15 Most Devastating Head-Kick Knockouts in MMA History

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

15 Most Devastating Head-Kick Knockouts in MMA History

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    Of the plethora of aesthetically pleasing finishing techniques that exist in the realm of MMA, none quite mesmerizes fans like a vicious head-kick knockout.

    Whether it comes from a spinning, round, front or crane kick, head-kick KOs captivate fans and remind them of the often barbaric nature of MMA.

    These notorious strikes turned the tides of every fight on this list, offering the euphoria of victory to one competitor and the agony of defeat to another.

    Here are the 15 most devastating head-kick knockouts in MMA history. 

Honorable Mention: Yves Edwards vs. Josh Thomson

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    Josh Thomson made every mixed martial artist on the planet aware of the risks of throwing a spinning backfist at UFC 49.

    In the final minute of a back-and-forth first round, Yves Edwards took Thomson's back in the standing position in the middle of the Octagon.

    Thomson escaped from Edwards' clutches and almost instantly tried to fire a spinning backfist. Edwards, however, had already began unleashing a leaping high kick that Thomson didn't see coming.

    Edwards crushed Thomson's jawline and hurt the Californian enough to land a series of ground strikes with 28 seconds left in the round to end this memorable classic. 

15. Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon

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    Coming off his second straight lackluster performance—albeit a split decision over Jeremy Stephens—current divisional linchpin Anthony Pettis wanted to make his bones in the UFC's lightweight division.

    Pettis did just that at UFC 144, showcasing his brilliant striking chops and landing a thunderous head kick early in Round 1 to flatten the always-game Joe Lauzon.

    Lauzon had his hands at his cheeks when he dropped his right hand to presumably block a Pettis body kick. Instead, Pettis went high with his left leg, cracking Lauzon on the jawline and dropping the Massachusetts native in the middle of the Octagon.

    Pettis dropped four unnecessary bombs on Lauzon's chin for good measure before referee Marc Goddard could intervene.

    "Showtime" fittingly walked away with an extra $65,000 for "Knockout of the Night" honors.


14. Stephen Thompson vs. Dan Stittgen

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    Typically, the most violent strikes happen when a foot or shin lands on the button of an unsuspecting victim.

    Dan Stittgen would concur with this sentiment after wearing a Stephen Thompson head kick at UFC 143.

    Just as Thompson threw a jab-overhand right combination, Stittgen answered with a looping left hook that left an opening on the left side of his jawline.

    Thompson instinctively felt the opportunity, immediately heaving a right head kick that clipped Stittgen flush on the jaw.

    "Wonderboy" attempted to deliver a finishing blow, only to have referee Josh Rosenthal step in to save the day.

    Thompson went home with a $65,000 check for a "Knockout of the Night" bonus in his promotional debut.

13. Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt

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    After going blow for blow for nearly three rounds with Mark Hunt at UFC 160, former heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos pulled off a maneuver that no one at the MGM Grand Garden Arena saw coming.

    "Cigano" first stunned Hunt with a left hook with 1:23 to go in the third round. Roughly 40 seconds later, the Brazilian used a jab with his left hand to set up a perfectly timed spinning wheel kick with his right leg.

    The bottom of Dos Santos' calf grazed the top of Hunt's head, sending the thick-skulled Samoan crashing to the canvas. Cigano landed a few more punches before referee Steve Mazzagatti could save Hunt from any further punishment.

    Most who knew Edson Barboza prior to his spinning wheel kick over Terry Etim believed that the Brazilian lightweight could pull off such a low-percentage finishing move. Few, however, envisioned a 6'4", 240-pound Cigano nailing the maneuver.


12. Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold

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    He came in aware of Vitor Belfort's ability to end fights quickly and ferociously, but former Strikeforce middleweight champ Luke Rockhold still couldn't evade a first-round knockout at UFC on FX 8.

    Belfort landed a spinning heel kick on Rockhold early in the first round without using a punch or kick to set up the strike.

    Just 2:26 into the fight, the Brazilian uncorked a spinning heel kick with his left leg. Rockhold, who had his hands at his chest, made the mistake of reacting to the kick by pawing with his left hand.

