Every sport has a “wow” moment that catches the attention of every spectator hidden within its overall gameplay. In football it’s a long touchdown or vicious hit; in baseball it’s a home run or diving catch; in basketball it’s undoubtedly the dunk (although the crossover and long range three have been creeping up the list). MMA has its “wow” moment as well; it’s called the knockout. Although it is a little different from the other sports, it is more definitive. When any of the other sports I mentioned has a “wow” moment, the game usually continues. In MMA, we get a knockout, and the fight is over.
With that in mind, I’m going to rank the top five knockouts of the first three months of 2019. There were 33 total KOs/TKOs, 24 TKOs and 9 KOs. I will rank these with a completely objective (not) and scientific (also a no) reasoning. This list will be absolute fact and not debatable (not true). The criteria I use to rank these KOs are as follows:
- How big was the fight – up to 5 points. This unscientific data set will include such items as, is it a main event? Was this fight for a potential title fight? Was this fight an actual title fight?
- Is there a personal aspect – up to 5 points. This data set includes items such as, do these fighters have beef? Did the winning fighter go into the backyard of the losing fighter and knock him out?
- True KO or TKO – up to 2 points. This one is the easiest: did the fighter go to sleep immediately, or did the ref step in because the fighter couldn’t defend himself intelligently?
- Style & Excitement – up to 5 points. How flashy was the KO? How boring was it? Did it make you jump up and scream? Did it make you jump up and scream the second time you watched it?
- Was it an upset – up to 2 points. Pretty self-explanatory.
- Hail Mary factor – up to 1 point. Did the winning fighter need a KO to win the fight?
- Is the felled fighter chinny – up to 2 points. Can you blow a kiss at the fighter and he gets knocked out, or is he notorious for having a chin of granite?
I’m confident this criteria will show, without a shadow of a doubt, what knockouts rose to the top and deserve to be in the top 5 for the first quarter of 2019.
Starting from the bottom, the fifth-best knockout of the past three months is actually a double showing from one fighter; Johnny Walker (not to be confused with Johnnie Walker). This man had not one but two huge knockouts; on top of that, he had both within a 28-day period (Feb. 2 – March 2). To garner even one knockout at this level is a huge accomplishment, but to do it twice with style and against increasingly more difficult competition deserves recognition.
The first KO came at UFC Fight Night: Assunção vs Moraes 2 where he knocked out Houston’s own Justin Ledet via spinning back fist. This fight earned 12 points (2+2+1+3+2+0+2). The fight was on the undercard; it had no personal aspect; it was a TKO; it earned a 3 for excitement due to the spinning factor; it was an upset; it was not a Hail Mary; and this was Justin Ledet’s first KO loss in 12 professional fights.
The second KO came at UFC 235: Jones vs Smith where he knocked out Misha Cirkunov with a flying knee. This fight earned 11 points (3+2+1+3+1+0+1). The fight was on the undercard; it had no personal aspect; it was a TKO; it scored a 3 for excitement due to a flying knee; it was not an upset, it was not a Hail Mary; and Circunov is not known for his strong chin, as he had been knocked out in two of his 18 previous fights.
The fourth-best knockout of the first three months of 2019 has to go to Justin Gaethje knocking out Edson Barboza. This had the makings of a brawl, and for the entire two minutes and thirty seconds, that’s exactly what fans got. The end came when Gaethje backed a hurt Barboza to the fence; as Barboza circled the wrong way (into Gaethje’s power), Gaethje unloaded a huge hook that landed flush on Barboza’s chin and put him to sleep. This knockout out earned 13 points (3+2+2+3+2+0+1). The fight was a big fight, as it was the second foray onto ESPN for the UFC; there were not many personal issues going on before the fight; it was a “go to sleep” knockout; it was exciting due to the brawl immediately preceding the knockout; it was an upset, as Barboza was ranked higher and was also the betting favorite; it was not a Hail Mary; and Barboza is somewhat chinny, having been knocked out two fights before this one.
If you haven’t seen the knockout, do yourself a favor and watch this entire fight; it is worth your two minutes and thirty seconds.
Numero tres on the list goes to a devastating, come-from-behind knockout of Darren Till by Jorge Masvidal. This fight earned 16 points on the bulletproof ranking system (4+3+2+4+2+0+1). This fight was big, as it was held at the 02 Arena in London, where there have only been 11 total fight cards. It was in Darren Till’s backyard, as he was born in Liverpool. Till definitely[RFO2] went to sleep; it was very exciting, as the crowd was raucous, and no one expected this type of finish. It was an upset, but it was not a Hail Mary, as Masvidal had been piecing Till up for the majority of the fight. Till is somewhat chinny, considering that his last loss came after being rocked by Tyron Woodley.
This is a must-watch fight in its entirety, because of the crowd’s reaction and the commentators’ surprise at how competitive the fight was.
The runner up is the beautiful, almost off-the-cage Superman punch knockout by Anthony Pettis over Stephen Thompson. The whole fight was a puzzle for Pettis, and he was taking a lot of damage while trying to figure it out. The end came at 4:55 seconds of the third round when Thompson backed Pettis to the cage; that’s when Pettis unleashed the Superman punch technique that landed flush against Thompson’s chin and put his lights out. The knockout earned all of its 17 points (3+2+2+5+2+1+2). It was a main event in Nashville; there was no personal beef in this matchup; Thompson was out cold; it was super-exciting with the Superman punch at the end of the round when no one was expecting it; it was an upset; it was a Hail Mary, as Pettis was getting dominated the entire fight; and Thompson had a granite chin up until this fight, and had never been knocked out.
Another must-watch, as Pettis added to his highlight reel by knocking out someone who had never been knocked out.
The best knockout of the first quarter goes to the huge main event that kicked off 2019, and that is Henry Cejudo knocking out TJ Dillashaw. This knockout earned the most points at 18, due to maxing out several categories (5+5+1+4+2+0+1). It was a huge fight, because it was two champions in separate divisions facing off for a title, it was the kickoff to 2019, and the kickoff to the new ESPN partnership for the UFC. There was personal beef attached to this fight, as TJ was disrespecting Cejudo by dropping down in weight and trying to become a double champion at Cejudo’s expense. To add to the beef, TJ tested positive for steroids after the fact, and Cejudo was not happy about that. TJ was not knocked out completely, but the initial shot and the ending sequence were devastating nonetheless. There is controversy surrounding the stoppage on TJ’s part, but it was a deserved TKO. The finish was very exciting, because it was one champion knocking out another champion within 30 seconds of the opening bell. This knockout was also an upset; it was not a Hail Mary; and TJ had only been knocked out once, more than seven years ago.
There you have it, the top five KOs of the first three months of 2019. Go back and watch all of them if you haven’t seen them. We get to see what the second quarter of 2019 has to offer starting on April 13 with UFC 236: Holloway vs Poirier 2, with more potential knockouts on the card.
Honorable Mentions: Emmett KO Johnson; Ngannou KO Velasquez; dos Santos TKO Lewis; Santos KO Blachowicz; Cerrone TKO Hernandez; Aldo TKO Moicano; Munhoz KO Garbrandt; Sanchez TKO Gall; Price KO Means; Barber TKO Aldrich.