If you’re bold enough to set foot inside a cage or ring and wage war with another man, you face the possibility of being rendered unconscious. That’s a dark yet alluring element of this sport, and some of the best in the business have found themselves collapsed in a motionless heap on the mat.
There is an assortment of ways to knock a man out, but for this specific article, we’re going to highlight the dreaded “One Punch KO”. We’ve seen hundreds transpire over the last two decades, but those featured in this piece spring to mind as some of the most devastating and memorable.
Beware the pugilistic fury heavy handed combatants, or you may find yourself included in future slides of this nature!
The trash talk leading up to Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping’s encounter at UFC 100 was nothing short of epic. However, Henderson’s H-Bomb transcends epic, and “The Count” learned that the hard way circling directly into Dan’s abnormally powerful right hand.
The end came in the second frame of this highly anticipated bout, after Bisping had managed to pitter patter and back pedal just enough to stay out of danger. When fighting Henderson however, danger is imminent.
The most heart wrenching one punch knockout I’ve personally ever seen, it must be admitted that Rashad Evans’ dismantling of Chuck Liddell can never be forgotten. The punch essentially triggered the downfall of Liddell, whose chin went south after a perfectly placed overhand counter from Evans sent the former champion crashing to the canvas, completely unconscious.
The worst part of it all? Liddell had some fantastic success in the first round. If only Evans hadn’t found complete comfort in the timing of “The Ice Man”, we may have seen another quality showing or two from Chuck.
UFC Fight Night 11 featured an amazing back and forth war between Chris Leben and then-prospect, Terry Martin. Martin looked to be on his way to securing a decision nod, at the least (Martin came awfully close to putting Leben away during the fight), until the inner instinctual warrior of Chris Leben made its presence known.
With just over a minute remaining in the bout Martin had Leben rocked in a bad, bad way. “The Crippler” looked just a few shots away from taking a nap, until a savage left hook counter put Martin away for good.
I’ll never fully understand who thought it would be a wise idea to pit unproven and extremely green UFC neophyte Rick Davis inside the cage with the already battle tested heavy hitter, Melvin Guillard at UFC 60.
This is one of the worst cases of mismatching I’ve ever seen, and Guillard proved that in less than two minutes when he sent Davis crashing to the canvas with single blow. He also sent poor Rick into retirement, after just five professional fights.
5 years ago Jake Ellenberger was just a young kid who looked like he had some promise. Jose Pele Landi-Jons however was a seasoned veteran, considered by many to be one the most dangerous strikers competing.
No one told “The Juggernaut” he was supposed to be the inferior of the two in regards to standup skills. A single shot from Ellenberger put Pele out in nine stunning seconds.
Back at Strikeforce – Miami it looked as though Melvin Manhoef might follow the blueprint Pete Spratt established to stop “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler at UFC 42. For the better portion of the first round Melvin hammered Robbie’s legs with powerful low kicks that visibly hurt the rugged UFC veteran.
However, Manhoef’s defense again came into question: Melvin threw a powerful right leg kick that just about sent Lawler to the canvas, but left his hands down. Lawler caught sight of the mistake and hurled a counter right hand at the dangerous kickboxer. It landed, and “No Mercy” dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Paulo Thiago has gained a reputation as a hard-nosed, durable guy capable of winning from any position. That’s why the world was completely stunned when UFC newcomer Siyar Bahadurzada launched heavy enough leather to send the Brazilian crashing face-first to the mat… in only 42 seconds at that!
Paul “Semtex” Daley may be a bit of a time bomb, but he’s a pretty polished competitor with cement in both of his fists. This guy knocks people out more often than not, and Scott Smith, a relatively resilient veteran of numerous noteworthy promotions learned that the hard way.
A pitch-perfect left hook from Daley turned Smith’s lights out immediately at Strikeforce – Henderson vs Babalu 2. I’m just not sure which was more stunning, the placement of that punch or the horrific faceplant that followed.
I suppose this is technically a two punch knockout, but Jay Silva was all but asleep after Hector Lombard landed the first punch he threw, a follow up shot certainly sealed the deal.
