Top 20 knockouts in UFC history

In the UFC’s 20-year history, there have been far over 800

knockouts, so attempting to pick the 20 best was no easy feat.

There were KO’s stemming from slams, back fists, even spin kicks.

In other words, there was no shortage of contenders, but here is a

collection of the most amazing, the most unique and the downright


#20:  Matt Hughes vs. Carlos Newton – UFC


In the fall of 2001, after 32 pro fights and a seven-fight win

streak, Matt Hughes was ready for a UFC welterweight title shot,

which came against Carlos Newton at UFC 34. In a way, the fight was

personal for Hughes, since Newton had just won the belt from his

friend and trainer Pat Miletich.

By that point, Hughes’ style was already well-established.

His goal was to get the fight to the ground and look for strikes or

submissions. Newton, who at that point of his career had eight of

his 10 wins by submission, was more than happy to oblige him on the

mat, but in this fight, it would be how the fight got there that

would become so memorable.

Midway through the second round, as Hughes was working the top

position, Newton trapped him, locking in a triangle. Hughes’

first instinct was to lift Newton, and he picked him up and walked

him over to the cage. Newton hooked his arm around the cage, but

referee John McCarthy quickly made him remove it, and Newton

instead used his hand to pull Hughes’ head in and tighten the

hold. As Hughes later told it, he was feeling the choke, and in a

last resort, slammed Newton down to the mat. Newton was instantly

knocked out, but amazingly, the force of the blow combined with the

choke also left Hughes dazed. While McCarthy checked on Newton

though, Hughes regained his faculties. Surprise came over his face

as he realized he had KO’d Newton and won the title.

#19: Brad Kohler vs. Steve Judson – UFC 22

Both Brad Kohler and Steve Judson had fairly undistinguished UFC

runs during the UFC’s early days. In fact, both men fought

only twice in the Octagon, but it was their Sept. 24, 1999 fight

together that produced a moment that has survived the test of


The two heavyweights were part of a historic card that featured

Frank Shamrock against Tito Ortiz in what would be one of the

sport’s first truly great contests. That fight would last

nearly 20 minutes. Kohler and Judson would only need 30 seconds to

do their business.

Kohler looked like a bodybuilder, short, stocky and muscular.

Early on, he tried to get the fight to the ground, but Judson got

back to his feet. Kohler reset in the center of the cage, bouncing

on his feet, cocking his right hand back and stepping into a

vicious right cross. Unfortunately for Judson, at that exact

second, he decided to step forward and leaned right into the path

of the incoming punch. Judson was unconscious before he hit the

mat, falling forward like a freshly cut tree.

#18: Gary Goodridge vs. Paul Herrera – UFC 8

After winning an arm wrestling championship in 1995, Gary

Goodridge decided to set his sights on something bigger. His

friends talked him into trying No Holds Barred fighting, and so

Goodridge decided to go right to the top. Having no idea how to

participate one day Goodridge simply dialed the UFC’s

merchandise hotline and asked who he needed to speak to in order to

fight. He was soon transferred to matchmaker Art Davie, and by the

end of the phone call, he was entered into UFC 8.

At the time, when it came to the participants’ fighting

histories, Davie took fighters at their word. In order to do some

type of preparation, Goodridge, who had no previous martial arts

knowledge, visited a school that taught the Korean martial art Kuk

Sool Won. After Goodridge easily beat up the school’s best

fighter, they agreed to give him a gi and a fourth-degree black

belt for the competition.

When Goodridge arrived at the event site in Puerto Rico, he and

his team happened to visit the beach and spied his opponent Paul

Herrera practicing the same takedown move repeatedly. They spent

the night practicing a counter. Sure enough, when the action

started, Herrera immediately went low. Goodridge, prepared, quickly

trapped him in a crucifix. Herrera was helpless, and Goodridge

quickly elbowed him into oblivion, landing eight unanswered shots

to the head before ref John McCarthy could pull him Goodridge off

his limp opponent.

