It’s time for my top all-time 15 MMA knockouts. In a few days I’ll be posting the all-time MMA fighters ranking, but now it’s the knockouts that most impressed me along the years, in reverse order:
15 - Yves Edwards vs Josh Thomson (UFC 49): in a time where the lightweight division didn’t have a crowned champion, Edwards and “The Punk” Thomson were vying for the top spot. Thomson looked the stronger guy until Edwards caught his back, while they were both standing. Yves tried a slam/ takedown but was unable to do so. Awkwardly, while Thomson was simply walking, and at the exact moment he was going for a spinning backfist, Edwards landed a perfect high kick to the head, with a lot of power into it. He then finished a wobbly Thomson with punches on the ground.
14 – Frank Shamrock vs Igor Zinoviev (UFC 14): “Zinoviev the survivor…”. These were the last words the commentator could muster about Igor before Frank Shamrock picked up Zinoviev and slammed him hard on the canvas, head first. An assuring punch was then thrown to an unconscious Zinoviev. 22 seconds was all it took. Probably the biggest highlight in Frank’s career.
13 - Vitor Belfort vs Marvin Eastman (UFC 43): “The Beastman” was chopped in half by a returning Vitor Belfort. The brazilian had always displayed lightning quick punches but this time it was a muay thai knee to the forehead that did the trick. Some punches after the match was over. The biggest moment? When the cameras showed Eastman’s face. The commentators said he looked as if he had been cut with an axe. The biggest cut I’ve ever seen, terrifying and not for the faint of heart.
12 - Wanderlei Silva vs Kazushi Sakuraba (Pride FC 13): the first showdown between the “Axe Murderer” and the “Gracie Hunter”. As always, with raw intensity, Silva came out all guns blazing. Sakuraba was able to withstand some early pressure, but once he got on his knees, Silva started delivering vicious knees to the head. Unable to get the takedown, the fight was eventually stopped. Silva is/was an animal. Sakuraba’s legend fainted in this fight.
11 - Chuck Lidell vs Guy Mezger (Pride FC 14): Mezger is a very technical kick-boxer out of Ken Shamrock’s Lions Den. I always find his technique very fluid. Unfortunately for him, his strikes, especially the kicks, seem to lack strength. He lands many strikes but doesn’t do as much damage as he should. In the 2nd round, Lidell came out strong, softened Guy up, and caught Mezger with a right to the chin. Mezger fall apart to the canvas, unconscious.
10 - Pete Williams vs Mark Coleman (UFC 17): Having lost the championship to Maurice Smith, “The Hammer” gave Pete Williams his biggest career highlight. Being able to keep his distance from the superior wrestler, “El Duro” landed a nice kick to the head, 12 minutes into the fight. Coleman was looking dazed by then, but the high-kick just finished him completely off.
9 - Gary Goodridge vs Oleg Taktarov (Pride FC 1): this was certainly the biggest highlight of Pride FC 1, the very first show of the Pride organization. Goodridge and Taktarov were both respected UFC veterans who came in willing to slug it out. Gary caught Oleg with a big punch and the Russian fell down, unawakened; as if it wasn’t enough, Goodridge pursued, landing two vicious punches, on the ground, to his already out-of-it opponent. Taktarov’s head bounced two times in response.
8 - Mark Coleman vs Allan Goes (Pride FC 13): in his heyday, Coleman was a juggernaut with an unstoppable takedown and very good ground ‘n pound. Goes was the jiu-jitsu black belt coming from Carlson Gracie’s camp. But there was a significant weight difference between these two guys; would Goes be able to control and submit Coleman? Mark got the takedown and eventually a position in which he was able to finish it off with a series of knees to the head. It was a bit like he had done to Vovchanchyn in the 2000 GP Finals, only Igor tapped. Goes didn’t tap, he was out with the referee calling it to an end. A dazed Goes awakened and tried to tackle Coleman, completely unaware of what was happening.
7 - Mirko Cro Cop vs Igor Vovchanchyn (Pride FC GP 2003): Cro Cop’s main weapon is a high kick to the head. That’s pretty scary. Vovchanchyn was pretty heavy handed himself, but the Croatian had a clear edge in reach. Sure enough, Cro Cop landed the perfect high kick to head. Igor fell apart, just to have Mirko deliver a final blow to seal things off. Just keep your hands up when fighting Cro-Cop.
6 - Igor Vovchanchyn vs Francisco Bueno (Pride FC 8): oh, the replays from multiple angles. I never did quite understand Bueno’s gameplan for this one; circle around and keep circling around? Igor set up the trap, closing the gap. He then delivered a very vicious blow to Bueno’s appreciative chin. Francisco’s eyes rolled over, he lost his mouth piece and just came tumbling down to the ground, unconscious before even touching the canvas. Highlight right there.
5 - Wanderlei Silva vs Quinton Jackson (Pride FC 28): in their second match, Silva used the same gameplan. Why change the winning formula? Thai clinch and knees do the trick. Six or seven of then, unanswered and without defense and “Rampage” came down to earth, between the ropes of the ring, almost falling off the fighting square. Silva celebrated while referees and doctors attended to a bruised Quinton Jackson. Pure domination.
4 - Phil Baroni vs Dave Menne (UFC 39): “The New York Badass“, what a nickname. Baroni wasn’t a very good wrestler, but he did have strong and fast hands. Against a more experienced Dave Menne (former champion, out of the Miletich camp), Baroni was a slight underdog. No problem. Just get the other guy against the cage and then unleash a barrage of straight lefts and rights, without any answer. Get power and speed behind them and your opponent was finished. Moments later, Menne was asking what had just happened.
3 - Rich Franklin vs Nate Quarry (UFC 56): I like Nate Quarry ever since seeing him on the Ultimate Fighter season 1. But being a tv star with a tragic story (he got injured on the show, thus being unable to continue) and three solid but unspectacular victories in the UFC doesn’t earn you a title shot. Someone thought it did, against the experienced Rich “Ace” Franklin. Sure enough, Franklin was far superior, winning the striking game. A bullseye left shot to the chin and Rich made sure the match wasn’t going to last very long. What stroke me the most? The way Quarry fell with his body completely stiff, legs hanging in the air. No margin for doubts.
2 – Gilbert Yvel vs Gary Goodridge (Pride FC 10): Yvel’s a fearsome striker. Many opponents in the MMA game (Vitor Belfort, anyone?) found a formula to deal with him: takedown, get him down and make him stay there. Why risk your luck in trying to strike with the guy. Then came Goodridge, a guy that actually likes to strike. This match was very, very, very fast. The first strike was thrown: a left high-kick from Yvel, with all his weight into it, delivered to Gary’s head. And Goodridge just fell down unconscious. A one-strike victory. But what a brutal kick.
1 – Vitor Belfort vs Wanderlei Silva (UFC Ultimate Brazil): Belfort and Silva are two veterans now; Silva has had an illustrious career, ruling Pride FC’s middleweight division with an iron fist for a long time; Belfort’s career has been less exceptional, but still a very good one. But back then, at Ultimate Brazil, these were two young “Vale Tudo” fighters trying to make a name for themselves in a bigger stage. 44 seconds got Belfort a lot of attention; Vitor was being backed down into one side of the octagon, just to come forward with a lightning barrage of punches, all the way to the other side of the octagon, finishing Silva. My all-time best knockout in MMA.
In a few days, the 15 top MMA fighters of all-time.