It’s been an incredible year for fight fans, as the world of mixed martial arts has served up a huge helping of knockout finishes from around the world.
Whether it’s been from cageside or sofaside, I’ve watched more fights this year than I care to remember, and across the various events held across the globe, there have been a host of spectacular finishes that have had the fans on their feet.
I’ve picked out 10 of the most memorable knockouts I’ve seen in 2018. Some from the UFC, some from the biggest martial arts organisation in Asia ONE Championship, and a sprinkling of European finishes from Cage Warriors and KSW.
Here’s my Top 10. Which KO is YOUR favourite?
1. Yair Rodriguez KOs Chan Sung Jung
UFC Fight Night, Denver, Colorado, USA
Mexican featherweight sensation Yair Rodriguez looked to be heading to a decision defeat against South Korean fan favourite “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, but an unforgettable final few seconds changed all that.
The pair had gone toe to toe for five rounds in the main event of the UFC’s 25th anniversary event in Denver, Colorado. And, with the 10-second clapper going off in the background, the pair slapped hands in a show of respect before unleashing a final flurry.
And, as Chan came surging forward looking to land a big hook, Rodriquez struck with a knockout we’ve never seen before or since. He dipped under “The Korean Zombie’s” punches and threw up a perfectly-timed elbow to claim a stunning last-second knockout.
HOW. DID. THAT. HAPPEN?! 😱
— Watch UFC 232: Jones vs Gustafsson II on BT Sport (@btsportufc) November 11, 2018
It was the knockout of the night, knockout of the week, knockout of the year and possibly one of the best knockouts ever seen inside the octagon, and it happened with the clock at 4:59 in the fifth and final round.
It was that crazy. It was that good.
2. Lyoto Machida KOs Vitor Belfort
UFC 224, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Lyoto Machida’s reputation as a karate king was cemented many years ago, when he channelled his inner Danny LaRusso to crane-kick Hall of Famer Randy Couture into retirement back in 2011.
And for his own final appearance in the UFC’s octagon, the Brazilian had another magic Machida moment up his sleeve for the fans.
Facing fellow retiring legend Vitor Belfort, Machida connected with a picture-perfect snapping front kick to the face that knocked out Belfort instantly for one of the most spectacular finishes of this, or any, year.
Lyoto Machida is the only fighter in UFC history with TWO front-kick knockouts:
🆚 Randy Couture in 2011
🆚 Vitor Belfort in 2018
Both fighters retired immediately after their defeat 😳 pic.twitter.com/SLKpFcEGCy
— Watch UFC 232: Jones vs Gustafsson II on BT Sport (@btsportufc) May 13, 2018
His finish wasn’t just reminiscent of his knockout of Couture, it was also a carbon copy of Anderson Silva’s legendary front-kick KO back at UFC 126 in 2011.
The victim of that front-kick KO? Vitor Belfort.
3. Edward Kelly KOs Meas Meul
ONE: Global Superheroes, Manila, Philippines
Filipino wushu striker Edward Kelly showed the world why his nickname is “The Ferocious” with a phenomenal finish of Cambodia’s Meas Meul in Manila.
Kelly finished Meul in just 21 seconds of their featherweight bout, with a blistering right-cross, left-hook, right head kick.
Just 21 seconds into the contest, Kelly threw a right cross-left hook combination, followed a devastating right head kick, which instantly knocked out the Cambodian debutant.
That set the record for the fastest knockout and stoppage victory in the featherweight division at the time – remarkably, Li Kai Wen broke the record five months later with a 10-second KO. Today, it stands as his favorite win yet.
4. Justin Gaethje KOs James Vick
UFC Fight Night, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
They don’t call Justin Gaethje “The Highlight” for nothing. The American produced a stunning one-hitter quitter to put away rising contender James Vick in Lincoln, Nebraska with one swing of his right hand.
Vick was on a superb run of form, having lost just once in 14 career bouts, and had finished his last four opponents in impressive style. And when he called for a shot against one of the lightweight’s top contenders the UFC paired him with human highlight reel Gaethje.
Many believed Vick’s huge reach advantage could play a factor in the contest, but Gaethje was having none of that, and walked through Vick’s jabs to land a colossal right hand that put Vick on airplane mode after just 87 seconds.
— Simon Head (@simonhead) August 26, 2018
5. Jeremy Miado KOs Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke
ONE: Iron Will, Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand’s Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (or Master Rong to his friends, helpfully) is something of a martial arts legend in Asia. As a multiple world champion in the punishing world of Muay Thai, he transitioned to MMA with ONE Championship and held their strawweight world title from 2015 to 2016.
But, Filipino Jeremy Miado nonetheless decided he would stand and trade with the former Muay Thai legend in their bout at ONE: Iron Will in Bangkok. Good idea? Well, yes, actually.
