Submissions may be an increasingly rare breed, but knockouts never go out of style, and even this mess of a year churned out some biffings for the ages. Mind the blood spatter as we dive into 2020’s “Knockouts of the Year.”
5. Gone in 20 Seconds (UFC 249)
There was nothing particularly technical about this finish, but it was awe-inspiring in its potent crudeness.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik has over 80 kickboxing bouts and an MMA win over Alistair Overeem under his belt. He is among the most seasoned strikers the UFC Heavyweight division has ever seen. Francis Ngannou knocked him out cold with the ugliest, least-efficient arm punch imaginable.
That’s a feat that deserves recognition.
4. Cody Garbrandt’s Back(?) (UFC 250)
Cody Garbrandt may be a walking disaster whose talent for self-sabotage borders on superhuman, but he still hits really f*cking hard.
On paper, the savvy, counter-focused Raphael Assuncao looked like a nightmare matchup for Garbrandt, who’d spectacularly imploded in all three of his most recent efforts. Surprisingly, it was “No Love” doing the frustrating, using his speed and footwork to keep Assuncao from ever getting comfortable. Late in the second round, Assuncao tried to play the aggressor, which resulted in one of the most “oh sh*t” one-punch knockouts in recent memory.
It really is easy to forget how scary Garbrandt can be when his head’s on straight.
3. “The Cannibal” Eats Up Askham (KSW 55)
There was a time when Mamed Khalidov was arguably the world’s top Middleweight outside the UFC or Bellator. He ruled the European scene with an iron fist from 2010 to 2017, finishing the vast majority of his victims along the way. Then came consecutive losses to KSW Light Heavyweight champion Tomasz Narkun in catchweight bouts, followed by a loss to surging UFC veteran Scott Askham.
England’s Askham, unbeaten since his 2017 exit from the world’s largest fight promotion, entered their rematch with the KSW Middleweight belt around his waist and quite a bit of love from the bookies. Despite turning 40 just three months prior, Khalidov proved he still had something left in the tank by leveling his much taller foe with a flying switch kick.
It was vintage Khalidov, and I for one am grateful he managed to turn back the clock.
2. “Trail Blazer” Makes it 5-0 (UFC 256)
In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Holland brought up Niko Price’s hammer fist knockout of Randy Brown as a point of comparison. That’s not terribly accurate because what Price did was pin Brown’s head in place with his foot before bashing him, preventing him from doing anything to mitigate the impact. It’s the same trick Mamed Khalidov used to destroy Jorge Santiago more than a decade ago.
No, what Holland did was way crazier.
The prone “Trail Blazer” — who stands 6’4” and boasts a frankly unfair 81-inch reach — rocked to one side and then swung back in the other direction as he punched, somehow generating enough force to knock “Jacare” Souza 50 percent unconscious. He then scrambled to his feet, punching all the while, and folded the Brazilian legend like a scene out of “Ip Man.”
Holland was once arguably a sideshow. Now he’s a threat.
1. Joaquin Buckley, King of Iron Fist (UFC Fight Island 5)
Be honest: did you even need to see the thumbnail to know what took top honors?
Impa Kasanganay had all the momentum when he agreed to lock horns with Joaquin Buckley. “Tshilobo” earned a spot in the Octagon with two dominant wins on “Contender Series,” then debuted with a quality win over Maki Pitolo. Buckley, on the other hand, was thoroughly schooled and ultimately crushed by Kevin Holland in his inaugural Octagon appearance.
“New Mansa” certainly didn’t fight like an underdog, though, constantly forcing the issue with his trademark bursts of violence. Partway through the second, Kasanganay caught a body kick and seemed to take a moment to plan his next move, transferring Buckley’s trapped foot to his other hand in the process. Buckley responded by unleashing a spinning back kick straight out of Tekken that landed flush on Kasanganay’s unprotected face.
I distinctly remember watching the impact, seeing Kasanganay remain standing, and asking myself if he was alright. Then he teetered backwards like a felled tree.
Whether or not he ever touches a title, Joaquin Buckley carved out a spot in UFC history that won’t soon be forgotten. That’s more than enough to land him the #1 spot on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Sean O’Malley (right cross) Eddie Wineland, Beneil Dariush (spinning back fist) Scott Holtzman, Cory Sandhagen (wheel kick and punches) Marlon Moraes, Calvin Kattar (elbows and punches) Jeremy Stephens, Francisco Trinaldo (punches) Jai Herbert
What Was The Best UFC / MMA Knockout Of 2020?
This poll is closed
Francis Ngannou’s Love Tap
Cody Garbrandt’s Death Punch
Mamed Khalidov’s Flying Switch Kick
Kevin Holland’s KO From His Back
Joaquin Buckley’s Spinning Back Kick
Other (Explain in comments section below)