MMA in 2014: The Top 10 Knockouts
2014 saw fight card after fight card after fight card—almost to the point of tiring some fans out on the product, but having relentless events at least gives us finishes.
MMA certainly gave us plenty of fantastic knockouts this year, but which was the best?
Determining a year-end list like this is very unscientific and has no set criteria. Do the more violent knockouts rank higher, or do knockouts in fights that meant more go to the top of the list? It's a judgment call.
You will see a mixture of both on this list. Circumstances helped elevate some KOs, while it hurt others. The UFC dominates this list, but there is one knockout featured from a promotion other than the sport's leader. The list also features knockouts in two title fights.
Without further ado, here are your top 10 knockouts of 2014. Here's hoping 2015 keeps delivering moments that make us leap out of our chairs.
Donald Cerrone vs. Adriano Martins - UFC on Fox 10: Cerrone kick-started his great year with a brilliant head-kick knockout over Martins in January. It would just be the beginning for Cowboy as he marched his way up the lightweight ladder to become one of the top contenders entering 2015.
Godofredo Pepey vs. Noad Lahat - UFC Fight Night 38: Pepey got the Brazilian crowd to their feet with a stellar flying-knee KO. Lahat fell backward, unconscious, against the fence in a sitting position as the referee stepped in to wave off the bout.
Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua - UFC Fight Night 38: Shogun and Henderson had a Fight of the Year a couple of years prior, and the rematch offered excitement of its own. Shogun dominated the fight early, but Henderson's incredible power found its mark later in the fight. He finished up his work on the ground to pick up a decisive victory in hostile territory.
Johnny Eduardo vs. Eddie Wineland - UFC Fight Night 40: Wineland looked to rebound and re-enter the title scene at 135 pounds, but Eduardo had different plans. Eduardo stunned Wineland and the Cincinnati crowd with a brutal KO finish.
Daron Cruickshank vs. Erik Koch - UFC Fight Night 40: Eduardo wasn't the only one with a big KO in the Queen City. Cruickshank upended former featherweight contender Koch. The ending sequence began with a head kick, and Cruickshank kept up the offense by never relenting with his punches afterward.
KJ Noons vs. Sam Stout - The Ultimate Fighter: Nations Finale: Want a vicious KO? Look no further than the blow that Noons delivered to put Stout out of commission. The follow-up shot on the canvas was simply brutal. Stout had been known for his chin, but no one keeps his consciousness with a shot like the one Noons delivered.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao - UFC 173: This knockout may have made the list if it were not a TKO, or if it came in the first two rounds to add to the shock value. Dillashaw upset Barao in the main event of UFC 173 to the surprise of virtually everyone. Dillashaw outclassed Barao and became the bantamweight champion of the world.
Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller - UFC Fight Night 45: Look who it is. Round 2. Cerrone continued his ascent with a head-kick knockout over Miller in July. It was his third win in 2014, and he would have one more to go.
Dominick Cruz vs. Takeya Mizugaki - UFC 178: After a long period of time away from the cage battling injuries, Cruz returned to the UFC and destroyed contender Mizugaki. The performance was ultra-impressive given the circumstances, but the good feelings would not last. Cruz would suffer another injury in training, going back on the shelf.
Joe Schilling vs. Melvin Manhoef - Bellator 131: Schilling was nearly stopped early on in the battle of two high-powered strikers, but he survived. Then, in the second round, Schilling iced Manhoef, who fell down like a tree in the woods. Timber!
No. 10: Ronda Rousey Makes Quick Work of Alexis Davis
Event: UFC 175
Ronda Rousey is the most dominant champion in the UFC, bar none. However, she had not finished anyone with strikes until 2014.
She began the year by kneeing Sara McMann in the liver. It was a brilliantly placed shot, but it could be construed as lucky. And it did not tell us much about her development as a striker—a question that has been over her head since she debuted.
At UFC 175, Rousey silenced a lot of her critics.
She pasted Davis with a punch, showcasing incredible hand speed, accuracy and power. It rocked Davis and arguably knocked her out. She fell into Rousey's body where she then went for a ride thanks to the champion's judo. Rousey kept hitting her on the mat, and the fight was stopped—in 16 seconds.
No. 9: Mark Hunt Hits Walk-Away KO on Roy Nelson
Event: UFC Fight Night 52
2014 was a big year for Mark Hunt as he came close to claiming the UFC interim heavyweight crown, but prior to that fight he took on Roy Nelson in Japan.
There were questions with how Hunt would handle Nelson's ground game, but the Super Samoan survived on the mat. He turned the match into a kickboxing bout, which proved to be a bad thing for Nelson.
Hunt stalked Nelson and then connected with a huge uppercut. Nelson face-planted, and Hunt walked away.
The walk-off shot has become a signature of Hunt. And why not? When he hits you flush, you are knocked clean out. He knows it. He sees no need to follow up with any unnecessary punishment. Hunt got the win and put himself in the position to get the call to fill in for Cain Velasquez at UFC 180.
No. 8: Danny Castillo Flattens Charlie Brenneman
Event: UFC 172
The picture above is not of Charlie Brenneman taunting or celebrating. It is of him falling backward unconscious following a punch from Danny Castillo.
The shot came at 21 seconds of the second round.
This KO would end up being the highlight of Castillo's year. He would lose by split decision in August and kick off 2015 with a KO loss of his own. He can still reflect back on one of the most vicious knockouts of the year when he sent Brenneman to the mat sprawled out.
Team Alpha Male had a great 2014.
No. 7: Damacio Page Turns off Brian Hall's Lights
Event: Legacy Fighting Championship 36
Here is your lone non-UFC KO on the list—Damacio Page putting Brian Hall out.