#17: Yves Edwards vs. Josh Thomson – UFC 49

Back in August 2004, Yves Edwards and Josh Thomson were the two

best lightweights in the UFC. However, at the time they were

matched up, they were fighting for nothing other than pride. The

UFC’s 155-pound belt was in storage, and in fact, the

Edwards-Thomson fight would be the last UFC lightweight fight for

nearly two years. Still, many people considered the fight the

unofficial championship.

In the early going, Thomson flashed his wrestling skills by

taking Edwards down, and looked to take Edwards’ striking

away by crowding him. He was effective in that tactic until they

restarted with about one minute left in the first. Soon after,

Edwards took Thomson’s back standing and slammed him down.

Thomson got back to his feet and simultaneously worked to break

Edwards’ grip while running away. Edwards still had control

for a few steps but as his grip broke, two things happened

simultaneously: Thomson threw a back fist, and Edwards threw a head

kick. Only the latter of the two landed, and Thomson went down in a

heap. Edwards landed a few cursory ground punches but it was


#16: Pete Williams vs. Mark Coleman – UFC 17

In May 1998, Mark Coleman, fresh off his UFC heavyweight title

loss, was scheduled to face Randy Couture, until a Couture injury

derailed the matchup. Instead, Lion’s Den fighter Pete

Williams stepped up on short notice. As always for a Coleman

opponent, it was incumbent on Williams to stop the takedown and

avoid any significant ground damage. Since Williams had never

beaten an opponent of any real renown, the odds seemed stacked

against him.

Early on, Coleman was able to take Williams down but Williams

was largely able to avoid significant damage. The same dynamic

continued as time wore on, and soon, the 12-minute regulation ended

with no winner.

That set up a three-minute overtime round. From the outset of

it, it was clear Coleman was exhausted, as he stayed in his corner

as Williams marched him down to start the round. Coleman tried a

desperation takedown but was stuffed. As Coleman got up, Williams

fired off a knee that just missed. Coleman immediately shook his

head as if to say there was no contact. A beat later, Williams

pointed to his own head, as if to say something upstairs was

coming. Then, he did it again. And a moment later, Williams fired

off a kick that knocked Coleman silly. It was as if he called his

shot, sealing his upset. The headkick KO was the first of its kind

in UFC history.

#15: Rashad Evans vs. Sean Salmon – UFC Fight Night


When Rashad Evans came to the UFC as a cast member on season 2


target="_blank">The Ultimate Fighter, he did so as a pure

wrestler who showed little in the way of other skills. That,

however, quickly began to change as he began to show the promise

that would later make him a UFC light-heavyweight champion.

In short order, his hand became dangerous and then his feet did

as well. The first taste we got of Evans as a fully formed fighter

came at UFC Fight Night: Evans vs. Salmon.

At the time, Salmon, a former collegiate wrestler, was 9-1, and

making his UFC debut. It was believed that wrestling experience

could challenge Evans, and in the first, he took Evans down twice

and out-landed him. But in the second, it all came crashing down.

In a clip that has been played thousands of times since, Evans

measured him and crushed him with a head kick that sent Salmon

crashing backwards, unconscious. The impact was so powerful that

Salmon lay on the mat for three minutes before eventually being

stretchered to the hospital.

With the knockout, a star was born.

#14: Tank Abbott vs. Steve Nelmark – UFC Ultimate Ultimate


David “Tank” Abbott was no technical master, but

what he lacked in finesse, he made up in power. Abbott, who had no

formal fight training at the time he entered the UFC, was dubbed a

“pit fighter,” a term made up by SEG management that

was made to sound cool but in reality meant nothing. In short

order, Abbott became one of the UFC’s first stars, a brawler

with the power to knock out anyone with one punch, if only he could

land it.

Coupled with his aggressive demeanor and grating personality, he

was a must-see. In Dec. 1996, Abbott participated in a one-night

tournament, and after winning his first-round match, it was his

semifinal which would be remembered for its savage finish. Abbott

was originally supposed to fight Ken Shamrock, but Shamrock injured

his hand in his own first-round match, so in stepped alternate

Steve Nelmark.

