One of the most iconic moves in MMA, the headkick is a thing of beauty if thrown by someone who knows what they are doing. This article will look at five of the greatest knockouts ever occurring in MMA, all via headkick.
5 Headkick Knockouts MMA Fans will Never Forget
Mirko Cro Cop vs Wanderlei Silva at Pride Final Conflict Absolute
What headkick list could be made without mentioning the man who became infamous for them? Mirko Filipovic, known by his ring name Mirko Cro Cop, is one of the most iconic practitioners of the head kick and among the first to truly utilize it to its full effectiveness. Cro Cop’s left high kick was feared by fighters around the world, with the quote “right leg hospital, left leg cemetery,” accurately describing how the MMA community saw the kicks of the Croatian. Cro Cop’s head kick prowess is perhaps best highlighted in his fight with Wanderlei Silva.
Silva himself was one of the most feared fighters in the world with the nickname “The Axe Murderer” leaving no one to doubt the fear factor possessed by the Brazilian. The two had previously fought to a draw at Pride 20. With both establishing themselves as two of the best in the world, the much-anticipated rematch was set to occur at Pride Final Conflict Absolute on September 10th, 2006. Cro Cop would finish Silva with a trademark left high kick just over five minutes into the fight, knocking out the Brazilian cold for the first time in his 35-fight career.
Perhaps even more impressively, Cro Cop would win the open weight tournament that night, beating Josh Barnett via KO later in the evening.
Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort at UFC 126
A front kick would have to make its way onto this list. While Michael Chandler’s spectacular knockout win over Tony Ferguson was undoubtedly considered, we had to hand it to Anderson Silva’s iconic frontkick victory over Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 in 2011.
On the biggest stage of them all, Anderson Silva squared off against Belfort, defending his UFC Middleweight championship. Belfort had established himself as a genuine threat to Silva heading into the fight, establishing himself as one of the top guys in the world fighting across various promotions worldwide. A first-round TKO victory over the man from whom Silva had won the belt, Rich Franklin, was enough to convince fans and even some pundits that Belfort was more than a credible threat to the dominance of “The Spider.”
Ultimately, this would not be the case, as with only three minutes into the first round, Silva would throw a front kick seemingly from nowhere, which clipped Belfort on the chin and sent him sprawling to the ground. Accompanied by the iconic commentary from Joe Rogan, “He just kicked him in the face!!” The moment would become among the most iconic in UFC history and would win knockout of the year award from major media publications such as ESPN and the World MMA Awards.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson vs Dan Stittgen at UFC 143
Wonderboy had to be on this list somewhere, yet most people would likely expect his iconic spinning wheel kick against Jake Ellenberger to feature at some point. While it is undoubtedly worthy of a spot on the list itself, I have opted for a lesser-known yet equally impressive finish from Wonderboy, made in his UFC debut in 2012.
Relatively unknown to the majority of UFC fans, Thompson would face off against Dan Stittgen in a battle of two newly signed welterweights looking to make a name for themselves on the roster of the premiere organization in the world. Stittgen was 7-1 at the time and had found much success on the American regional circuit. Yet he had never come up against anyone remotely as skilled on the feet as “Wonderboy” Thompson, and in the first round, he was hit with one of the cleanest head kicks you will ever see in all of MMA. He seamlessly threw the kick at the end of a combination, catching Stittgen cleanly on the skull.
Stittgen went down like a sack of potatoes, and the fight would grant Wonderboy a “knockout of the night” award in his first-ever appearance in the UFC, truly setting the stage for what would be an incredibly stellar career at 170 lbs and allowing him the platform to become one of the most well-liked fighters in the organization.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 70
2007 was the year Mirko Cro Cop was set to America by storm, finally signing with the UFC after a long career overseas where he had established himself as one of the world’s best. A stellar performance in his first outing with the UFC saw him pick up a 1st round victory via TKO over Eddie Sanchez, and fans were expecting him to emulate this performance when he was matched up with Gabriel Gonzaga. Gonzaga was still relatively early in his career, with only eight fights.
With a background in grappling, no one thought that Gonzaga would be able to hang with Cro Cop for a moment on the feet, and despite his three-fight win streak at the time, many wrote him off as nothing but a stepping stone while Cro Cop made his way to a shot at the UFC Heavyweight championship. However, This was not the case, and in one of the most shocking upsets in UFC history, Gonzaga would defeat Cro Cop via first-round knockout.. with a head kick.
Using the Croatian’s signature move against him, Gonzaga delivered a knockout that was heard across the world and was labeled 2007’s Knockout of the Year; it has since gone down as one of the most replayed and circulated in UFC’s history and is 100% deserving of a spot on this list.
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman at UFC 278
Come on. You knew it had to be on here somewhere. In what could quickly become the most iconic knockout in championship history, Leon Edward’s headkick against Kamaru Usman has to be on this list for several reasons.
First of all, the sheer brutality of it. Any strike that lands an opponent completely unconscious in MMA needing no follow-up shots is going to look incredibly impactful compared to a regular finish, and this has brutality in spades. The way Usman’s body drops after the kick, almost lifeless, is as chilling as it was mesmerizing. The main thing that elevates this knockout to one of the greatest of all time, though, is the story around it. Edwards, for years, had been seen as the dark horse of the Welterweight division, seemingly destined never to get a title shot despite constantly picking up wins. Forever being overshadowed by louder, brasher fighters such as Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. Finally, he was given his opportunity, and he certainly took it.
Usman’s status also elevates this KO. Considered the greatest welterweight of all time alongside GSP and a pound-for-pound #1 at the time, Kamaru Usman consistently dominated all challengers in the Welterweight division and appeared unbeatable. After out-wrestling Edwards for all four rounds going into the fifth, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the champion would cruise to a unanimous decision victory. Of course, this would not happen, and it was indeed a shock to see a winner seemingly as invincible as Usman be laid out on the canvas, knocked out cold.
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