The victory remains one of Lombard’s most aesthetically pleasing finishes and a clear highlight of Bellator 18.
Back in the SEG era of the UFC rules were scarce and savagery was at fever pitch. Half of the men who climbed into the cage didn’t even dedicate themselves in the gym. Case in point: Tank Abbott, who seemed to meander into the arena directly from the bar on a regular basis.
The lack of professional preparation didn’t always hinder Tank however. At UFC: Ultimate Ultimate ’96 Tank welcomed Steve Nelmark to the land of nightmares. Pushed up against the cage, Nelmark ate a massive right hand that left his head slack on his shoulders and his body near lifeless against the cage.
It was one of the few finishes in MMA which, upon initially seeing made you wonder: is that guy still alive?
There’s no better way to make your UFC debut than by securing a victory with a nightmarish first round knockout. Shane Carwin met Christian Wellisch in his inaugural debut, and he made it a good one.
In just 44 seconds Carwin planted a shattering right hand on the chin of Wellisch that sent Christian into an alternate universe. It was one of the defining moments of UFC 84, and it immediately launched Carwin into a realm of recognition.
After having his brains bashed in twice by the Brazilian monster Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva while competing under the Pride banner, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was looking for revenge at UFC 92.
He got it.
A perfectly timed counter left hook hit the chin of “The Axe Murderer” and that was all she wrote. Wanderlei two, Quinton one.
Wanderlei Silva and Kazushi Sakuraba met three times in their career. Thrice “The Axe Murderer” was victorious. While the first two beatings were nothing short of gnarly, the third was absolutely engrossing.
After almost exactly five minutes inside the Pride ring, Silva landed a left hand that froze the Japanese legend, and immediate right followed and Sakuraba was sent flying across the ring in what still stands as one of the most aesthetically pleasing finishes the sport has yielded.
Junior dos Santos made his UFC debut at UFC 90 – Silva vs Cote. Although Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira had touted the man a future heavyweight champion, not many casual fans knew what to expect. Knowing that he was set to debut against top 10 ranked Fabricio Werdum, I doubt many held high hopes for the immediate future of “Cigano”.
81 seconds later a single uppercut had immobilized Werdum, and a new star was born; one that’s still shining quite bright today, four years later.
A single left hand left one of the sports’ most arrogant competitors senseless for minutes. At Bellator 51 Alexis Vila did fans (at least a sizeable chunk) a major favor when he found the chin of the former champion Joe Warren, sending him flopping to the mat completely unconscious.
I have no genuine ill will toward any man with the gall to enter a cage. In fact, I’ve got a load of respect for these men. That said, Warren’s mouth had become near unbearable during his early Bellator run, and seeing him brought back to reality was legitimately gratifying.
In the buildup to UFC on FUEL TV 6, most had written Cung Le off as a live dog amongst the upper echelon of the middleweight division. I myself was guilty of disregarding the man’s chances against former champion Rich Franklin.
He proved me and the rest of the naysayers wrong when he landed a huge counter to a Franklin low-kick. Rich kept his hands at his waist during the exchange and he paid for it dearly. “Ace” did his best Liddell/Evans impression, planking right onto his face, all the while reigniting interest in Cung Le’s career.
Whoever actually believed that Nate Quarry belonged in a cage with a prime Rich Franklin deserves to take a beating themselves. At UFC 56 Nate Quarry was overmatched from the jump, and it was only a matter of time before Franklin added “Rock” to his highlight reel.
It took of all of 2:34 seconds to leave Quarry stiff as a board, seriously injured and completely humiliated. I’m sure Nate still sees that brutal left hand flying at his face while tangled up in the worst of nightmares.
Brad Kohler’s one hitter quitter over Steve Judson at UFC 22 has to be considered one of the cleanest single punch knockouts in the history of combat sports.
Kohler, while massive, was no phenomenon in regards to technical abilities, but Judson was a virtual fish out of water, everywhere the fight went. It took a very brief 30 seconds for Kohler to find his range and dump a charging right hand on the chin of Judson, who retired one fight later, after another first round loss.
