Knockout Kings: MMA Fighters Who Routinely Deliver Spectacular KOs

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2019

Knockout Kings: MMA Fighters Who Routinely Deliver Spectacular KOs

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    There is almost nothing as awe-inspiring in MMA than a clean knockout, and we have seen many outstanding finishes throughout the years.

    Punches, kicks, knees, elbows—even slams as Jessica Andrade recently showed in her UFC strawweight title win over Rose Namajunas. The ways to end a fight via KO are near-endless, and they always leave us breathless.

    In 2019, who are the fighters who are almost guaranteed to excite once the cage door closes?

    We looked over the roster for some of the best KO artists the UFC has today: Fighters who put it all on the line, risking everything to send their opponent into a state of unconsciousness.

    After whittling it down, we came up with seven of the best KO practitioners. So prepare yourself for today's six best KO kings—and one queen—of the UFC.

Yoel Romero

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    Yoel Romero is known for his Olympic-caliber wrestling background, but he is one of the most feared strikers inside the Octagon.

    Three of his last four victories have come by way of knockout. And they weren't just knockouts, they were deeply frightening knockouts. The kind of KO that has you immediately concerned for the downed opponent rather than celebrating an incredible strike.

    He is also doing it at an elite level. Who were his three recent victims? Lyoto Machida, Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold.

    The Cuban also does it in a variety of ways. He smashed Machida with elbows on the ground, a flying knee took out Weidman, and he obliterated Rockhold with his hands.

    There isn't a safe spot in the Octagon against Romero. He is a freak athlete with insane power.

    He returns to the cage on August 17 against another feared KO artist, Paulo Costa. Fans should be on pins and needles.

Derrick Lewis

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    "The Black Beast" Derrick Lewis is known for his Instagram and his knockouts. When he steps in the cage, don't expect him to be looking for takedowns. He wants to bang.

    Since his debut in 2014, the 34-year-old has 12 wins under his belt. Of those 12, 10 were by knockout.

    Some of his most memorable finishes include Travis Browne, Gabriel Gonzaga and Alexander Volkov. Part of what makes Lewis an incredible fighter to watch is that he never gives up and always goes for the win. The Volkov fight, where he was down on the scorecards but scored a last-second KO, is the prime example of that.

    The New Orleans native doesn't rest on his laurels or quit.

    Every strike by a heavyweight is damaging, but when Lewis hits an opponent it is different. When he connects, it changes a fight. Oftentimes it ends it outright.

    His personality and fighting style make him a fan favorite, and everyone is awaiting his next spectacular knockout.

Cody Garbrandt

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    Cody Garbrandt is on a three-fight losing skid after dropping his March 2 bout against Pedro Munhoz by knockout.

    The recent results aside, though, no one can deny he is one of the knockout kings of the UFC. It is what launched him into title contention in 2016.

    Before the one-sided decision against Dominick Cruz to win the bantamweight title at UFC 207, Garbrandt was an undefeated 10-0, with half of those wins coming under the UFC banner. Four of five were finished by knockout.

    The two that launched him into stardom and a title shot were unforgettable masterstrokes.

    In a battle of prospects, Garbrandt breezed through Thomas Almeida in under a round. He returned three months later to annihilate Takeya Mizugaki in just 48 seconds.

    His penchant for a slugfest and a knockout is what cost him against T.J. Dillashaw in their first fight and against Munhoz. He hurt Dillashaw and got overzealous. Against Munhoz, he got too wild and was caught. But it is that same style which helped him achieve the greatest of success.

    Reckless or not, Garbrandt is one of the most anticipated fighters to watch because of his unrelenting style. In the lighter weight classes, he is one of the few feared KO artists. It is a reputation well-earned, and one that will continue as he attempts to get back in the win column.

Amanda Nunes

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    "The Lioness" is the queen of her jungle and the greatest women's mixed martial artist ever.

    Amanda Nunes' run toward greatness has been fun to watch. As a young prospect, she made an immediate impression in her Strikeforce debut. She knocked out Julia Budd, now Bellator's featherweight champion, in 14 seconds.

    As she developed, she had mixed results, but her striking power and technique was still on display in wins over Sheila Gaff, Germaine de Randamie and Shayna Baszler.

    Nunes finally hit her stride and got a title shot against Miesha Tate. While she would win by submission, she battered Tate on the feet and on the mat. Tate was a bloody mess.

