Knockouts are one of the most entertaining aspects of mixed martial arts. They often come out of nowhere, one minute, you’re watching an entertaining fight, and a fighter lays unconscious on the ground in the blink of an eye.
Head kicks are arguably the easiest way to knock someone out. Your legs are a lot stronger than your arms since they hold up your weight all day, so kicks deliver significantly more power than punches. There’s a caveat though, throwing kicks also uses up more energy than throwing a punch.
Ten best head kick knockouts in MMA history
Let’s take a look at some of the most fantastic head kick finishes in MMA history and break down any lessons that can be learned from them.
1) Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Hughes II
Hughes handed GSP his first loss as a professional MMA fighter the first time the two shared a cage. GSP blames that outcome on being star-struck when he faced Hughes, one of the most dominant champions in the history of the UFC’s welterweight division.
However, GSP avenged the loss to Hughes when the two men collided for a second time at UFC 50. He impressively shook off a few takedowns attempts before landing a perfect switch kick on Hughes’ head. He followed up with some academic shots, becoming the first Canadian UFC champion and earning the Knockout of the Night award.
2) Aung La N Sang vs. Alexandre Machado
Aung La displayed his impressive power during his ONE Championship title scrap against Machado for the vacant light-heavyweight title. He dominated the action early on by setting the pace with his jab; then, he unleashed a vicious head kick.
Machado managed to get his arm up in time to block the strike, but that wasn’t enough to stop him from getting dropped. N Sang followed up with some ground and pound before the referee stepped in to save Machado 56 seconds into the contest.
3) Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort
Vitor Belfort has his share of impressive knockouts under his belt, but he ended up on the wrong side of a head kick during his UFC 126 bout against Anderson Silva. MMA fans were hoping for an epic showdown between the two legends, but Silva closed the show early with a picture-perfect front kick to Belfort’s face. The kick earned Silva Knockout of the Night honors, and the moment eventually became the cover photo for the UFC 3 Undisputed game.
4) Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim
Barboza is one of the most underrated fighters in MMA, despite the fact he’s one of the best kickboxers to ever step inside a cage. His impressive knockout finish of Etim showcases why hardcore MMA fans hold Barboza in such high regard.
Two minutes into their UFC 142 fight, Barboza unleashed one of the cleanest spinning heel kicks ever landed in MMA history. It was laser fast, and Etim didn’t even have a chance to react to the strike. It landed clean, sending Etim to the canvas. The fight earned Barboza Knockout of the Night, Fight of the Night, and Knockout of the Year honors. Yeah, the kick was that good.
5) Brandon Vera vs. Paul Cheng
These two collided at ONE: Spirit of Champions for the promotion’s inaugural heavyweight belt. It took Vera only 26 seconds to secure the victory.
Cheng came out aggressively, and Vera countered a lunging right cross with a short left hook that sent Cheng to the canvas. Vera then timed a high kick that landed as Cheng tried to make his way back to his feet. He was sent back to the canvas for his troubles, and Vera followed up with some ground strikes to end the contest.
6) Uriah Hall vs. Adam Cella
Uriah Hall might not have lived up to the hype around him during the finale of the 17th installment of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV series. Nonetheless, Hall was the most feared striker on that season’s roster of middleweights, and Cella might have let that get into his head.
Cella was never able to mount much of an offense during the contest, and Hall landed a devastating wheel kick to Cella’s face that left the arena as quiet as a library. For a moment, everyone was concerned about Cella’s safety due to how hard the kick landed.
7) Mirko Cro Cop vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
Gonzaga’s head kick finish of Cro Cop might not be the most technically sound kick ever thrown, but it did blow everyone’s mind away, given who threw the kick and who it landed on. A decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, many expected Gonzaga to employ a grappling-heavy gameplan.
Instead, the Brazilian decided to beat Cro Cop at his own game, sending him to the canvas with a head kick. Ironically, Cro Cop was the one who was known for head kicks, and many were expecting him to finish Gonzaga with the technique.
8) Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture
Machida has racked up a decent amount of head kick finishes over the years, but his front kick finish of Couture was the most remarkable. Some would even say his front kick finish was more impressive than his training partner, Anderson Silva’s front kick finish of Vitor Belfort.
While Silva landed a standing front kick, Machida took things a step further, landing a jumping front kick, karate-kid style.
9) Joshua Pacio vs. Yosuke Saruta II
When Joshua Pacio and Yosuke Saruta met for the first time, it was Saruta who got his hands raised at the end of 5 grueling rounds via a split decision, earning him the ONE Strawweight World Title.
However, when the pair met again 3 months later, there were no doubts about the victor. Instead of leaving it to the judges this time, Pacio took matters into his own hands (legs actually) and finished Saruta with a beautifully timed head kick in the fourth round. With this win, Pacio avenged his first loss and reclaimed the belt from the same man that took it away from him.
10) Yves Edwards vs. Josh Thomson
Both men had their moments during their UFC 49 encounter, but it was Edwards who ended up scoring what is arguably the most impressive head kick finish in MMA history. Edwards worked his way to standing back control late in the first round and used it to throw Thomson to the ground. He maintained control as Thomson worked his way back to his feet and unleashed a head kick from behind. It was a beautiful technique that hadn’t been seen before in MMA until that point.
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