Spectacular knockouts are part of what has made mixed martial arts one of the fastest growing sports of the decade. In MMA, knockouts can occur with fists, elbows, knees and kicks. Fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championship have had a front-row seat to KOs of all varieties.
Few, though, garnered as much attention as Gabriel Gonzaga's knockout of highly touted Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic at UFC 70 in Manchester, England. Filipovic was a highly touted star who had joined the UFC after a long and successful stint in the PRIDE Fighting Championship.
He had a reputation as one of the game's best strikers, but his kicks were particularly lethal. He quickly became known for an unusual quote when, discussing the power of his kicks prior to his first UFC bout at UFC 67, "Right leg, hospital. Left leg, cemetery."
Gonzaga was a large and athletic man who had great submission skills, but he wasn't expected to defeat Filipovic. A Filipovic win would have set up a match with then-heavyweight champion Randy Couture.
Gonzaga, though, had a little surprise. In the closing seconds of the first round, a round he was clearly winning, it was Gonzaga, not Filipovic, who unleashed a mighty head kick.
The knockout was chosen as the best in UFC history by the Yahoo! Sports MMA staff and changed the course of UFC history.
List compiled by Kevin Iole, Dave Meltzer, and Dave Doyle. Only numbered major UFC events were considered for this list. Thus, Ultimate Fight Night and Ultmate Fighter Finale events were not considered.
1. Gabriel Gonzaga KO1 Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, UFC 70, Manchester, England, April 21, 2007: Filipovic was heavily favored to win the bout, which was broadcast live in the U.S. on Spike TV. Couture was at ringside, prepared to climb into the cage after the presumed Filipovic victory, to set up the title shot. But with about 15 seconds left in the round, Gonzaga unloaded a kick to the head that landed flush about Filipovic's ear. The one-time Croatian parliament member tumbled down, his leg bent awkwardly, as referee Herb Dean dove in to save him.
2. Rashad Evans KO2 Chuck Liddell, UFC 88, Atlanta, Sept. 6, 2008: Liddell entered the bout as the UFC's biggest attraction, based largely on the power in his fists. He entered the fight in something of a must-win situation, having lost two of his previous three. Evans was known primarily as a wrestler, but he showed superb punching power when he connected with an overhand right in the second round. Liddell was going to throw a lazy punch that Evans went over the top of and Liddell was down and immediately out.
3. Tank Abbott KO1 John Matua, UFC 6, Casper, Wyo., July 14, 1995: Abbott and Matua were each making their UFC debuts. Abbott had a huge beer belly while Matua was announced as over 400 pounds. Whatever size advantage Matua had mattered little, though. Abbott connected with a right early that decked the Samoan. Matua rose, only to be hit with a right so hard it knocked him out and sent him into convulsions. Matua was on the mat for more than four minutes. Watching a replay of the knockout, Abbott said it got him sexually aroused.
4. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson KO1 Wanderlei Silva, UFC 92, Las Vegas, Dec. 27, 2008: Jackson and Silva had developed a fierce rivalry from their fighting days in Japan, when Silva twice scored knockouts of Jackson. Jackson desperately wanted revenge and the two exchanged harsh words frequently in the days before the bout. Silva has always thrown wide punches and Jackson took advantage of the flaw, ripping the popular Brazilian on the butt of the chin with a thudding left hook. Silva was out before he hit the canvas. Jackson jumped in and delivered some punishment on the ground, battling to get around referee Yves Lavigne to do so. He later apologized for that, but the win went down as perhaps the most spectacular KO of his long career.
5. (tie) Pete Williams KO1 Mark Coleman, UFC 17, Mobile, Ala., May 15, 1998: Mark Coleman was supposed to face Randy Couture, but Couture had to withdraw because of injury. He was then heavily favored to defeat Pete Williams, but he was in for a shock. Coleman, returning after an injury suffered at UFC 14, was exhausted about 10 minutes into the bout. Williams caught him with a kick to the face at 12:38 and knocked him out cold.
5. (tie) Tim Sylvia KO1 Tra Telligman, UFC 54, Las Vegas, Aug. 2005: The hulking Sylvia was looking to rebound after having lost his heavyweight championship to Andrei Arlovski six months earlier. Sylvia had a six-inch height advantage, but was cut early in the round. As the final seconds of the first were ticking off, Sylvia landed an inside leg kick, which backed Telligman toward the cage. The 6-foot-8 Sylvia then unleashed the most spectacular move of his career, kicking Telligman on the side of his head with a left kick. The kick landed right at the bell and referee Mario Yamasaki immediately stopped the bout.
Honorable mention: Jackson over Liddell, UFC 71; Nick Diaz over Robbie Lawler, UFC 47; Houston Alexander over Keith Jardine, UFC 71; Yves Edwards over Josh Thomson, UFC 49; Pedro Rizzo over Josh Barnett, UFC 30.
- Gabriel Gonzaga