The ensuing match would last just 63 seconds. Abbott mauled

Nelmark against the fence, finally landing a right hand behind the

ear. Nelmark crumbled, crashing down backwards, folding up like a

pretzel with his feet up against his back and his head lying

sideways against the fence. To this day, it is one of the most

devastating and scariest looking knockouts the UFC has ever


#13: Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre – UFC 69

In time, it’s almost been forgotten that Matt Serra earned

a welterweight title shot by winning a reality show. It was season

four of

target="_blank">The Ultimate Fighter which pooled together a

group of fighters who were UFC journeymen who’d never

experienced the upper rungs of MMA.

Serra was no different. Nearing 32 years old, he’d fought

eight times in the Octagon, winning four and losing four. During

TUF, Serra came across as a star, funny and bold and unwilling to

back down, and he eventually won the season, beating Chris Lytle in

the final. That set up a title match with Georges St-Pierre, who as

many had predicted, had ascended to the top of the division after

vanquishing Matt Hughes. It was believed that a long title run was

in the offing for St-Pierre, who was installed as a massive 10-to-1


At that point of his career, Serra had never knocked anyone out,

and it was believed his only chance to win was by submission, but

since GSP was so well schooled on the ground, the odds seemed

almost nil. Still, Serra told anyone who’d listen he was

going to shock the world. He did. Three minutes in, he drilled

St-Pierre behind the ear, and the champ’s equilibrium was

clearly affected.

Sensing history, Serra went in for the kill, dropping the champ

after two right crosses. St-Pierre wobbled back to his feet but

Serra patiently stepped back and found his jaw again, this time

sending St-Pierre falling backwards. Serra then stepped over him

and battered GSP with ground strikes, finishing him and becoming

the unlikeliest champion in UFC history.

#12: Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry – UFC on Versus


It took only 2:39 for Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry to craft both a


target="_blank">classic comeback and knockout in the same

fight. The UFC heavyweights were thrust into the night’s main

event after scheduled headliner Nate Marquardt was pulled from the

show at the last minute.

Just less than halfway through the first round, Barry drilled

Kongo with a right hook, knocking the Frenchman to his back. Barry

swarmed with strikes, even dropping him again with another right

hook, but ref Dan Miragliotta saw enough from Kongo to allow him

more time. Against the offensive, Kongo got back to his feet and

wobbled back towards the fence. Barry stalked him there, and as

Kongo ran out of space, he planted his back foot and landed a

thudding overhand right. The punch rocked Barry, and Kongo

instantly followed with an uppercut that folded Barry backwards for

a shocking and shockingly fast knockout.

#11: Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin – UFC


By August 2009, fight fans had a pretty good idea of just how

great Anderson Silva was. He was already 10 fights into his

historic tear, had steamrolled Rich Franklin, finished Dan

Henderson and even gone up to light-heavyweight and won there.

But Silva needed a challenge, UFC president Dana White had

decided after Silva cruised his way through a title defense against

Thales Leites, and so he offered up Forrest Griffin, a former

light-heavyweight champion and action fighter who would come

forward while refusing to let Silva rest.

The result was nothing short of shocking. Not because Silva won;

he was favored after all, but how he did it. He clowned Griffin,

avoiding nearly everything he threw. According to FightMetric,

Griffin landed only 4 of 43 strikes. Meanwhile, Silva threw with

his typical precision and power. He landed 13 of 25. Despite that

minimal output, he knocked Griffin down three times, finally

finishing him on a step-back right cross that left his opponent

splayed across the canvas.

#10: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Wanderlei

Silva – UFC 92

The bad blood between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and

Wanderlei Silva had spanned five years, 5500 miles and two


In Pride, Jackson and Silva had fought twice, with the matches

ending the same way, with Silva knockouts. The second bout, which

took place in Oct. 2004, ended with one of the most famous

KO’s in MMA history, with Silva grabbing a clinch and kneeing

Jackson into unconsciousness, and Jackson falling face-first onto

the second rope.