At least he had the moxy to give MMA one more chance.
For a few minutes, it looked as though Andrei Arlovski had a very real shot at beating former heavyweight king Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction – Day of Reckoning. The Belarusian worked punches and kicks quite effectively, until he landed something of substance and became a bit overzealous.
Around the three minute mark “The Pitbull” had “The Last Emperor” against the ropes when he vaulted into an attempted flying knee. Too bad Fedor has a remarkably high fight IQ and the reflexes of a cheetah.
A counter right caught Arlovski in midair, sending the former UFC champ slamming into the mat face first.
Well this one sure as hell didn’t last long did it?
The bell sounded, Houston Alexander approached the forward moving James Irvin; Irvin threw a lightning fast superman punch, and Alexander was finished. The entire ordeal lasted eight seconds, and as amazing as the finish was, it could probably be labeled the most anticlimactic one punch finish in the history of MMA.
Ryan Jimmo has a freight train with no breaks of hype behind him. In 18 bouts he’s dropped just one: his professional debut. Labeled a grinder with power, Jimmo proved he’s more than capable of finishing a fight from the upright position on the largest MMA stage in existence.
At UFC 149 Jimmo made his promotional debut and he made it electrifying. Anthony Perosh never had so much as a chance in this bout, as Jimmo chucked one single overhand right that landed flush on the chin of Australian, rendering him unconscious in seven seconds.
It was the ideal UFC debut for Jimmo.
That little post-fight robot dance wasn’t half bad either, might I add.
Mark Hunt is known for having a cement filled head fortified by a solid iron chin.
Melvin Manhoef proved physics very relevant in this sport, as Hunt’s careless charging only intensified the force that folded his chin as Melvin Manhoef fired a counter right hook that stopped the New Zealander in his tracks at K-1 - Dynamite!! Power of Courage 2008.
The knockout loss is still the only one on Mark’s professional résumé.
Tyson Griffin has never handled defeat all too well. The man doesn’t see his hand raised, you can pretty much disregard any genuine sportsmanship coming from him. For that reason, it was quite enjoyable to see Takanori Gomi defy the odds and put Tyson to sleep in just over 60 seconds.
A flawless right hand found Tyson’s chin and sent him faceplanting. Moments later, after the fight had been rightfully called, Tyson was seen on his feet, pouting and showing absolutely no respect for Gomi and his accomplishment.
Big surprise huh?
Back at UFC Live 4 Pat Barry showcased some wild but effective striking. He battered Cheick Kongo all over the cage and practically put the man to sleep on multiple occasions. Referee Dan Miragliotta was apparently exercising his favoritism, as he refused to call a halt to the bout (which few would have objected to) although Kongo certainly didn’t look all too coherent in the final minute of the 2:39 second fight.
Just the same, perhaps the right call was made on Dan’s part, as Kongo somehow made his way back to his feet, and caught Barry with a sneaky punch as “HD” rushed in to once more seek the finish.
That single shot put Barry down and out, and Kongo exited the cage the winner in one of the most amazing comeback fights we’ve seen to date.
Back at Maximum Fighting Championship 22 Pete Spratt reminded fans (those fortunate enough to watch the fight) why he’s a striker to be feared.
After being dominated on the ground early by Nathan Gunn, Spratt rallied to land a crushing uppercut that left the then-undefeated prospect lost in a dream world.
Ryan Bader may not be the most technically refined light heavyweight in the game, but he’s big, strong and heavy handed. His bout with Keith Jardine at UFC 110 was meant to serve as an accelerator fight that would move him one step closer to elite competition.
That’s exactly what transpired.
Jardine hung tough until the bouts final frame, but Ryan’s powerful left hand would ensure “The Dean of Mean” did not see the final bell. Keith found himself crumbled against the cage with less than three minutes remaining in the contest.
Tiequan Zhang was supposed to be China’s great hope. While competing under the WEC banner, it looked as though that were a true possibility. Then the UFC swept in, took the WEC’s top talent and folded the promotion.
