MMA: Top 15 Knockouts of 2012 (So Far)

Steven RondinaFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2012

MMA: Top 15 Knockouts of 2012 (So Far)

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    It is about half-way through 2012 now, so why not mark the half-New Year with some discussion over the best knockouts fans have seen so far?

    It is worth pointing out that though there are fifteen on this list (alongside an honorable mention), there were many knockouts that could have made it on this list. However, reducing it down to this number was no easy task, so do not feel as though any given absence from this list is a slight directed toward your favorite fighter.

    It is also worth pointing out that even though they are numbered, again, there were a lot of fights to pour over and then to write about. Just because you totally thought the No. 9 knockout was "so way totally" cooler than No. 7 does not mean that this writer is hatin'.

    Just sit back and enjoy the list!

Honorable Mention- Muhammad Lawal Def. Lorenz Larkin

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    “King Mo” Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin was a good fight, but is mostly remembered by how badly things went for everyone involved during and after the bout.

    Lawal was a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ, known for his eccentricities and strong wrestling (which is complimented by his muscular frame and solid striking). Lorenz Larkin was a hotshot prospect with strong boxing.

    Unfortunately for Larkin, as is often the case with young strikers, he was was at a serious disadvantage to a veteran wrestler. Lawal absolutely dominated the first round, and took Larkin down early in the second.

    While on the ground, Lawal postured up and landed eight wound-up, uncontested punches, knocking out Larkin in devastating fashion. Then he punched him seven more times after that, as ref Kate Winslow had not seen enough to pull Lawal off until that point.

    After Lawal was finally declared the winner, he tested positive for an anabolic steroid. Then had the bout overturned to a no-contest. Then almost died from a staph infection. Then got cut from Strikeforce after calling a Nevada State Athletic Commission official a “bitch” on Twitter. Ouch.

    Still!

    Lawal showed one of the single best examples of ground-and-pound since the days of Mark Coleman and Tito Ortiz. That totally makes up for all that...right?

    Right?

#15- Mark Hunt Def. Cheick Kongo

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    Hunt, very recently, reached his peak popularity in large part because of his fight against Cheick Kongo at UFC 144.

    The fight, initially, seemed as though it might end up going the way of Frank Mir vs. Mirko Cro Cop circa UFC 119, with both fighters very tentatively feeling each other out. Hunt caught Kongo off balance with a hard left hand after a few minutes, effectively breaking the ice.

    Then, Hunt rocked Kongo with a right hook that dazed him, and chased him along the cage until he had Kongo dead to rights. The win was Hunt's third in a row and propelled him into the title picture after Alistair Overeem ended up having his failed drug test during the build-up to UFC 146.

    Unfortunately, Hunt blew out his knee a couple weeks before the event, making this the last fans will see of Hunt for a while.

#14- Nick Denis Def. Joseph Sandoval

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    It is always nice to see knockouts in the bantamweight division. Nick Denis, also, gives us the fastest KO on this list.

    The fight lasted only 22 seconds, and in that time, Nick Denis landed a few punches, slapped a muay thai clinch onto Joseph Sandoval and landed several brutal elbows to the side of his head. Sandoval dropped and Denis walked away as the ref waved the fight to a close.

    The fight earned Knockout of the Night honors and was enough to have Sandoval booted from the UFC.

#13- Luke Rockhold Def. Keith Jardine

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    Keith Jardine is either loved by fans for his wacky fighting style and his everyman appeal, or hated by viewers for his clear lack of technical prowess. The latter were absolutely elated by how this fight played out.

    Jardine, who was cut from the UFC after losing four straight fights, joined Strikeforce in 2011 where he debuted with a controversial majority draw against Gegard Mousasi (the ruling was correct, though, as Jardine clearly won one round, and Mousasi clearly won two, but had a point deducted for an illegal upkick) and then dropped to middleweight. His middleweight debut came against Strikeforce's middleweight champ, Luke Rockhold.