Page has always had big KO power. It is something we got to see during his stint in the Zuffa-owned WEC. Since leaving the UFC, he went back to the regional scene and has had a successful run with Legacy FC.
The knockout that put him here was a devastating overhand right. It was made even more devastating by how Hall bounced off the canvas after the punch. He was knocked stiff. The overhand right has given us many a great KO, and you can add this one to the list.
See for yourself, courtesy of AXS TV Fights (Page vs. Hall is at the 1:27 mark).
No. 6: Fabricio Werdum Claims Interim Heavyweight Title with Flying Knee KO
Event: UFC 180
Fabricio Werdum was scheduled to challenge Cain Velasquez for the UFC belt, but an injury forced Velasquez out of action. Enter Mark Hunt.
In the lead-up to the event, Werdum did more media work than just about anyone in recent memory. He is fluent in Portuguese, English and Spanish. He was doing media for all the major outlets concerning his title bid and the recent season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America that he coached.
He was a heavy favorite, but it soon became a real fight when Hunt tagged him. It seemed like we had an upset brewing, but Werdum crushed those pipe dreams with a stunning flying-knee KO.
Hunt has an iron chin. Knocking him out is an accomplishment for anyone, but to do so with a flying knee was remarkable. It was a true highlight of the year. It also helps that it was for UFC gold. Werdum collected the interim belt and moves forward to a unification bout against Velasquez in 2015.
No. 5: Roy Nelson Starches Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Event: UFC Fight Night 39
We begin the top five with a forgotten fight between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Roy Nelson.
Nogueira isn't the same fighter that we have heralded for his chin and resiliency. That pretty much died alongside PRIDE. Regardless, he is still a top-15 heavyweight. And Nelson destroyed him.
It was quickly apparent that Nogueira was going to end up on the losing end of this fight. Nelson was hitting him, and Nogueira was slow and plodding.
Finally, Nelson connected, and the result clocks in at No. 5 on the list. He starched Nogueira. The former PRIDE and UFC champion went stiff. It was a vicious right hand with all of Nelson's power behind it—a crushing blow that saddened many because it was Nogueira on the receiving end.
Remove his name from the equation and Nelson's one-punch knockout is truly one of the most devastating of 2014.
No. 4: Chris Beal Collects Bonus Check with Flying Knee
Event: UFC 172
The very first fight of UFC 172 was the lone UFC Fight Pass prelim. That limited the number of people who saw what Chris Beal did to Patrick Williams.
Beal was a bright prospect who competed on The Ultimate Fighter Season 18. He did not end up winning the show, but his UFC debut showed why he was one of the most talked-about prospects of that season.
Just before two minutes of the second round were up, Beal leaped through the air with a knee that hit Williams flush on the chin. It could not have been placed any better. Williams went to the mat in a heap, and Beal announced himself to the bantamweight division.
He would keep his professional record perfect with a decision win in December. The bantamweight division needs more legitimate contenders. Beal isn't too far off from moving up into the rankings, and he most certainly will if he can land another KO like he did at UFC 172.
No. 3: Abel Trujillo Lands Violent KO Against Jamie Varner
Event: UFC 169
Abel Trujillo and Jamie Varner had one of the most exciting fights of 2014, but it was Trujillo who ended it with one of the most violent knockouts of the year.
Varner and Trujillo went toe-to-toe, and the second round was a contender for Round of the Year.
Varner hurt Trujillo and pounced. He kept the pressure on with punches and knees. It just wasn't enough to finish Trujillo, who did well enough to move and escape bad positions while avoiding the fight-ending shot. Varner continued to walk down Trujillo as he fired back.
As Varner came forward, he was a bit too slow, and Trujillo unleashed a right with every bad intention he could muster in that moment. Varner collapsed face firs onto the mat violently. It wasn't a picturesque fall that others do, falling backward stiffly. No, Varner ate canvas—hard.
It was a great fight and an even better KO.
No. 2: Josh Samman's Head-Kick KO Captures Fans' Hearts
Event: UFC 181
There was not a better feel-good knockout than Josh Samman's at UFC 181.
He suffered personal tragedy with loved ones, and that was a big part of his story leading into the event. However, he was taking on Eddie Gordon, who came off winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 19.
Gordon is out of the Serra-Longo fight camp and a promising middleweight prospect.
By all accounts, Gordon was winning the fight—until Samman leveled Gordon with a head kick from nowhere. Gordon ate the shin directly to the face. He was out cold. Samman got to celebrate a huge win for his UFC career and a win that made everyone feel good, except for Gordon.
It is backstories and moments like this that help MMA show why it is a great sport.
No. 1: Dong Hyun Kim's Spinning Back Elbow Is the KO of the Year
Event: The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale
Welterweight contenders Dong Hyun Kim and John Hathaway met in the main event for The Ultimate Fighter: China season finale. It was a Fight Pass exclusive. And those with the service were treated to the KO of the year.
Kim was not known for his knockout ability, and he sure wasn't known for his creativity.
Hathaway and Kim had a great fight going. They were both trying to seize the opportunity in the main event. Kim was more aggressive than usual. In the third round, Hathaway was pressuring Kim against the fence but finding it hard to keep him there. Kim got a break from the fence and stunned Hathaway as he came forward.
A spinning back elbow knocked Hathaway out. We see punch knockouts frequently, and kick knockouts are not too special anymore either. But when someone lands a spinning back elbow, everyone takes notice. It was special. One shot and Hathaway was out.
Kim did not follow up and left the cage to celebrate cageside immediately. When he went to the referee to have his hand raised in victory, he was even holding his elbow in pain. With a big win and KO of the Year, he will likely accept that little bit of pain.
Congrats to Dong Hyun Kim.