    Belfort capitalized on Rockhold's error and floored the Californian with a whipping heel to the left side of his jaw. 

    Rockhold hit the canvas, and before he had a chance to regroup, Belfort finished him off with a barrage of punches.

11. Rashad Evans vs. Sean Salmon

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    Before UFC Fight Night 8, pundits considered Rashad Evans a raw wrestler with a propensity to control and do damage on the ground. Few experts tabbed him as a natural knockout artist who possessed significant pop in his punches and kicks.

    All that changed when he landed a beautifully timed kick on Sean Salmon's jawline early in the second round at UFC Fight Night 8.

    The second that Salmon lowered his left hand, Evans fired a high kick that found his chin, immediately rendering the former Ohio State University wrestler unconscious. 

    Referee Troy Waugh stepped in to stop Evans just as the former light heavyweight champ landed a pair of follow-up punches that made Salmon's toes curl.

10. Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort

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    As if knocking out opponents with fists, knees and elbows wasn't sufficient, former pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva pulled off the unthinkable and knocked out Vitor Belfort with a front kick and follow-up punches at UFC 126.

    Approximately 3:20 into the bout, Silva split Belfort's hands and delivered a left front kick to the button.

    A dazed Belfort collapsed to the mat and absorbed several punishing blows from a rabid Silva before referee Mario Yamasaki had seen enough.

    "The Spider" defended his middleweight strap for the eighth straight time while handing Belfort just the third KO loss of his storied career. For his efforts, Silva pocketed his sixth "Knockout of the Night" bonus.


9. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Igor Vovchanchyn

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    The UFC didn't sign Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in his heyday. If Dana White and company had inked a deal with Cro Cop circa 2003, then the former Pride openweight champ might have provided the UFC with some highlight-reel knockouts.

    He flaunted his striking dexterity and scored his third straight KO in Japan's Pride Fighting Championships when he nearly decapitated Igor Vovchanchyn with a head kick at Pride Elimination in 2003.

    Less than 1:30 into the fight, Cro Cop used a pair of left straights to get at the proper distance to unload one of his patented left head kicks. Vovchanchyn had his hands a few inches too low at his chin when Cro Cop came over the top with a pulverizing kick to the right side of his jawline. 

    Needless to say, officials at the Saitama Super Arena needed smelling salts to bring Vovchanchyn back to reality.

    Fight Matrix awarded Cro Cop with the "Knockout of the Year" award after he became the first and only fighter to knock out Vovchanchyn in his 66-fight career.

8. Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture

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    While watching Randy Couture cap his career with a KO loss felt unsavory, it seemed fitting that karate master Lyoto Machida delivered the kick that made Daniel LaRusso famous in The Karate Kid at UFC 129.

    Machida didn't wait for Couture to drop his paws. Instead, "The Dragon" momentarily deterred Couture's attention with a feint of his left foot. 

    An instant after faking a left front kick, Machida leaped into the air and slipped a right crane kick through Couture's hands. Machida's foot spiked off Couture's jaw, snapping his head back and knocking the Hall of Famer into a temporary unconsciousness.

    Fortunately for Couture, referee Yves Lavigne recognized his dire state and pulled Machida off his back before any unnecessary blows could be dropped in the former two-division champ's farewell bout.

7. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Wanderlei Silva

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    Feared striker Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic celebrated his 32nd birthday by scoring one of the most celebrated knockouts in his illustrious career.

    Just over five minutes into his bout with former Pride champ Wanderlei Silva at Pride Final Conflict Absolute, Cro Cop saw an opening and exploited it the best way he knew how.

    The instant an already bloody Silva dropped his left hand, Cro Cop threw a left high kick that caught the top of the Brazilian's noggin. 

    Silva buckled and immediately went to sleep 5:22 into the bout. 

    Several major media outlets, including Sherdog.com and MMAFighting.com awarded Cro Cop with the 2006 "Knockout of the Year."

6. Gilbert Yvel vs. Gary Goodridge

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    In just his second fight with Pride, then-24-year-old Gilbert Yvel let the MMA world know that he could take out a 6'3", 240-pound Gary Goodridge with just a single kick at Pride 10.