    Luke Rockhold built his reputation in Strikeforce as a guy who finishes fights, whether by knockout or submission. Jardine offered little resistance to this streak, as Rockhold both showed off his own budding stand-up skills, and (once again) exposed the weaknesses in Jardine's “unconventional” striking.

    Jardine, as he often does, dropped his hands at all the wrong times, which Rockhold capitalized on. Jardine then, as he often does, went into a phase of only throwing haymakers and flopping into a weak clinch when he whiffs each one. Again, Rockhold capitalized, as late in the first round Jardine threw a few punches wide of their mark and Rockhold responded with a right hook that staggered Jardine.

    He caught him again, putting Jardine against the cage and began an onslaught of punches that, eventually, prompted ref Herb Dean to call it a fight. Rockhold had his hand raised and turned in the best striking performance of his young, but likely to be exceptional, MMA career.

#12- Randi Miller Def. Mollie Estes

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    This fight, along with Invicta as a whole, slipped under many radars but is one of the best examples of a fight determined by who wanted the win more. Randi Miller broke Mollie Estes' will. That is the only explanation there is for how this fight played out.

    Though Estes did a good job of keeping things busy on the ground, Miller utilized brutal ground and pound to wear her opponent down. When the third round came, Miller poured it on in an effort to finish the fight, getting superior position and raining uncontested elbows to Estes' head.

    The referee eventually saw enough and got between the two, but by that time, Estes had given Dana White and other women's MMA detractors an example to point to when they claim how awkward it is to see a woman fighter walk out of the cage cut up and bruised badly.

    This fight, as well as the rest of the Invicta 1 card, is available for free on YouTube. Make sure to check it out!

#11 Eddie Alvarez Def. Shinya Aoki

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    Alvarez vs. Aoki 2 was possibly the most-hyped fight in Bellator history. The highly regarded Eddie Alvarez had been with the company since its first event, Bellator 1, back in 2009, and remained undefeated in the promotion until Bellator 58 in November 2011.

    Shinya Aoki, meanwhile, remained a favorite among hipster MMA fans due to his utter dominance in Japan, and was riding a seven-fight winning streak since his loss to Gilbert Melendez back at Strikeforce: Nashville.

    The two had fought once before, back at the Dynamite!! 2008 year-end event, with Aoki beating him early in the first round with a heel hook. Alvarez was determined to avenge that loss and successfully did just that.

    It is no secret that Aoki is not an especially strong striker. After two minutes, Aoki badly telegraphed a right elbow that could not possibly land and Alvarez countered with an uppercut that put Aoki on his butt. Alvarez pounced him him (perhaps unwisely) and successfully finished him.

#10- Brian Stann Def. Alessio Sakara

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    It is really tough to not love Brian Stann. The former United States Marine Corps captain and and all-around class-act is exciting in the cage, and one of the best personalities in sports outside it. That made Stann's impressive knockout of Alessio Sakara at UFC on Fuel TV 2 even more satisfying.

    Stann jumped from undercards to main events when he annihilated the usually-steel-chinned Chris Leben back at UFC 125.Since then, the former WEC light heavyweight champion has shown off some of the heaviest hands in the middleweight division. Stann needed a win to get back on the winning track after being thoroughly bested by Chael Sonnen at UFC 136 and boy, did he do that.

    Stann rocked Sakara early, and quickly brought on the ground and pound. Sakara stiffened up after a few hands landed and Stann, graciously, identified this and stopped putting the hurt on him.

    The fight perfectly exemplifies Stann. Lethal, but still an excellent human being.

#9- Dan Hardy Def. Duane Ludwig

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    Dan Hardy really, really needed to beat Duane Ludwig. Badly. After taking nine months off after dropping four fights in a row, there was no way Dan Hardy was going to be kept by the UFC if he lost again.