To the huge shock of just about everybody watching, Miado not only held his own in the striking exchanges with Dejdamrong, he went on to knock out the Thai star with a devastating right hand that had “Master Rong” out cold long before he hit the floor.
6. Roberto Soldic KOs Vinicius Bohrer
KSW 46, Giiwice, Poland
If you’re looking for the pound-for-pound hardest hitter outside of the UFC, look no further.
KSW welterweight champion Roberto Soldic looks like an action figure and has the sort of punch power you only see from top-drawer middleweights. And thanks to his devastating punch power, Soldic is must-see TV every time he steps into the KSW cage.
“Robocop” reclaimed his KSW title in a blistering rematch against South Africa’s Dricus DuPlessis earlier in the year.
And the Croatian sensation was in no mood to get caught out in the first title defence of his latest reign as he starched Vinicius Bohrer with a savage left hook in Giiwice on December 1.
— Simon Head (@simonhead) December 1, 2018
7. Brian Ortega KOs Frankie Edgar
UFC 222, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Californian submission ace Brian Ortega was expected to pose a stern test of former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar’s grappling skills at UFC 222 back in March, but nobody quite expected “T-City” to stand toe-to-toe with “The Answer” and hand him the first stoppage loss of his illustrious career.
Ortega’s combination of solid close-range punches and slashing elbows gave Edgar countless problems in the opening round of their featherweight contender contest in Las Vegas, and after landing a vicious combination late in the round, Ortega moved in for the finish.
A combination put Edgar on wobbly legs, as the former lightweight champ looked to stifle Ortega’s punches. But the super-cool Californian simply stepped back and to the side to create space, then uncorked a colossal uppercut that lifted Edgar off his feet, knocking him out.
"Do you. Believe. What we. Just. Saw?!" 😱
Brian Ortega became the first man to finish Frankie Edgar with one of the best KOs of 2018 💥
— Watch UFC 232: Jones vs Gustafsson II on BT Sport (@btsportufc) December 7, 2018
8. Nathaniel Wood KOs Luca Iovine
Cage Warriors 92: Super Saturday, London, England
Nathaniel Wood’s final fling as a Cage Warriors fighter saw him leave on the highest of highs as he scored a stunning highlight-reel knockout of Italian challenger Luca Iovine to retain his Cage Warriors bantamweight title.
Wood had already claimed three straight KO/TKO finishes in 2017 as he captured the respected Cage Warriors title. And with this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it KO of Iovine at Cage Warriors’ Super Saturday show in London, the man known as “The Prospect” booked his ticket to the big time.
WOW! Nathaniel Wood with an absolute peach of a left hook and the man with the most out of date nickname in MMA @TheProspectMMA gets a huge KO win. #SuperSaturday #CW92 @CageWarriors pic.twitter.com/etbFnF4IPx
— Simon Head (@simonhead) March 24, 2018
He was signed by the UFC shortly after, and he’s now looking to build his way up the bantamweight ranks, with mentor and British bantamweight legend Brad Pickett in his corner.
9. Israel Adesanya KOs Derek Brunson
UFC 230, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
The best pure striker in the UFC in 2018 was undoubtedly Kiwi kickboxing ace Israel Adesanya, whose performances inside the octagon catapulted him from flashy prospect to legitimate world title contender in double-quick time.
I was cageside in Vegas to watch Adesanya put on a show to defeat the super-tough Hawaiian Brad Tavares at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in July. But he took his performance to a whole new level at UFC 230 when he faced knockout artist Derek Brunson.
Adesanya fought Brunson like a kid playing Street Fighter with all the cheat codes. “The Last Stylebender” showcased his full array of strikes on the hapless Brunson, who simply had no answer to the Kiwi’s striking excellence. A knockout finish was inevitable, and Adesanya put the seal on his performance with a knockout finish after thoroughly dismantling his opponent with nine seconds to spare in the opening round.
— Simon Head (@simonhead) November 4, 2018
10. Gou Dakui KOs The Ref
Max Muay Thai, Bangkok
It’s not technically MMA, as it was a pure Muay Thai bout, but we couldn’t complete our list of stunning knockouts without including this one from a Max Muay Thai event in November.
We won’t pretend to know who Gou Dakoui and Super X Sitsondidech are, but what we can tell you is Dakui scored a stoppage win over Super X, but we’re not really interested that.
Instead we want to focus on the other man he finished at exactly the same time – the REFEREE.
That’s right, Dakui not only took out his opponent, he also sent the referee crashing to the canvas with a thumping left roundhouse kick that caught the official right in the kisser as he looked to step in to end the contest.
The fight certainly ended, but not in the way the ref would have planned…