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Top 10 UFC Knockouts of 2021

From iconic and shocking to breath-taking, brutal and bizarre, the Ultimate Fighting Championship served up a selection of knockouts this year that’ll stand the test of time, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

From iconic and shocking to breath-taking, brutal and bizarre, the Ultimate Fighting Championship served up a selection of knockouts this year that’ll stand the test of time, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion enjoyed its most successful year yet in 2021, smashing it in every metric imaginable as it continued to spearhead sport in the Covid era.

Fight Island in Abu Dhabi and its APEX facility in Las Vegas allowed the UFC to run cards uninterrupted, while it also welcomed back full crowds with one massive pay-per-view after the other.

Knockouts are at the core of the ultimate combat sport and the world-famous Octagon was once again the battleground on which spectacular moments of savagery were born.

Empires crumbled, new champions emerged and fresh faces punched, elbowed, kicked, and kneed their way to stardom. Without further ado, here are my top 10 UFC knockouts of 2021:

10: Beauty of “The Black Beast”

Ultra-patient because of the threat of getting taken down, Derrick Lewis was content with giving away the first round of his main event showdown against much-vaunted wrestler Curtis Blaydes in February. “The Black Beast” found the proverbial kill shot in the second, blasting Blaydes with a hellacious uppercut as he shot in for a takedown. It was just the seventh strike Lewis landed in the fight, saw him tie Vitor Belfort’s all-time UFC record of 12 knockouts, and earned him a crack at the interim heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane.

9: Lightning Strikes Twice

Four years after shocking the world by knocking out a previously undefeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the opening round to capture the strawweight championship, “Thug” Rose Namajunas again entered as the underdog and left as the champion at UFC 261 in April. Zhang Weili had been riding an eight-year, 21-fight win streak but it took Namajunas less than two minutes to dethrone China’s first UFC champion with a lightning-fast head kick.

8: “The Diamond” Conquers Conor

The first pay-per-view of the year produced a paradigm shift in the sport. UFC 257 was the stage where Dustin Poirier unleashed a secret weapon in the form of crippling calf kicks to rob Conor McGregor of his greatest strength, his masterful movement. Having reduced the sport’s biggest superstar to a sitting duck, “The Diamond” finished the job with a flurry of punches in the second round to become the first man to knock out “The Notorious” and avenge his loss to the Irishman in 2014.

7: Kung Fu Panda Comes to Life

In the ultimate case of don’t judge a book by its cover, the last man you’d ever expect to throw a wheel kick did it flawlessly as doughy heavyweight Chris Barnett landed flush on Gian Villante and sealed the deal with some clubbing blows on the UFC 268 prelims. “Beast Boy” capped off the craziness with the celebration of the year – a majestic front flip bomb.

6: Baddest Man on The Planet

Three years after coming up short against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, Cameroon-born colossus Francis Ngannou showed the improvements he’d made to seize his second opportunity at the belt at UFC 260 in March. Displaying newfound patience and takedown defence, “The Predator” dropped Miocic with a straight left, swarmed, and crumbled him with a devastating left hook to become the baddest man on the planet.

5: Wait For It…

Shane Burgos and Edson Barboza treated fans to a fire-fight at UFC 262. Two of the fiercest strikers in the featherweight division traded leather with Burgos coming off second best but showing the heart of a warrior until early in the third round when his brain seemingly restarted due to the accumulative damage he’d endured, leading to a bizarre delayed knockout unlike any other.

4: Rolling Thunder

As if looking like a video game character wasn’t enough, Jiri Prochazka pulled out the type of audacious spinning elbow you’d think was only possible on your favourite console. The samurai-like force from the Czech Republic decimated Dominick Reyes in their main event melee in May and put himself in line for a crack at the gold with a spectacularly brutal second-round finish of the two-time title challenger.

3: Nightmare Fuel

With one neck-snapping, perspiration-flying right hand from hell, Kamaru Usman put a definitive end to his rivalry with Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261. Following an unsatisfactory decision win in the first meeting the previous year, “The Nigerian Nightmare” produced a one-punch knockout for the ages in the second round to ascend from dominant welterweight champion to pound-for-pound king. The surprise factor, power, and precision of the punch and roar of the first live capacity crowd in over a year due to the pandemic made for one of the most iconic finishes in UFC history.

2: Spin Doctor

Like a diamond in the rough, Ignacio Bahamondes delivered a gem of a knockout in a prelim bout at UFC Vegas 34 in August. With six seconds left in the fight, a bloody Bahamondes uncorked one of the cleanest wheel kicks you’ll ever see to send Roosevelt Roberts to the shadow realm and put himself on the map.

1: Enter Sandman

Renowned for his unpredictability, Cory Sandhagen starched former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar, with one of the most lethal flying knees in UFC history in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 18 in February. A violent volcano suddenly erupting, “The Sandman” lived up to his moniker as he leaped in the blink of an eye and caught “The Answer” flush, instantly flat-lining the future Hall of Famer.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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