    Duane “Bang” Ludwig was no can for Hardy to open, but he ended up demonstrating the sort of striking prowess that earned him a fight with Georges St-Pierre. Hardy was actually a knockout artist before entering the UFC, but his only stoppage with the promotion was against Rory Markham all the way back in early 2009.

    Hardy finally got back into that groove after more than three years, landing a left hook that turned Ludwig's head and put him flat on his back. Hardy briefly celebrated (he raised his hands and jumped once after landing the punch) but remembered to get on top of him and then had his hand raised for the first time in a long time.

#8- Roy Nelson Def. Dave Herman

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    Roy Nelson is one of the most popular heavyweights in the UFC, much to the chagrin of Dana White. In the buildup to UFC 146, the all-heavyweight UFC card, White made thinly-veiled threats that Nelson's job was on the line in his fight with Dave Herman.

    Whether or not this made a difference to Nelson is impossible to say, but regardless, Nelson looked better than ever before. In Nelson's first official UFC fight, the TUF10 Finals against Brendan Schaub, he shocked the world by landing an absolutely devastating overhand punch that put Schaub's lights out. He then knocked out Stefan Struve in a very similar fashion.

    Hopefully a sign that he is putting everything back together after going 1-3 since beating Struve, he used this weapon to bring down Herman inside a minute. Even though Nelson is in the twilight of his MMA career at 35 years old, he is just now starting to blend his new, muscular physique with the well-rounded skills that previously made him a top-10 heavyweight.

#7- Pat Barry Def. Christian Morecraft

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    Pat Barry has made a name for himself with his fun-loving attitude and accessibility to fans. That is not quite as good as making a name for oneself by winning, but hey. That just means Barry's fans get to savor his wins extra-hard and his most recent one, against Christian Morecraft, was probably his most impressive.

    Early in the first round Barry threw a leg kick that got caught, and was wrestled down. Morecraft got into mount position just thirty-two seconds into the fight. He moved to Barry's back and slapped on a choke and Barry controlled his arm and wiggled back to his feet.

    Barry landed a couple jabs but, again, was taken down and was, again, on the wrong side of mount position. Morecraft got very, very deep into an armbar attempt but Barry showed a surprising amount of composure and savvy to squirm up over Morecraft and yank his arm away.

    That was the last time the fight went to the ground. The two exchanged some swipes, but Barry found his range and landed a scary left hook that separated Morecraft from his senses. He instantly got into position and landed brutal hands to Morecraft, wowing many with his accuracy and power.

#6- Junior dos Santos Def. Frank Mir

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    Very few expected the championship bout between Frank Mir and Junior dos Santos to go any way other than what happened. This writer actually called it perfectly. In spite of the complete lack of surprise when it came to dos Santos knocking out Frank Mir, it was one of the most aesthetically pleasing KOs of his career.

    Dos Santos has been boxing for the vast majority of his life, and has won six of his nine fights in the UFC by knockout. He is the best heavyweight striker in MMA.

    In a great display of his accuracy, dos Santos threaded his hand through a block and landed a right cross under Mir's ear. His hands are so quick, he actually returned back to his stance before his opponent lost his balance, like something out of a fighting game.

    Mir stumbled backward, fell to the mat and was finished shortly thereafter.

#5- Robbie Lawler Def. Adlan Amagov

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    That Strikeforce event back in January really delivered! Robbie Lawler vs. Adlan Amagov is the third fight from that event on this list.

    There is a personal satisfaction for this writer when comeuppances get delivered to fighters that, stupidly, do illegal strikes on their opponents.

    Lawler vs Amagov, initially, seemed that it was going to be dominated by Amagov's grappling. The first minute of the fight was entirely Amagov pulling, yanking and bullying Lawlor around until he landed an illegal knee to his opponent's head.

    Ref Steve Mazzagatti separated them, and docked Amagov a point. They were reset and quickly got back to trying to find their range. Lawler took a couple stutter-steps, causing Amagov to plant his feet and cover up his head. Unfortunately for him, he left himself exposed for a flying knee that landed hard. 