    The victory set up a meeting with a returning Ronda Rousey. It was there that Nunes finally got to show her brutal stand-up to a massive audience.

    In 48 seconds, she crushed Rousey. The former champion would never step foot inside the cage again.

    After two more title defenses, Nunes went up in weight to fight the most feared woman on the planet—Cris Cyborg. The general thought was Nunes would need to rely on her jiu-jitsu because Cyborg's striking was better and more dangerous.

    Instead, Nunes shut everyone up with a devastating 51-second knockout performance.

    Her next title defense will come against Holly Holm in July. It's an intriguing stylistic matchup against a more tactical striker, but don't count out "The Lioness" in the stand-up game. She has proved to be lethal against the very best.

Justin Gaethje

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    Justin Gaethje was a clear choice for a list of knockout artists in the UFC, which is amazing as he has only had five fights inside the Octagon. All fivethree wins and two losseshave ended via KO.

    The 30-year-old made a name for himself in World Series of Fighting. His wild style and knockouts finally earned him a spot in the UFC.

    He was immediately tossed into a main event against Michael Johnson. The wild two-round bout was a Fight of the Year contender in which Gaethje came back from being hurt to finish Johnson.

    After losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, Gaethje met James Vick. And Gaethje crushed Vick. In just 87 seconds, Gaethje launched an overhand right that knocked his opponent out clean.

    On March 30, Gaethje returned against one of the most feared strikers in the lightweight division, Edson Barboza. It wasn't the back-and-forth affair many expected. Instead, Gaethje's pressure and power finished the fight in 2:30 by KO.

    The Arizona native has a solid wrestling base, but he doesn't use it often. It is all about the knockout. And why not? He's great at it. He has an overall 20-2 record with 17 knockouts. It is an absurd ratio, and one that hasn't slowed since moving up in competition in the UFC.

    Gaethje isn't just a fun fighter who stands and exchanges. There is a high level of talent in those exchanges that allows him to connect and get the KO. It's not technical point-fighting, it's technical violence.

Yair Rodriguez

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    Are you looking for more than a puncher? More than a kicker? Do you want a knockout master who is unpredictable?

    You have found your man in Yair Rodriguez.

    The Mexican has a 7-1 UFC record with just three knockout finishes, but those finishes are spectacular. Spectacular to a degree that sets him apart from the field. The No. 7-ranked contender in the featherweight division has a wide-ranging striking arsenal that comes from all angles.

    Rodriguez's first KO inside the Octagon came against Andre Fili. It wasn't just a head kick, it was a flying head kick. He leaped forward and switched to a high kick that flattened his opponent. The second KO came against UFC Hall of Famer BJ Penn with a front kick.

    Neither were as spectacular than his 2018 Knockout of the Year winner over Chan Sung Jung.

    It was a closely contested five-round war that looked like it was going to the scorecards. But it didn't.

    In the absolute final second of the fight, in a wild exchange, Rodriguez nailed The Korean Zombie flush with a backward elbow. Jung faceplanted. There was that brief silence you only experience after seeing something astonishing before a massive eruption ripples through the crowd once the realization of what you just saw sinks in.

    Rodriguez's unpredictable style and variety in knockouts make him one of the UFC's very best.

Francis Ngannou

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    Forget style points, sometimes it just comes down to being the biggest, baddest, most terrifying knockout artist.

    That is exactly what Francis Ngannou is. His finishes are scary.

    Five of his first six UFC victories came by way of knockout. The last of those bouts, against Alistair Overeem, may be one of the most jaw-dropping, scary knockouts in company history. Ngannou's uppercut nearly put Overeem's head into orbit. Overeem stiffened up on the mat for an extended period of time.

    The incredible KO earned Ngannou a title shot. He would fall short and then drop his next outing against Derrick Lewis as well. But those two decision losses helped him learn and grow.

    He returned against Curtis Blaydes. It was the second meeting, but the same result: a TKO victory.

    Ngannou would then stand opposite Cain Velasquez. The former UFC champion looked to be in outstanding shape. But no matter what kind of shape you are in, once you get hit by Ngannou your entire existence as a human comes into question. In 26 seconds, Velasquez was saved from a bludgeoning.

    Ngannou will return on Saturday for a meeting with another former champion, Junior dos Santos. He'll be tested again, but if he lands cleanly, it will probably be the end of the fight. He has life-altering punches.

    Ngannou's frightening presence and power makes him the UFC's knockout king.