There is nothing quite like a highlight reel knockout. One well placed punch, perfectly timed kick, or surprise knee, and bam, it’s curtains.
In 2016, the many talented fighters on the UFC roster provided us with a seemingly endless list of emphatic knockouts, some dealt with punches, others dealt with shins, others dealt with heels, elbows, and knees.
As this knockout-filled year winds down, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite knockouts in the UFC in 2016. Sound off in the comments section if you think we missed something!
- Eddie Alvarez over Rafael Dos Anjos
- Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone over Rick Story
- Stipe Miocic over Alistair Overeem
- Dan Henderson over Hector Lombard
- Cain Velasquez over Travis Browne
- Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson over Johny Hendricks
- Alistair Overeem over Andrei Arlovski
- Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson over Henry Cejudo
10. Michael Bisping over Luke Rockhold
Michael Bisping’s June knockout of Luke Rockhold was not only one of the most impressive knockouts of the year, it was also one of the biggest upsets of this year. The Brit was simply not supposed to win this fight. Not only did he have mere weeks to prepare for this last-minute scrap, but he’d also lost decisively to Rockhold a little over a year earlier. Despite having the odds stacked against him, however, Bisping came out on top with a crushing, first-round knockout for the win.
With this shocking victory, he became the UFC middleweight champion – a title he still guards today.
9. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone over Matt Brown
Originally, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was expected to close out 2016 with a November bout with Kelvin Gastelum. When Gastelum failed to make weight for this planned fight, however, it was scrapped altogether, and Cowboy was rescheduled for a December showdown with fellow fan favorite Matt Brown. The two met in the co-main event of UFC 206 in Toronto.
Though Brown certainly didn’t make it easy for him, Cowboy ultimately got the win he wanted, thumping Brown across the side of the head with a perfectly timed head kick in the third round. The kick sent Brown crumbling to the canvas in an unconscious heap to the roar of the Canadian crowd in attendance. With this win, Cowboy moved to 4-0 since moving up to the welterweight division. He’ll enter 2017 as one of the division’s hottest contenders.
8. Paige VanZant over Bec Rawlings
Strawweight star Paige VanZant closed out 2015 with a tough loss to the dangerous Rose Namajunas. She followed this loss with a brief hiatus from the sport, during which she became the runner-up on a season of Dancing With the Stars.
When she returned to the Octagon to take on Australia’s Bec Rawlings in August of this year, VanZant needed to remind the world that she was more than an overblown entertainer, and in fact, a legitimate strawweight contender. That’s just what she did. In the second-round of the fight, VanZant uncorked a highlight reel, flying switch kick, which landed perfectly on Rawlings’ chin. Seconds later, she was being peeled off her foe by the referee. It was the finest win of her career thus far.
7. Tyron Woodley over Robbie Lawler
Given the long win-streaks of Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley was far from the consensus first pick to challenge Robbie Lawler for the UFC welterweight title this summer. Yet he was awarded the title shot all the same, and he didn’t let it go to waste.
Just over two minutes into the first frame, Woodley showcased the incredible speed, power and timing for which he’s become known, covering a great distance in mere milliseconds to plant a meteor on Lawler’s chin. The punch sent Lawler tumbling to the mat, where a few followup strikes sealed the deal. In just 2:12, Woodley had ended Lawler’s incredible title reign and stolen the belt for himself.
6. Yair Rodriguez over Andre Fili
There are a lot of interesting contenders rising through the UFC featherweight ranks at the moment. There’s Makwan Amirkhani. There’s Doo Ho Choi. There’s Arnold Allen. There’s Mirsad Bektic. And of course, there’s Mexico’s Yair Rodriguez, who’s proficiency for spectacle is perhaps unmatched in the division.
When Rodriguez took on Team Alpha Male’s Andre Fili in April of this year, his potential and his flair for the spectacular were both on full display. Mid-way through the second round, the Mexican talent smashed into his foe with an incredible flying kick. This blow would completely remove Fili’s batteries, adding a new clip to Rodriguez’s already crowded highlight reel, and earning him a place on this list.
5. Conor McGregor over Eddie Alvarez
In November of this year, in the main event of the landmark UFC 205, Conor McGregor took on Eddie Alvarez for the UFC lightweight title. Because McGregor still owned the UFC featherweight title at the time, this bout marked his opportunity to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two titles concurrently. The Irishman made his history in the most emphatic way possible.
After dropping his foe numerous times in the first round, McGregor put him down for good with a crackling, four-punch combo in the second. Bang, bang, bang, bang, and that was it for Alvarez. With a belt slung over each shoulder, McGregor had made MMA history.
4. Lando Vannata over John Makdessi
In July of this year, Lando Vannata made a short notice debut against Tony Ferguson, one of the very best lightweight fighters on earth. Though Vannata ultimately lost this short-notice fight via a second round D’Arce choke, his tremendous success in the first round immediately revealed him as a fighter with tremendous talent.
When Vannata took on veteran Canadian striker John Makdessi on the undercard of December’s UFC 206, his talent was on full display, as he let loose an unforgettable wheel kick that landed perfectly on his foe’s jaw. Makdessi went down, and no further strikes were required. While it might not have been the best knockout of the year, it was absolutely the flashiest, as it looked like it belonged in Tekken or Street Fighter rather than the UFC’s Octagon.
3. Yoel Romero over Chris Weidman
When former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and former Olympic wrestler Yoel Romero met on the main card of November’s UFC 205, the stakes were incredibly high. The winner, after all, was likely to earn a shot at reigning middleweight king Michael Bisping.
Despite Weidman’s status as a former champion, and his success in the bout’s first half, this contest ended with him folded up on the canvas, leaking blood like a broken faucet. He was put in this position by an expertly timed, third-round flying knee from Romero. It was one of the year’s finest finishes, and it earned Romero the chance to take on Bisping for the title sometime in early 2017.
2. Jimi Manuwa over Ovince St. Preux
At a glance, Jimi Manuwa’s UFC 204 knockout of former interim light heavyweight champion Ovince St. Preux might not seem like it deserves a spot in this list’s top-5, but it really was a fantastic finish.
After being out-grappled in the fight’s first round, Manuwa was able to find his range and timing in the second. From there, he began to jar his foe with thudding shots to the head and body. Mid-way through the second round, he set up a blistering right hand to the temple with a vicious shot to the body. When this right hand wobbled St. Preux, Manuwa expertly turned on the pressure, confusing his foe with a series of short feints, whiffing with a right, and ultimately shutting his power off with a rocket-fuelled left hook. With the win, the Nigerian-Englishman burst into the light heavyweight top-5, where some truly dangerous challenges now await.
1. Stipe Miocic over Fabricio Werdum
In May of this year, freak Croatian-American athlete Stipe Miocic received his long-awaited shot at the UFC heavyweight title. This shot came against then champion Fabricio Werdum.
Miocic could not have looked better. Despite having an entire arena of Brazilian fans rooting against him, he kept his cool, carefully counterpunching a reckless Werdum whenever he had the opportunity. Then, mid-way through the first round, he landed the punch that mattered. Mid back-step, Miocic planted a bomb on the chin of his overaggressive foe, which sent him careening to the canvas in an unconscious heap. Just like that, Miocic had won the UFC heavyweight crown.
“I’m the world champ,” he famously bellowed to his team in the seconds after this win. He remains the world champ to this day, having defended the title with a similarly impressive knockout of Alistair Overeem in September.