Getty Images

There is nothing in professional sports quite like a vicious knockout. It's invigorating for some and gruesome for others, but it always elicits a genuine emotional response. The UFC has fielded no shortage of reactions in 2023.

Four consecutive UFC pay-per-views have delivered stoppages in the main event. The most recent edition to that list is Sean O'Malley, who punched his ticket to stardom with a stunning second-round TKO against now-former UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling. Max Holloway kept the momentum rolling at the following week's Fight Night with a highlight reel stoppage of "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung.

The roster will need to pull out something truly special if they want to live up to CBS Sports 2022 KO of the Year, Leon Edwards' shocking head kick upset of Kamaru Usman. If this list is any indication, the fighters are certainly up for the challenge.

Below is a running list of the best UFC knockouts in 2023. This page will be continuously updated throughout the year, so check back frequently to see new entries.

Umar Nurmagomedov def. Raoni Barcelos (Jan. 14)

Nurmagomedov penciled an early contender for Knockout of the Year on the very first UFC card of 2023. Nurmagomedov, who had never scored an instant knockout in 15 professional fights, flatlined Barcelos with a shot that confused even the Russian. The undefeated fighter whiffed on a step-in knee but caught Barcelos with a short left hand while Nurmagomedov was on one foot. The sneaky blow immediately shut the lights off and earned its many replays.

Dan Ige def. Damon Jackson (Jan. 14)

Ige packs a serious punch and lived up to his "50K" nickname courtesy of a vicious left hook that earned him a Performance of the Night bonus. Ige caught Jackson coming in and instantly dropped him. No follow-up shots were necessary as Ige strutted away casually. Jackson did not avoid the punch, but he narrowly avoided disaster. Jackson crumpled from the fall with his heels facing out and his knees twisting in. Fortunately, he was able to leave the Octagon with the strength of his own two feet.

Ismael Bonfim def. Terrance McKinney (Jan. 21)

Expectations were high for Bonfim following a successful run on the "Contender Series" and the regional circuit. Still, Bonfim had a dangerous foe in Terrance McKinney at UFC 283. The fight was not particularly competitive. Bonfim got the better of McKinney in Round 1 and dusted him off in Round 2. Bonfim punched out McKinney's mouthpiece before launching a double-flying knee that switched off and faceplanted McKinney.

Bruno Ferreira def. Gregory Rodrigues (Jan. 21)

Rodrigues had warmed himself to the UFC fanbase with knockout power that matched his indomitable spirit. Stoppage victories against Chidi Njokuani and Julian Marquez made Rodrigues look a big deal. Ferreira changed all that. Rodrigues left himself open while pressing the action and ate a big shot from Ferreira at UFC 283 that separated him from consciousness. It was a nasty punch that improved Ferreira to 10-0 and coronated him as a winning UFC fighter.

Johnny Walker def. Paul Craig (Jan. 21)

Nurmagomedov isn't the only fighter who scored a big shot on one foot. One week after Nurmagomedov's KO of the Year contender, Walker offered up a solid finish of his own at UFC 283. Walker threw a kick early that Craig caught. Undeterred, Walker launched a barrage of right hands and back-fists that dropped Craig by the fence. Walker continued to bombard Craig with punches as Craig held onto Walker's leg for dear life. The referee determined his defense was unintelligent and stopped the fight moments later.

Rinya Nakamura def. Toshiomi Kazama (Feb. 4)

Generally speaking, someone hits the canvas when two fighters agree to stand in the pocket and trade. Nakamura was the beneficiary of such an exchange. Nakamura uncorked a nasty left hook 30 seconds into the fight that bounced Kazama's head against the canvas. The quick KO cemented Nakamura as the bantamweight "Road to UFC" series winner.

Justin Tafa def. Parker Porter (Feb. 11)

Tafa taught Porker a painful lesson about why you don't step into range with your hands down. Tafa sent his fellow Australian residents into a frenzy when he dropped Porter with a counter right hook and left uppercut. The shot sent Porter flying. Tafa evoked his fellow New Zealand-born heavyweight Mark Hunt by walking off with no follow-up shots. The entire fight lasted just 66 seconds.

Philipe Lins def. Ovince Saint Preux (Feb. 18)

It took Lins less than one minute to send Saint Preux packing. Lins cracked "OSP" with a big left straight approximately 20 seconds into the opening frame and never took his foot off the gas. Saint Preux was visibly impacted by that shot and that gave Lins all the confidence he needed to pursue the finish. Lins chased Saint Preux around the Octagon landing looping hooks and uppercuts. It was an especially long left hand that dropped Saint Preux and a follow-up shot that sealed the deal.ย 

Jordan Leavitt def. Victor Martinez (Feb. 25)

Leavitt needed to make an impression after being submitted by Paddy Pimblett and he did just that against Martinez. Leavitt scored just his second career knockout, and first via strikes, in impressive fashion. Leavitt hurt Martinez with a push kick to the body, secured the clinch and punished him with knees and elbows to the head and body. Martinez could not withstand the onslaught and fell against the fence. Quite a rebound for Leavitt.