The feud between them never really calmed down, and in the

leadup to their third fight, which was scheduled for Dec. 2008,

Jackson’s camp insinuated that Silva might have used steroids

while fighting in Pride.

By the time they fought, the tension was palpable. The two

nearly got into it at the weigh-ins, and the fight itself

wouldn’t last much longer. Showing the improvements

he’d made since Pride, Jackson showed off a tighter, sharper

striking game. That fact was punctuated during the fight-finishing

sequence, when both fighters threw left hooks but Jackson’s

slammed off Silva’s chin first, knocking him out. For good

measure, he landed a crushing right hand before ref Yves Lavigne

could step in.

#9: Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans – UFC 98

Quickly moving from one-dimensional striker to dangerous

knockout artist, Rashad Evans had captured the UFC

light-heavyweight championship after finishing Forrest Griffin. In

his first title defense, he faced a man who at the time was

considered the UFC’s most unique and puzzling fighter.

Lyoto Machida combined patience, technique and accuracy in

romping towards a title shot. It is often forgotten that at the

time Machida and Evans met, both were still unbeaten, with Machida

a perfect 14-0 and Evans 15-0-1. No one quite knew how the match

would play out, but Machida went off as a slight favorite.

Predictably, the duo played a patient game early, neither too

willing to commit. But the tide changed towards the end of the

first when Machida landed a left that dropped Evans.

That first knockdown was just a taste of what was to come. In

the second round, during an exchange, Machida got off a straight

left that dropped Evans to a knee. Evans lunged for a takedown, but

a Machida left hook sent him to his back. Machida swarmed with

ground strikes, but Evans valiantly rose to his feet once, then

twice, looking for space and safety. But Machida was not about to

let him recover. He followed him into the corner with a barrage. A

right hook landed flush, and while Evans managed to stay on his

feet, he was quickly becoming target practice.

Out of either desperation or instinct, Evans again tried to

initiate a clinch. But as he came forward, Machida deftly side

stepped him and fired off a left hand that landed under

Evans’ chin. It was as if he hit a power-down button, because

Evans’ body shut off. His head followed gravity straight

down, but since his feet were a bit in front of his torso, as he

collapsed downward, his backside landed first and his head snapped

back and to the ground.

In a most terrifying way, the Machida era had begun.

#8: Rich Franklin vs. Nate Quarry – UFC 56

During the UFC’s buildup in the mid-2000s, booking was

often done with smoke and mirrors. Often, contenders came out of

nowhere, rising up to a title fight after just one or two wins. In

other instances, a contender was just not ready for the opportunity

he was given.

That was probably the case in the instance of UFC 56, which saw

Quarry fast-tracked to a title shot despite only three wins,

including one in the TUF 1 Finale. Quarry, however, had excellent

knockout power, and so there was interest going into the fight even

though Franklin was considered the prohibitive favorite.

Quarry upped the ante before the fight by saying, “Rich

Franklin has a weak chin and I have heavy hands.”

It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, Franklin

floored Quarry early on, and while Quarry managed to survive it and

muscle his way back to his feet, right around the mid-point of the

first round, Franklin stepped over a lazy jab with a heat-seeking

left that put Quarry’s lights out.

Quarry’s fall to the mat was almost cinematic. His hands

were a bit outstretched by his sides and his stiff body rocked

backwards before he fell to his back, knocked out.

#7: Scott Smith vs. Pete Sell – TUF 4 Finale

Scott Smith and Pete Sell were two fighters just hoping for a

second chance when they competed on season four of

target="_blank">The Ultimate Fighter, which was dedicated to

UFC fighters who’d had a previous opportunity but never

really caught on.

Neither did particularly well in the tournament. Smith was

submitted in the quarterfinal round while Sell won once but then

lost his next matchup. Still, they were given an opportunity to

participate on the show’s finale, which took place on Nov.

11, 2006. What followed was one of the great single-punch comebacks

in MMA history.