    Yvel pawed at Goodridge and distracted the Canadian enough to get him to drop his right hand. Yvel then heaved a left high kick that Goodridge mistook for a body kick. 

    Yvel's foot caromed off Goodridge's skull, instantly dropping "Big Daddy" and rendering him unconscious.

    Although "The Hurricane," went on to notch 12 additional knockouts in his career, none wowed fans or haunted an opponent quite like this head kick.

5. Marius Zaromskis vs. Jason High

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    It looked like Jason High would never wake up after wearing a Marius Zaromskis' shin to his jawline at Dream 10.

    Zaromskis backed up High with a two-punch combination and then got the former NCAA Division I wrestler to drop his hands before unleashing a head kick from hell.

    Zaromskis' shin smacked flush off High's jaw and floored the Nebraskan. High had already began snoring before the referee could intervene. 

    Amazingly, Zaromskis beat Japanese legend Hayato Sakurai earlier in the night with a similar head kick and follow-up punches. 



4. Pete Williams vs. Mark Coleman

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    Few heavyweights wanted to lock horns with a highly motivated Mark Coleman after the former Olympic wrestler (freestyle) got upset by Maurice Smith to squander his belt at UFC 14.

    Originally, Coleman was set to tangle with Randy Couture in his ensuing bout at UFC 17. But Couture suffered an injury during training, which gave Lion's Den product and UFC newcomer Pete Williams an opportunity to fight "The Hammer."

    Williams and Coleman engaged in a slugfest for the 12-minute regulation round. Once the overtime period started, however, The Hammer was running on fumes.

    Williams recognized Coleman's desperate state and let him have it early in the overtime round. Just 38 seconds in, Coleman dropped his hands and opened the door for an unforgettable finish. Williams, who was sporting a pair of wrestling shoes, unloaded a high kick that smashed Coleman square on the chin and put the Ohio native to sleep.

    Williams set a new trend that night in Alabama in 1998. He became the first fighter in UFC history to end a bout with a high kick.

3. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Gabriel Gonzaga

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    It's always captivating when the master gets humbled by a younger and greener student.

    In the case of legendary knockout artist Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Gabriel Gonzaga represented that student at UFC 70.

    Considered a mere speed bump in Cro Cop's quest for UFC gold, Gonzaga stunned the MMA world by finishing Filipovic with the very technique that made him famous.

    Gonzaga waited for Cro Cop to drop his left hand, and when he did, the Brazilian pancaked the former Pride champ with a right high kick.

    Cro Cop collapsed after taking Gonzaga's shin to his jaw, suffering minor injuries to the ankle and knee that got folded up during the fall.

    The loss marked just the second KO in Cro Cop's MMA career.

2. Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim

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    With roughly three minutes to go in their bout at UFC 142, Terry Etim had his hands in position to block an Edson Barboza strike.

    Regrettably for Etim, though, the Englishman couldn't block a kick that was too fast to measure.

    Barboza tapped into his quickness and explosiveness and uncorked a spinning heel kick that found its mark on Etim's chin. The former Cage Gladiators lightweight champ's arms instantly got stiff, and he hit the canvas like a falling tree.

    A number of major media outlets, including Sherdog.com and MMAValor.com, gave Barboza "Knockout of the Year" honors for his exploits. 

1. Uriah Hall vs. Adam Cella

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    No knockout in the history of The Ultimate Fighter epitomized brutality, accuracy and showmanship quite like Uriah Hall’s spinning hook kick on Adam Cella.

    Team Sonnen’s Hall not only executed the low-percentage finishing move, he also delivered it square on the button of Cella, forcing the Team Jones member into a chilling state of unconsciousness.

    Cella stopped moving his feet for a few seconds, and even though his hands were hovering near his chin, he stood directly in Hall's wheelhouse.

    Hall activated his fast-twitch muscle fibers and whipped his heel around the back of Cella's right ear.

    The Missouri native lost consciousness and began snoring before hitting the mat, which put a look of concern on Hall's face and prompted the Jamaican to issue an apology.

    Although Cella eventually came to and tried to trivialize the finish, none of his remaining roommates were laughing at the prospect of facing Hall.