1 – Lando Vannata–John Makdessi
The best part of Lando Vannata’s spinning wheel kick knockout of John Makdessi was the almost nonchalant low kick “Groovy Lando” threw before walking Makdessi into the finisher. The Canadian was done as soon as the kick crashed into his chin, with Vannata knowing that he didn’t need to follow it up with anything else. Walk off KO + Head kick KO + Spinning = Your 2016 Knockout of the Year.
2 – Anthony Johnson–Glover Teixeira
Anyone who has witnessed Anthony Johnson’s striking handiwork knows that “Rumble” has scary power. But he took it to an entirely new level when he knocked out steel-chinned Glover Teixeira with a single uppercut in 13 seconds in August. For context, in 14 years as a pro, Teixeira had only been stopped once – in his first fight in 2002. In this sport, there’s hitting hard and then there’s Rumble. No debate necessary.
3 – Diego Rivas– Noad Lahat
If you’ve followed these lists for any number of years, you’ll know that when picking the best knockouts, sound can often be a deciding factor. And you could most certainly hear the flush Diego Rivas knee that landed on the jaw of Noah Lahat in February. Add in the picture-perfect technique, and there’s no question that this was ending up in the top five for 2016.
4 – Yair Rodriguez–Andre Fili
You can’t blame Andre Fili for not seeing the kick that ended his prospect vs. prospect battle against Yair Rodriguez. It was so sudden that it took some deft DVR maneuvering to get the full scope of the knockout that looked like it was coming from Rodriguez’ right leg, only to see him switch in midair to his left for the finishing blow. A thing of beauty, indeed.
5 – Stipe Miocic–Fabricio Werdum
You know that a heavyweight has power when he can knock someone out with a single punch while moving backward, and that’s exactly what happened in the main event of UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil in May. Fabricio Werdum thought he was going to press Stipe Miocic, and he got a little wild in the process. Miocic made him pay in emphatic fashion with a flush right hand that dropped Werdum like he was shot. The follow-up from Miocic wasn’t even necessary. This fight was over, and the heavyweight division had a new world champion.
6 – Donald Cerrone–Matt Brown
Donald Cerrone could have made this list with his video game-esque finish of Rick Story, but “Cowboy” knocked himself off the list with his head kick knockout of Matt Brown. Simply put, Matt Brown is not a guy who gets finished like that, but Cerrone landed with a perfect kick at the perfect time, and that was a shot that was going to put the lights out of anyone at 170 pounds.
7 – Michael Bisping–Luke Rockhold
Once that first left hand landed and dropped Luke Rockhold, you could almost see Michael Bisping’s career flashing before his eyes as he rushed in, drilled Rockhold with another left and then finished him off with a barrage of strikes. For any of us who have covered Bisping’s UFC career since its start in 2006, it was almost as if we were living those final seconds with “The Count” as he won his first UFC championship.
8 – Tyron Woodley–Robbie Lawler
Tyron Woodley’s knockout of Robbie Lawler for the UFC welterweight title goes into the same category as the KOs scored by Anthony Johnson and Donald Cerrone on this list because guys like Lawler just don’t get finished the way Woodley did it. But if you know the body of work of “The Chosen One,” you’ll know that he has fight-ending power in both hands, and when it mattered most, he used it to become a world champion.
9 – Dan Henderson–Hector Lombard
Most expected June’s Dan Henderson-Hector Lombard bout to be the swan song for “Hendo,” and the veteran great even hinted at retirement in the days leading up to UFC 199. But oh, what an emphatic knockout can do for one’s career prospects, and Henderson delivered one of his best against the Cuban standout, clearing room for a world title shot.
10 – Yoel Romero–Chris Weidman
Most fighters known as knockout artists see their power diminish over the course of three rounds. Not Yoel Romero. And in his UFC 205 fight against Chris Weidman, he brought it out seconds into the final round, with a flying knee dropping the former middleweight champion and leaving him bleeding until the end came moments later. When it comes to explosive power in every limb, few have it quite like Romero.