5 Tank Abbott vs. John Mattua
There are few knockout artists in UFC history who have struck as much fear into men’s hearts—or brought more excitement to the sport—than Tank Abbott. After early demonstrations by Royce Gracie of Brazilian jujitsu’s ruthless efficiency, martial artists rushed toward grappling en masse. But at UFC 6, Tank Abbott—a notorious bar brawler and street fighter — made punching sexy again. His future reign of savage knockouts started with his UFC debut when, in just 18 second, he brutalized 400-pound John Mattua so badly that an announcer exclaimed, “Oh, lord,” while trying to ascertain if the unconscious Mattua would ever rise again. Oh, lord, indeed.
4 Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz
Even in a list dedicated only to knockouts, Chuck Liddell’s highlight reel stands in a category all its own. The Iceman’s trademark looping overhand haymakers claimed so many victims that at his peak that his concrete fists commanded universal respect. In what would be his last successful title defense at UFC 66, a bitter rivalry against legendary ground-and-pound pioneer Tito Ortiz would end with Ortiz joining a long list of fighters who succumbed to the ferocity of Chuck Liddell’s relentless, swarming punches.
3 Mirko Cro Cop vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
By the time he squared off against Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70, Mirko Filipovic, a.k.a. Cro Cop, had left in his wake a trail of broken men who had fallen victim to his notoriously brutal head kicks in the Pride and K1 leagues. The pinnacle of the sprawl-and-brawl style, Cro Cop’s seemingly unstoppable striking prowess had led many prognosticators to look past Gonzaga to a dream battle against Randy Couture. However, in a truly shocking upset, the hunter became the hunted as the underrated Gonzaga flattened Cro Cop with his own medicine—none other than Filipovic’s own trademark head kick.
2 Matt Hughes vs. Carlos Newton
The rare but unforgettable body-slam knockout is a stark reminder that human beings are descended from brutal, violent ancestors—and UFC 34 hosted the granddaddy of them all. Matt Hughes, who would become most ferocious and dominant welterweight in pre-St. Pierre UFC history, used his beast-like strength and world-class wrestling to dominate Carlos Newton, who had clowned Hughes earlier by strutting and dancing into the ring with an entourage of models and an Afro wig. After being caught in a triangle, Hughes picked Newton up by his legs clear off the canvas and carried him to the fence where he balanced him for a moment before slamming him into Earth-shaking oblivion.
1 Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva
Some knockouts can be both exciting and important. In 1998 at UFC Brazil, the ferocious and now-legendary Wanderlei Silva was utterly overwhelmed with a flurry of devastating punches that came so quickly that they were difficult to count. Just 44 seconds into the fight, Vitor Belfort demonstrated power and speed that would fuel his hall-of-fame career. The early UFC was dominated by specialists, but after his victory at UFC 12 a year earlier, Belfort’s world-class jujitsu and blazing-fast knockout power ushered in the era of true mixed martial arts. His legendary knockout of Silva in their home country of Brazil signaled the rise of the modern sport.