If there’s one thing that’s never in short supply in the UFC, it’s a wide array of spectacular knockouts. Of course, that makes this usually the toughest category to come up with a top ten list. But here is a Highly Unofficial selection of decisive finishes from 2010 that should find favor with even the pickiest MMA fan.
10 – Gomi Resurrects Career with KO of Griffin
Yes, we all know that former PRIDE lightweight champ Takanori Gomi packs dynamite in his gloves, but after an average 4-2 run in Japan after his 2007 no contest against Nick Diaz and a lackluster three round loss to Kenny Florian in his UFC debut earlier this year, fans wondered whether they would ever see Gomi in “Fireball Kid” form ever again. The answer? A knockout of Tyson Griffin, a fighter who UFC followers had never seen rocked, let alone stopped. But when a right hand to the head sent Griffin face first to the mat, Gomi’s star was on the rise again.
9 – Condit’s Quick Draw Ends The Night of “The Outlaw”
The pre-fight trash talk was heated, as it usually is in a Dan Hardy fight, and when the bell rang at the O2 Arena this past October, it was clear that neither Nottingham’s “Outlaw” or Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” Condit were going to be content with a three round decision win. These two welterweights were out for blood, and in the final minute of the opening round, both fighters looked to finish it with simultaneous left hooks. Condit’s got there a split second earlier, and it was lights out in London.
8 – Rich Franklin Halts the Comeback of Chuck Liddell
The main event of UFC 115 was one of those tough fights for diehard fans to watch, mainly because it pitted two longtime fan favorites against each other, making it nearly impossible to pick just one fighter to root for. But as long as it lasted, former champions Franklin and Liddell went to war, with Franklin battling through an arm broken by a Liddell kick to ice ‘The Iceman’ with a flush right hand late in the opening round.
7 – Cain Velasquez KO’s Minotauro Nogueira
It was a changing of the guard of sorts at UFC 110 in February, as unbeaten heavyweight contender Cain Velasquez defeated MMA legend ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira in the first round. What was truly impressive about the win was not just that Velasquez took out the durable former PRIDE and UFC champ in a single round, but that he did it with a crisp standup attack punctuated by a thudding three punch combination that was audible throughout Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.
6 – Harris’ Grand Slam
For over two rounds, the bout between middleweight prospects Gerald Harris and Dave Branch was nothing to write home about. But in the third, New York’s Branch tried to make something happen as he pulled guard in the hopes of sinking in a triangle choke. Harris, aware of the approaching danger, chose to pick Branch up over his head and slam him to the mat. Mission accomplished, as the “Hurricane” not only broke Branch’s grip, he knocked him out, earning a spot on ESPN’s highlight reels for much of the next week.
5 – Garza Announces Arrival with Frightening Finish of Paixao
It’s a move you will see at practically every UFC event, but rarely – if ever – does it score with such devastating results. Facing jiu-jitsu ace Fredson Paixao, UFC newcomer Pablo Garza did what many fighters do when their opponent shoots in for a takedown: he tried to catch Paixao with a knee. On this night in Vegas though, Garza landed flush with the knee as Paixao shot in, and the Brazilian was out as soon as he got hit. On the mat for a few scary minutes, Paixao eventually got up and made it out of the Octagon under his own power, but it was a stark reminder that yes, folks, this is a contact sport.
4 – Mike Russow Stuns Todd Duffee
It wasn’t a seven second blitz like he scored in his UFC debut against Tim Hague last year, but Todd Duffee was on his way to another Octagon victory when he took on Mike Russow at UFC 114 in May. But nothing’s guaranteed in this game until the fight is over, and Duffee learned that lesson the hard way, as Russow pulled out a right hand from nowhere in the final round that starched Duffee at the 2:35 mark, stunning all in attendance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
3 – Penn Goes Uno on Hughes
BJ Penn’s 11 second knockout of Caol Uno in their first bout in 2001 was a seminal moment in the career of “The Prodigy”. And while he went on to two world championships and great things in the years past, you wondered if you would ever see that fiery Hawaiian kid again. In November, he showed up in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and in just 21 seconds he concluded his trilogy with Matt Hughes in a fashion no one expected. Penn even capped off the win with a run out of the cage, much as he did when he defeated Uno nine years ago. It was a rebirth for Penn, and a sight to see for everyone who had followed the ups and downs of his storied Octagon stint.
2 – Shogun Rua gets his Title with Finish of Lyoto Machida
The oft-repeated mantra in combat sports is ‘don’t leave it up to the judges.’ Well, after a controversial five round loss in his first title bout against Lyoto Machida in October of 2009, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua took those words to heart at UFC 113 in May and separated ‘The Dragon’ from his championship belt and the ranks of the unbeaten with a first round right hand followed by a furious barrage of ground strikes.
1 – And New…Velasquez dethrones Lesnar
When it comes to aesthetics, Velasquez’ KO of Nogueira was more notable, but when we’re talking about impact – both now and for the UFC history books – there was no more meaningful knockout this year than Velasquez’ finish of Brock Lesnar to win the UFC heavyweight title. Following Lesnar’s come from behind win over Shane Carwin, the talk was that if the unbeaten Velasquez got the big man from Minnesota in similar trouble, he would have the gas tank to finish it. And that’s just what Velasquez did, fighting off an early assault from Lesnar to hurt the champion and then finish him off at 4:12 of the opening round. It was a stunner to casual fans, but to those who had followed Velasquez’ career and heard insiders speak glowingly of him for years, it was just a coronation waiting to happen. Next up for the new champ is a 2011 title defense against Brazilian KO king Junior dos Santos in a bout that may wind up on next year’s best knockouts list, regardless of the man whose hand is raised when it’s over.
Honorable Mention: Stefan Struve-Christian Morecraft, Junior Dos Santos-Gilbert Yvel, Frank Mir-Mirko Cro Cop, Paul Daley-Dustin Hazelett, John Howard-Daniel Roberts, Jon Jones-Brandon Vera, Matt Serra-Frank Trigg, Edson Barboza-Mike Lullo