CBS Sports best UFC knockouts of 2018: Yair Rodriguez last-second finish takes home the award
Looking back at some of the best KO finishes that took place this past year
All fans of mixed martial arts can appreciate the technical mastery that surrounds the ground game which encompasses the sport, but let's just all face it: nothing really gets the juices flowing for anyone such as witnessing a breathtaking knockout that catapults you right out of your seat. Every year, UFC features a plethora of these exciting finishes, which always tend to remind you why you're a fan of combat sports to begin with.
So, let's now take a look back at the best of the best knockouts that took place within the Octagon in 2018 as voted on by our panel of experts. And we begin with this year's winner, featuring a knockout so jaw-dropping that it had many calling it quite possibly the best finish in the history of the promotion.
1. Yair Rodriguez def. Korean Zombie -- UFC 25th Anniversary: On paper, the card that was put together to celebrate 25 years of UFC wasn't really all that appealing, but the event was capped off with a finish for the ages. In the main event, Rodriguez -- who we weren't entirely sure would even be with UFC much longer earlier in the year -- took on "Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung in a featherweight contest. These two gave us an absolute war, and with time winding down, it looked as if Rodriguez was headed for a decision loss on the cards. Well, Rodriguez decided that leaving it in the hands of the judges wasn't good enough and proceeded to wow everyone in attendance in Denver and those watching on free television. As the two were trading their final blows with time ticking off, Korean Zombie lunged forward, and as he did, Rodriguez caught him square on the chin with a no-look back elbow that sent his opponent straight to the canvas -- literally right as the final buzzer in the fifth round sounded. Thankfully, Korean Zombie was OK after being sent out cold, and we can celebrate the best knockout we've seen this year, and arguably one of the best to ever happen inside the Octagon.
2. Lyoto Machida def. Vitor Belfort -- UFC 224: Before "The Dragon" signed a multi-fight deal with the rival promotion Bellator MMA, the former light heavyweight champion made certain that one of his final bouts inside the Octagon would be one to remember. At UFC 224 in Brazil this past May, Machida took on another legendary fighter in Vitor Belfort. Just about one minute after the second round began in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Machida caught Belfort flush with a left front kick that put the former middleweight and light heavyweight championship contender right to sleep. It was one last statement from the former 205-pound titleholder that he still has something left in the tank as he continues his career in Bellator.
3. Justin Gaethje def. James Vick -- UFC Fight Night 135: There are just some names in UFC that, when you hear them, you immediately associate with pure violence and you highly anticipate seeing them step into the cage for competition. Gaethje is unquestionably one of those names. Leading up to UFC Fight Night 135 in August, James Vick was trash-talking the dangerous Gaethje something fierce. Well, it didn't take Vick long to learn that was maybe not the smartest of ideas. At just 1:27 into the first round of their scheduled five-round lightweight main event, Gaethje nailed Vick with an overhand right up against the cage that sent Vick flailing to the floor, arms above his head, as he was taught a clear lesson in paying attention to who he calls out going forward.
4. Yoel Romero def. Luke Rockhold -- UFC 221: No one will confuse Romero with being punctual when it comes to making the required weight for a title fight at the scheduled time, but you also can't argue that he's one of the most exciting fighters to watch compete -- whether he's on weight or not. Romero -- who stepped in on short-notice for injured middleweight champ Robert Whittaker -- met former 185-pound champion Rockhold back in February at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, for the interim title and was ineligible to win that championship after coming in 2.7 pounds over the 185-pound limit. Title in his sights or not, the "Soldier of God" went out there to simply prove that he's still one of the baddest dudes signed to the promotion, brutally finishing Rockhold with an uppercut at 1:48 of Round 3.
5. Daniel Cormier def. Stipe Miocic -- UFC 226: This may not have taken home the honor of knockout of the year, but some may tell you that it could very well take home the award for most shocking. The reigning light heavyweight champion walked into UFC 226 in Las Vegas looking to make history by becoming just the second simultaneous dual-champion in promotional history. But to pull that off, he would have to overcome the challenge of the most dominant heavyweight king of all time in Miocic. Everyone expected Cormier would go in there and utilize his superior grappling skills, but we were all drastically wrong. Cormier went toe-to-toe on his feet with Miocic, outpunching the heavyweight champion to the disbelief of nearly everyone. At 4:33 of Round 1, Cormier made the history that he set out for, putting the champ down with a stiff right to the jaw and adding the heavyweight championship to his collection.
Honorable Mention: Jessica Andrade def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 228); Eryk Anders def. Tim Williams (soccer kick, UFC Fight Night 135); Derrick Lewis def. Alexander Volkov (UFC 229); Jose Aldo def. Jeremy Stephens (UFC on Fox 30)
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