It’s always the toughest category to whittle down to just five picks, but it’s also the most enjoyable to work with, as watching these finishes over and over just never gets old. Here are this scribe’s top five knockouts of 2014 thus far. Let the debates begin…
5 – Dan Henderson – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua II
It wasn’t a repeat of their first meeting over two years ago in terms of a sustained 25 minutes of action, but on March 23 at the sweltering Ginasio Nelio Dias in Natal, Brazil, veteran MMA superstars Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua added another worthy chapter to their series, with “Hendo” emerging victorious once again, snapping a three-fight losing streak this time by way of a come from behind third round knockout that proved his “H-Bomb” of a right hand was still as destructive as ever.
4 – Abel Trujillo-Jamie Varner
Let’s not mince words here – until Abel Trujillo and Jamie Varner threw down for seven minutes and 32 seconds in the UFC 169 main card opener in February, that card was pretty bad. But these lightweights ignited the crowd at Prudential Center with an all-out slugfest in which both men took turns rocking each other until a single right hand by Trujillo put Varner down and out in the second round. This was great stuff capped off with a great finish.
3 – Roy Nelson-Minotauro Nogueira
As a longtime fan of Minotauro Nogueira, this one wasn’t easy to watch, but it was one of the most devastating knockouts you will see. Everyone knows how potent the right hand of Roy “Big Country” Nelson is, and in Abu Dhabi in April, he threw it until it caught the Brazilian icon, and when it nailed him flush, Nelson didn’t even go in for the follow-up as he knew that the fight was over. As a postscript, if you go back and watch this and aren’t even more amped up for his September showdown with Mark Hunt, you need to find a different sport to follow.
2 – Chris Beal-Patrick Williams
Plenty of fighters try flying knees. Some have good technique when throwing them, others even land them. But I can’t recall a more perfect execution and result of a flying knee than what we saw at UFC 172 in April, as TUF 18’s Chris Beal fired one off that landed flush on Patrick Williams and knocked him out as soon as it hit. Referee Herb Dean didn’t need to do anything at that point except stop the fight, and that’s what he did, with Beal kicking off his UFC career in style.
1 – Dong Hyun Kim-John Hathaway
South Korea’s Dong Hyun Kim has gone through a transformation in his last couple fights in the UFC, replacing his conservative grappling-based attack with an aggressive, crowd-pleasing assault. In March, Kim took on England’s John Hathaway, and in the third round he scored with a spinning elbow that knocked “The Hitman” out immediately. What places it at number one on this list isn’t just the technique involved and the finality of the shot, but the sound. Even through computer speakers, when you heard him land the elbow, you knew the fight was over. That’s a scary knockout, and in my eyes it’s clearly the best of 2014 thus far.
HONORABLE MENTION: Castillo-Brenneman, Pepey-Lahat, Eduardo-Wineland, Font-Roop, Noons-Stout, Dillashaw-Barao, Rockhold-Philippou, Cerrone-Martins, Rousey-Davis, Bang-Johnson.