straight knockout wins in the UFC heavyweight division. Dos Santos dropped the belt back to rival Cain Velasquez in the main event of UFC 155 and was originally scheduled to face Alistair Overeem at UFC 160. But an injury opened the door for “The Super Samoan” to step in. He nearly capitalized in a big way by hitting dos Santos with his trademark left hooks. “Cigano” soon turned the tables on Hunt with a massive overhand right hand. He continued the onslaught on into the later rounds of the bout, eventually ending the fight with an earth-shaking spinning wheel kick to knock out the notoriously tough “Super Samoan.” A truly amazing finish to an awesome fight.
1) Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva I, UFC 162:
Could this list really have been topped by anything other than “The All-American’s” left hook heard ‘round the world? Weidman did exactly what he told people he was going to do all along, scoring a takedown in the first round to neutralize Silva’s vaunted counterstriking. “The Spider” got overconfident and started dancing more than actually fighting, shimmying his way right into a second round left hook that had his eyes rolling back into his head. It was a shocking knockout that changed the landscape of mixed martial arts forever. Many people thought it was a fluke, but Weidman came out dominant in their rematch at UFC 168. Unfortunately a definitive ending to their rivalry never came as Silva gruesomely broke his leg in the second round and lost by injury, but Weidman’s first knockout of the longtime champ cannot be labeled as anything other than “Knockout of the Year.” Weidman could be on either end of another one of those when he faces Vitor Belfort sometime in 2014.
Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva vs. Alistair Overeem, UFC 156
Travis Browne vs. Josh Barnett, UFC 168
Derrick Mehmen vs. Rolles Gracie, WSOF 5
Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, UFC 160
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