Let's be honest here, you knew this was going to be No. 1 the first time you watched it. Countless factors go into a great knockout, whether it's the significance of a top-level win, shock value of an upset no one could have anticipated, or even brutality caught on tape in its most visceral form. But the classic measuring stick may be the truest -- the number of milliseconds it takes a room full of grown adults to completely lose themselves like they were eight years old again.
Given that logic, Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim may have actually been the Knockout of the Decade. Chances are, we can all remember where we were when it happened. With a euphoric Brazilian crowd reveling at their backs, Barboza and Etim opened the UFC 142 pay-per-view like men on fire.
Thirteen minutes later, with the pace slowed and Etim desperately down on the scorecards, the Englishman shrugged off a kick to his thigh and charged forward into the unfortunate arms of history.
Employing unnatural grace, the 25-year-old Barboza whirled his body a full 360-degrees and planted a heel right into Etim's jaw, instantly freezing his opponent's body in a frightening semi-defensive stance. His frame locked, Etim slowly crashed to the mat like a tumbling redwood during logging season.
Most men would admire their handiwork, but Barboza just turned his back, wandering away before Dan Miragliotta could even stop the fight. The Brazilian then kneeled in the center of Octagon, swallowed under a white noise tsunami from his adoring countrymen, while his opponent laid motionless only feet away, the first victim of a spinning wheel kick knockout in UFC history and an unfortunate mainstay on highlight reels for decades to come.
2. Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes, UFC 142
Jose Aldo entered the UFC as a pre-lionized man sporting a reputation for supremely ferocious finishes. Two unassuming decision title defenses later, many left were wondering if it was time for "Scarface" to put an end to his massive weight cut and move up to the lightweight division. But then Chad Mendes came along, and UFC audiences finally got their first real glimpse of the thunder under Aldo's command.
An exhaustively decorated wrestler, Mendes was supposed to be a different kind of test for the featherweight champion. He was, of course, until Aldo effortlessly shrugged off the first takedown attempt. And then the second. And the third. Shot after shot failed, the desperation ratcheting up with each floundering attempt, until a seemingly miraculous level-change gave Mendes a chance. "Money" snatched Aldo's back, thrust him against the fence, and struggled in vain to slam the champion to the mat. With the crack of the ten-second clacker ringing through air, Aldo fought off a last-ditch heave, pried his opponent's hands away, snatched his right wrist and swirled around with a special delivery knee that demolished the brow of a ducking Mendes. Aldo quickly finished off his work and then broke every rule in the book, bolting out of the Octagon and straight into a swarm of his Brazilian brethren, in what may be the most memorable celebration in UFC history.
If this was a list of the most purely violent performances of the year, Pat Curran's horror movie of a third round would easily take the gold. With 28 seconds of sheer savagery, Curran dumped roughly 39 unanswered punches, kicks, elbows, and knees onto the widely despised mug of Joe Warren, as referee Jeff Malott idly stood by and yelled for "The Baddest Man on the Planet" to fight back.
When Malott finally mercifully jumped in to stop the assault, Warren looked like he was already on a space adventure to Jupiter. Curran and even Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney were later reproachful of the dangerous line Malott toed, but as it stands, the ensuing highlight package will always be among the most brutally entertaining we'll ever see in this sport.
When Nick Denis strolled out to the sultry sounds of Justice for his UFC debut, an unheralded bantamweight tucked away on the FUEL TV prelims, not even he could have anticipated quite how well things would go. Just 22 seconds in, the affectionately nicknamed "Ninja of Love" swiped a Thai clinch and unloaded not one, not two, not three, but four standing elbows straight to the temple of his abruptly unconscious opponent. By the time the fifth one hit the palm of Denis' hand, Sandoval had dropped like a stack of bricks, and Kenny Florian was beside himself ringside shouting, "I can't remember the last time we've seen that!" Not bad for a debut to the big show.
Please enter this as Evidence No. 1 of why fighters should go for broke when they're down two-rounds-to-none entering the third. After being thoroughly outclassed for ten straight minutes by an opponent no one expected him to defeat, a battered and bruised Tim Boetsch trudged back to his corner, where he was met by Matt Hume.
"Once you catch him, you can finish him," Hume implored. "You've just got to be super aggressive this round, Tim." And he was. "The Barbarian" answered the bell in full-scale beast mode, sending Okami reeling with a right hand-head kick combination, before prying him off the cage and uncorking a monstrous uppercut that nearly gave Joe Rogan an aneurysm on live television. Boetsch swarmed and that was it. Rogan eventually apologized to the stunned viewers at home, admitting, "I might have got a little crazy there folks," but that in of itself is enough to secure Boetsch a spot on any knockout list until the end of time.
Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon, UFC 144
Lavar Johnson vs. Joey Beltran, UFC on FOX 2
Michael Page vs. Ben Dishman, UCMMA 26 (Video)
Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo, UFC 144