    Lawler pounced and ended the fight then and there, teasing that karma may, in fact, exist.

#4- Anthony Pettis Def. Joe Lauzon

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    As a long-time Taekwondo practitioner, Anthony Pettis, a black belt in the art, holds a spot near the top of this writer's list of favorite fighters.

    Everyone knows that Anthony Pettis can kick extraordinarily well. His “Showtime Kick”, the devastating jumping-off-the-cage kick that sealed his victory over Ben Henderson in the final fight of the WEC, is one of the most incredible things ever seen in the cage.

    That said, Pettis did not finish “Bendo” with that kick. Joe Lauzon, though? Oh, he finished Lauzon.

    While Joe Lauzon has a strong ground game and deceptively solid hands, his best feature is his beyond-his-years savvy. Pettis demonstrated that taekwondo black belt and duped the smarter fighter into blocking his ribs. 

    For a split second, the kick seemed to be aimed there. By the time Lauzon's arm was down to block his torso, however, Pettis' knee was at face-level. His shin worked as the bridge between the two, and Lauzon dropped and Pettis scored his first KO since Danny Castillo at WEC 47.

#3- Stephen Thompson Def. Dan Stittgen

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    Stephen Thompson also demonstrated some impressive kicking techniques in his knockout of Dan Stittgen. While Pettis suckered Joe Lauzon into missing a block to set up for his headkick, Thompson put his kick at the end of a combination that made it effectively indefensible.

    Stephen Thompson, a black belt in karate, looked the part against Stittgen, and found his range after four minutes of fighting. Thompson jabbed, threw a cross, then sneaked his foot up over Stittgen's front shoulder and landed a kick flush on his jaw that knocked him out cleanly.

    While Thompson was unable to imitate that success in his next UFC fight, losing to Matt Brown by decision at UFC 145, he is still an exciting fighter to keep an eye on.

#2- Jose Aldo Def. Chad Mendes

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    Back in early 2012, many pundits and fans were actually starting to become critical of long-time WEC and UFC champ Jose Aldo. This was because of a pair of decision wins where both Kenny Florian and Mark Hominick showed that he may, in fact, be a human rather than a Brazilian-manufactured killing machine.

    Because of that, Jose Aldo probably had it in the back of his mind that he wanted to put a proverbial exclamation mark on the "W" that would pop up next to Chad Mendes' name. Did he ever.

    Jose Aldo is known for his savage leg kicks. Mendes' teammate, Urijah Faber, had already fought Aldo and was hobbled so badly during the fight that he was barely able to stand after five rounds. Because of that, a great deal of Mendes' gameplan was dedicated to avoiding that bread-and-butter move.

    While Mendes managed to walk out of the cage without a limp, it came at the expense of a few teeth as Aldo landed a crushing knee squarely to his face after slithering out of clinch position. Aldo turned many heads that night with what was actually his first UFC knockout and managed to turn around his dipping stock in the pound-for-pound rankings.

#1- Edson Barboza Def. Terry Etim

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    It is probably not especially surprising that this tops the list.

    Spinning kicks are rarely seen in the UFC. Spinning kicks to the head are even rarer. Spinning kicks to the head that knock somebody out as cleanly as Edson Barboza knocked out Terry Etim? Well that was one of a kind.

    The fight, to that point, was pretty good, and highlighted each fighter's preferences with Barboza out-striking Etim and Etim out-grappling Barboza. Barboza, who had thrown a couple of wheel/spinning crescent/swing/spinning blade kicks (the actual name of the technique differs from reporter to reporter) earlier in the fight, eventually found the proper distance and landed one cleanly on Etim's chin.

    Etim stiffened so badly, his arms did not even touch the mat as he fell like a tree. It was a picture-perfect kick that will likely take the honors as the top KO of the year.