The fight itself was highly competitive, with the two big

punchers trading leather. Smith dropped Sell in the first with an

overhand right but wasn’t able to close him out. In the

second, things were trending Smith’s way when Sell drilled

him with a left hook to the ribs. Backed up by the force of the

punch, Smith immediately doubled over in pain, clutching his

mid-section. Seeing this, Sell ran in for the finish. As he wound

up for the fight-finisher, Smith fired off a short, straight right

that landed right on the chin and put Sell out.

In one punch, Smith had gone from vanquished to victor. The win,

however, did not make his ribs feel any better. Even in victory, he

crumbled to the mat in pain.

#6: Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture – UFC 129

Some knockouts are made bigger by the setting. In April 2011,

after years of campaigning to sanction MMA in Ontario, the province

had finally acquiesced. The market was bubbling over with

anticipation for an event, and the UFC attempted to satisfy the

demand, booking the cavernous Rogers Center.

On fight night, 55,724 fans showed up to a mega-card that

included two title fights as well as the last fight of legend Randy

Couture, who announced he would retire after his match with Lyoto

Machida. At the time, Couture was just two months shy of his 48th

birthday, but he’d gone so far past the normal limits of

athletic performance that it seemed imposssible to believed


He could not have gone out with a more difficult opponent.

Always a cerebral fighter, fighting the innovative Machida seemed

the perfect foil.

Early on though, the trend began in Machida’s direction,

and it never really moved back Couture’s way. As so many

others had experienced against Machida, Couture couldn’t

score a takedown and had trouble closing the distance. Finally,

just one minute into the second, Machida seemed to have Couture set

up for anything.

What came next was nearly improbable. Machida used a crane kick.

Yes, the same technique used in “Karate Kid,” the one

that it was believed to be impossible to land against a real MMA

fighter in a real fight. He faked with his left leg, then threw his

right leg straight down the middle. The blow landed clean, and

Couture’s night and career were both over.

#5: Rashad Evans vs. Chuck Liddell – UFC 88

If there was ever a single moment in time where everyone

realized that Rashad Evans was a championship caliber fighter, it

came on Sept. 8, 2008, when he faced Chuck Liddell in Atlanta.

At the time, Liddell was coming off his 2007 Fight of the Year

with Wanderlei Silva, and despite losing twice in the calendar

year, the turn-back-the-clock effort against “the Axe

Murderer” gave observers reason to believe that Liddell could

still be a factor in the division.

Evans, meanwhile, was coming off back-to-back controversies. In

his first real step up, he’d fought to a draw with Tito

Ortiz. Then, months later, he’d narrowly defeated Michael

Bisping in a split-decision.

Evans entered as a moderate underdog, with most believing his

best route to victory being wrestling and ground work. But Liddell

had flashed such strong impressive takedown defense in his career

— 81% — that it seemed a long shot.

Early on, Evans seemed tentative with his standup, but

curiously, he never attempted a takedown, content to match

firepower with “the Iceman.” Liddell kept coming

forward, stalking Evans, until finally, with his back near the

fence, Evans pumped out two left jabs and then a tracer, an

overhand right that landed just before a Liddell uppercut.

Liddell crashed down on his right side, ref Herb Dean rescuing

him from any further assault as Evans celebrated the win that would

make him the division’s top contender.

#4: Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort – UFC 126

When Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort met in Feb. 2011, it was

quickly dubbed “The Fight of the Century” in Brazil.

For a long time in the country, it was Belfort who was the bigger

star, an early UFC fixture who married a famous model. But as the

sport began its resurgence in the nation, it was Silva on top as

the middleweight champion and torchbearer. In the eyes of the

country, though, he still needed to defeat Belfort.

It had been a long time since Silva fought a dangerous striker

who was anywhere close to his level. Sure he’d fought

heavy-handed punchers like Patrick Cote and James Irvin, but

neither had the hand speed to keep up. Only Dan Henderson could

rival his power and danger. But Belfort had both speed and the

ability to finish a fight with one strike.