“The Wolf” hasn’t looked too impressive since, but he hit a career low at UFC 144 when Issei Tamura completely starched him with a single punch.
The right hand that “Razor” Rob McCullough deposited on the chin of Olaf Alfonso at WEC 19 was likely felt reverberating through the venue’s floor.
A kick to the body signaled the beginning of the end, but that follow up punch left zero doubts as to what the next few seconds of the bout would produce: Olaf being pummeled mercilessly.
It’s still hard to shake the memory of that mouthpiece flying through the air at the speed of a Randy Johnson fastball.
Lyoto Machida is an artist inside the cage. The man’s unorthodox movement, pinpoint accuracy and precise counter striking is a combination nearly unrivalled.
Ryan Bader learned that the hard way at UFC on FOX 4.
After becoming visibly frustrated by his inability to inflict a hint of damage on “The Dragon”, Ryan Bader let loose and bull-rushed the karate practitioner. Lyoto is one man you simply don’t rush recklessly.
A brilliant counter right found the face of a charging “Darth”. The end result saw the Arizona resident flat on his back, gazing woozily at the stadium lights.
Back before mixed martial artists had begun to truly refine and master their craft, guys went out there and simply slugged away. Of the early sluggers, Eugene Jackson was one of the more feared animals with the guts to enter a cage.
Royce Alger was a decorated wrestler, but his pedigree on the mat didn’t transfer to MMA without flaw. Poor Royce attempted to slug it out with Jackson, and ate a fight ending left hook for his troubles.
Technically there were a whole lot of punches thrown in the face of Francisco Bueno at Pride 8. However, it was one flush right hook that left Bueno completely out on his feet. The ensuing shots he endured were unnecessary, but when you throw hands as fast as a prime Igor Vovchanchyn, a few extra bombs are bound to find their mark.
If you missed this sleeper knockout, keep an eye out for the fight, or at the least highlights: this is a finish to remember!
Johny Hendricks has a wealth of momentum in his favor thanks to a current five fight winning streak that includes a trio of stoppages.
Among the most memorable finishes on Hendricks’ ledger is his 12 second icing of perennial welterweight contender Jon Fitch. Jon’s always been known for his grind ‘em out style, but Johny never gave the Team AKA product a chance to work his gameplan.
One single left hand, met the chin of Jon Fitch, Jon Fitch’s head hit the floor, and that was the end of Fitch’s uncontested run as a top three welterweight.
Just about everything I said about the Hendricks/Fitch fight applies here. Sure Martin Kampmann lasted a few more seconds than Fitch, but ultimately, he met the same fate: the unbelievably powerful hooks of a surging Johny Hendricks.
For my money, the Kampmann KO is a bit more impressive… the way “The Hitman” sailed across the octagon was nothing short of awe inspiring.
Left hook versus left hook: whose wins, Dan Hardy’s or Carlos Condit’s? We all know that answer now: Condit’s.
These two stood in the pocket and traded bombs. It all came down to a race for the chin, with the vehicle of destruction being the left hook of both men. Condit’s landed flush and Hardy suffered the first knockout loss of his eight year career.
If only Hardy would have connected with the same force, we may well have seen the UFC's first double knockout!
Remember when Miguel Torres held a place in the top pound for pound discussion? Those days are long gone, and it was Brian Bowles who triggered the career spiral for Miguel back at WEC 42.
Torres’ constant aggression cost him a title and a whole lot of momentum, as Bowles caught the champ charging in, dropping him with a clean right hook.
Sadly, Miguel hasn’t looked the same since, amassing an unimpressive 3-4 record since losing his title by knockout.
Just about every knockout in this honorable mention category could have easily slipped into this list. After five hours of fact checking and research however, it was time to wrap this mammoth piece up. Check out the honorable mentions:
Leben’s KO over Wanderlei Silva, Scott Smith’s KO over Pete Sell, Henderson’s brutal knockout over Wanderlei Silva, Fedor’s KO over Brett Rogers, Jeremy Stephens’ KO over Rafael dos Anjos, Maurice Smith’s haymaker KO over Kazunari Murakami.
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