In January, Edson Barboza set an early standard for what would be considered a Knockout of the Year candidate when he stiffened Terry Etim with the UFC's first-ever spinning heel kick knockout. None have matched the spectacle that was Barboza's kick, but many knockouts have come close.
Heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo even defended their belts with impressive knockout finishes in their respective fights against Frank Mir and Chad Mendes, but neither of those stoppages stacked up against Barboza's.
Already, 2012 has provided several devastating and come-from-behind knockouts worthy of mention with regards to determining the Knockout of the Year. With that said, let's take of look at the 10 best knockouts heading into the second half of 2012.
After losing four straight fights dating back to his title shot against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, Dan Hardy was fighting for his UFC roster spot heading into a May bout against fellow striker Duane Ludwig.
Though many pegged Ludwig as the more technical striker in the matchup, Hardy kept his job by landing a lead left hook that dropped his opponent. A few elbows later, Hardy earned a win for the first time since beating Mike Swick in November 2009.
Despite his perceived striking prowess, the knockout was only Hardy's second inside the Octagon and earned him the first Knockout of the Night award of his career.
After going nearly six years between knockout wins, Mike Pyle has stopped back-to-back opponents with strikes. It was his second knockout victory of 2012 that put Pyle in the running for a Knockout of the Year nomination.
In a bout with Josh Neer at UFC on FX 3, Pyle utilized his grappling early to control the majority of the first round. Once he returned to his feet, though, Neer turned up the pressure and began to change the momentum of the fight.
Then, with just four seconds remaining in the opening stanza, Pyle blasted Neer with a short right hook. The bout was stopped almost immediately, as Neer fell face-first into the canvas.
After losing against Ricardo Lamas in his UFC debut, Cub Swanson found himself matched up another tough opponent in George Roop, who was coming off a controversial loss against Hatsu Hioki.
Still, Swanson overwhelmed Roop with athleticism and eventually landed a huge overhand right at the midway point of the three-round bout. The punch sent Roop to the canvas and his mouthpiece catapulting from his mouth.
Following his knockout win over Roop, Swanson scored another impressive finish against Ross Pearson that nearly found its way onto this list.
Undefeated in three fights since moving to the middleweight division, Tim Boetsch found himself in trouble in the third round of his most recent fight against Yushin Okami. Down two rounds on the scorecards, it was clear Boetsch needed a stoppage to continue his rise up the 185-pound ladder.
As soon as the final frame began, Boetsch came out swinging and surprised Okami. After backing Okami to the fence, Boetsch landed a series of uppercuts that caused the longtime middleweight contender to fold over.
Less than one minute into the third round, Boetsch earned a knockout win and became a legitimate 185-pound title threat. "The Barbian" will welcome former Bellator champion Hector Lombard to the Octagon in July for a fight that could potentially earn him a title shot before the end of the year.
In his first bout of the year, Martin Kampmann executed on of the most exciting submissions of 2012 by locking up a guillotine choke on Thiago Alves in the final minute of a bout he likely would have lost on the scorecards.
Against Jake Ellenberger, comeback Kampmann struck again by scoring a knockout win with knees from the clinch after being rocked and nearly finished multiple times. Not only did the knockout give Kampmann three straight wins, but it set him up for a title shot eliminator with Johny Hendricks.
Though Justin Lawrence came up short of winning The Ultimate Fighter, he showed enormous potential on the reality series. In his UFC debut at The Ultimate Fighter finale, Lawrence provided a sample of what fans can expect to see from him in the future.
After two competitive rounds with The Ultimate Fighter participant John Cofer, Lawrence timed a head kick perfectly. As Cofer moved to his left to dodge a jab, he was quickly met by the right shin of Lawrence, who remained undefeated in four official MMA fights with the knockout.
Stephen Thompson entered the UFC a renowned kickboxer and undefeated in five MMA bouts, so big things were expected out of the lanky welterweight.
At UFC 143, Thompson put on display what could happen to any opponents willing to stand with him, as he put UFC newcomer Dan Stittgen away with a beautiful head kick. At first, "Wonderboy" faked low with the kick, then he brought it upstairs to turn the lights out on his opponent.
Unfortunately, Thompson's lack of ground skills caught up with him in his second Octagon appearance, where he was defeated in a unanimous decision against Matt Brown.
After losing to Clay Guida and narrowly escaping a fight against Jeremy Stephens with a win, Anthony Pettis needed an impressive showing against Joe Lauzon to remain a legitimate contender in the lightweight division.
Pettis got just what he needed by keeping the fight standing and knocking Lauzon out with a head kick in the opening round. With the win, Pettis separated himself as one of the top title threats in what is arguably the most competitive division in the sport.
Undefeated in his first 11 MMA fights, Chad Mendes was supposed to be one of the toughest tests of featherweight champion Jose Aldo's career. However, in Aldo's home country of Brazil, things didn't turn out that way.
At UFC 142, Aldo knocked Mendes out with a knee with only one second remaining in the opening round. Then, Aldo sprinted out of the Octagon and into the audience in one of the wildest scenes MMA has ever seen.
Forget Knockout of the Year, Edson Barboza's spinning heel kick knockout of Terry Etim at UFC 142 was one of the most spectacular finishes in the history of combat sports.
While the fight may not have had title implications, as Barboza lost his next fight against Jamie Varner and is now a long ways away from contending in the 155-pound division, the Brazilian's kick was a thing of both beauty and brutality.
Barboza had landed his kick in previous fights, displaying outstanding technique, speed and deception in his execution. However, when Barboza's foot landed to the temple of Etim, the graceful kick instantly turned vicious, as the Englishman's limbs went stiff on his way to the canvas.