It was with that backdrop that they met in Las Vegas, with a

huge Brazilian media and fan contingent turning the show into a

party. As the fight began, the buzz was surpassed only by the

tension in the arena. For the first few minutes, both men seemed

tentative to throw anything. But then, that was always

Silva’s M.O.

And then, it was as if he suddenly had all the information he

needed. With no windup, he fired off a front kick that drilled

Belfort under the jaw, collapsing his body underneath him. A few

ground strikes later, and the “Fight of the Century”

was over after less than four minutes.

#3: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko Cro Cop – UFC 70

Even before UFC parent company Zuffa bought Pride, there were

hints the Japanese promotion was in trouble. One of them was when

the UFC signed Mirko Cro Cop away. At the time, Cro Cop was coming

off back-to-back finishes of Josh Barnett and Wanderlei Silva, and

had turned down an offer to rematch Fedor Emelianenko in favor of

signing with the UFC.

In his first fight he won a first-round TKO over Eddie Sanchez,

and it seemed he’d need only one more win to fight for the

belt. Next, he was matched with Gabriel Gonzaga, a brutish

Brazilian who was mostly known for his ground game.

Early on, Gonzaga caught a Cro Cop kick, took him down and was

able to control him on the mat and land solid strikes from the top.

As the round neared an end, referee Herb Dean stood the two back

up, but Cro Cop seemed tentative. Suddenly, just as the 10-second

warning was about to sound, Gonzaga unleashed Cro Cop’s

signature strike against him, using a high kick that caught Cro Cop

flush and dropped him awkwardly but decidedly.

#2: Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim – UFC 142

Up until January 2012, it was believed that spin kicks were

mostly for show, mostly useless in a real fight. The danger was

that as you spun, you left your back unguarded for a sneak attack

by opponent, and that you lost your line of vision. The kicks were

also considered fairly low percentage, and not worth the risk.

And then came the night of UFC 142.

Edson Barboza had always been a flashy standup fighter with

fast, precise strikes and a style that was heavy on kicks. In fact,

at one point of his career, he’d knocked out two consecutive

opponents just with leg kicks. Barboza had won three fights in a

row when he took a fight in his home city, Rio, against Terry


Most of the first two plus rounds mostly went Barboza’s

way, as he chopped down Etim’s lead leg. The low attacks

likely reset opponent’s vision, because Etim never saw what

was coming. As he walked forward, Barboza pivoted his left hip

inward and wheeled around with right leg high. His heel caught Etim

flush on the right temple. The crushing kick sent him crashing

backwards, still rigid and in the same stance he’d held while

standing. Thankfully ref Dan Miragliotta was already running in to

save him by the time Etim hit the ground, and all that was left was

a Rio celebration for the victor.

#1: Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping – UFC


There may have more spectacular knockouts, more significant ones

or even more unique ones than the one that lit up Las Vegas on July

11, 2009, but there’s none that combined rivalry, setting and

result like Dan Henderson’s vaporizing of Michael Bisping at

UFC 100.

The two had been paired off as coaches on season nine of

target="_blank">The Ultimate Fighter, which featured Henderson

coaching a U.S. team and Bisping at the helm of a U.K. team. During

the season, Henderson constantly found himself annoyed by things

Bisping said or did, and he constantly noted how much he disliked

him. A few weeks before the fight, Bisping noted Henderson had

never been KO’d and that he’d like to be the first to

do it. Because this was a period in time where most fans hated

Bisping, most of the MMA world was rooting for Henderson.

At various points of the fight, it was noted that Bising was

circling to his left, right into Henderson’s power hand, and

that he playing with fire. Eventually, he got burned. Henderson

kept forcing him in that direction by throwing a left jab, and

finally, he stepped into a tracer of a fight hand that had all of

his weight, all of his power, all of his pent-up anger in it. It

landed flush, and Bisping dropped for a mat nap. Still hopped up on

the moment, Henderson went airborne to land the postscript on an

already downed Bisping. It was brutal and final.