Marc-Andre Barriault def. Julian Marquez (March 4)

Barriault bounced back from a tough first round and made Marquez pay for his early success. Marquez looked sharper than usual in Round 1, landing more frequently and with better accuracy than his Canadian foe. His efforts did not persist through two rounds, however. Marquez was visibly fatigued in Round 2 and Barriault -- living up to his "Powerbar' nickname -- maintained steady output. Barriault backed Marquez to the fence and unleashed a staggering number of strikes. Referee Mark Smith was content to let Marquez absorb blow after blow despite Marquez losing his mouthpiece, repeatedly shelling up and turning away. The total strike count in Round 2 was 95 to 35 in Barriault's favor before the fight was mercifully waved off.

Ian Garry def. Song Kenan (March 4)

Garry is the goods. The Irish fighter bounced back after being knocked down in the opening round and took the fight to his opponent. Garry looked so slick in the closing exchange, backing up Song to the fence and cracking him with a step-in knee. Garry followed up with two hard shots to the body, leaned back to dodge the counter strike and blitzed his foe for the late third-round finish. Garry improved to 11-0 and Song left with all sorts of abrasions, bruises and swelling.

Dricuss du Plessis def. Derek Brunson (March 4)

Brunson rolled back his planned retirement and it ended very poorly for the perennial contender. Brunson fought quite well in Round 1 against a physically imposing opponent 10 years his junior. Unfortunately for Brunson, he could not sustain the output and started to weather in Round 2. Du Plessis poured on the offense for most of the round before dropping Brunson in the final 30 seconds. Du Plessis went to work with the ground and pound. Brunson's corner should be applauded for throwing in the towel, but the damage was already done. It marked the second time in 2023 that a fight on this list ended at the 4:59 mark of a round.

Kevin Holland def. Santiago Ponzinibbio (April 8)

Standing and trading with Holland is bad for your health. Holland scored the second latest stoppage of his UFC tenure with a third-round KO of Ponzinibbio at UFC 287. Holland was generally the better of the two fighters, as evidenced by Holland's ability to knock down Ponzinibbio on one foot in the opening round. Holland landed a long left hook in the fight's final frame that faceplanted Ponzinibbio. One follow-up shot was all the referee needed to wave it off.

Rob Font def. Adrian Yanez (April 8)

Font vs. Yanez was fun for as long as it lasted. Two of the UFC's sharpest boxers went tit-for-tat at UFC 287. Font was in need of a bounce-back win while Yanez was spotlighted as the next big thing at bantamweight. Both fighters got their licks in, but it was Font's superior combinations and head movement that sealed the deal. Font wobbled Yanez with multiple combinations and sent him flying with a monstrous right hand. The entire fight lasted less than three minutes.

Israel Adesanya def. Alex Pereira (April 8)

It took Adesanya four attempts over two different sports, but he finally conquered the nightmare that haunted his otherwise sublime combat sports career. Adsanya reclaimed his UFC middleweight championship with a thrilling second-round knockout of Alex Pereira in the main event of UFC 287. Adesanya led Pereira against the fence and landed a pair of right hands and a left that dropped the defending champion. A follow-up shot on the ground cleansed Adesanya of his Pereira plague.

Brandon Royval def. Matheus Nicolau (April 15)

Royval poured all his fight-week frustrations into an epic stoppage of Nicolau. This flyweight fight featured two of the top contenders in the division, yet was buried in the prelims. Royval, who entered the contest with Fight of the Night honors in 50% of his UFC fights, was miffed by his card placement. Royval told CBS Sports that he had "mastered chaos" heading into UFC Fight Night headlined by Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen in Kansas City. Royval stunned Nicolau with a creative, unexpected knee and punch combination. He jumped on his wounded prey, pummeling Nicolau with ground-and-pound for the first-round stoppage.

Edson Barboza def. Billy Quarantillo (April 15)

Barboza still has it. Eleven years after scoring one of the most iconic KOs in UFC history, a spinning wheel kick KO of Terry Etim, Barboza continues to separate foes from consciousness. Quarantillo made a concentrated effort to crowd Barboza to neutralize his notoriously dangerous strikes. Quarantillo returned to the well one too many times and Barboza capitalized with an emphatic counter knee that instantly dropped Quarantillo. Barboza turned back the clock, maintained his spot in the featherweight pecking order and silenced those who said he was too long in the tooth.

Yan Xiaonan def. Jessica Andrade (May 6)

Xiaonan punched her ticket to title contention at UFC 288 by dusting off a former strawweight champion in short order. Andrade executed the worst game plan possible, recklessly entering range with her opponent. Xioanan uncorked a big punch that dropped Andrade for a KO win less than halfway into the first round.

Matt Brown def. Court McGee (May 13)

There may not be a fighter that embodies their nickname more authentically than "The Immortal" Matt Brown. The 42-year-old entered his 43rd professional fight against McGee in Charlotte. Brown was falling behind in the opening round but changed his fortunes with one perfect punch. Brown slipped off the center line, dodging McGee's punch and delivering a one-hitter quitter.

Ian Machado Garry def. Daniel Rodriguez (May 13)

Welcome back to the list, Garry. The burgeoning Irish fighter passed his toughest test with flying colors, finishing an ultra-tough Daniel Rodriguez in less than three minutes. A head kick set up the fight-ending sequence. Garry improved to 12-0 with the win and made his first appearance in the UFC's official welterweight rankings at No. 13.

Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Michael Johnson (May 20)

Ferreira turned Johnson stiff as a board early into the second round of their main card collision. Ferreira landed a looping overhand right that caught Johnson square on the chin. The shot was scary. Johnson was visibly unconscious before he hit the mat and took some time to wake up.

Joaquin Buckley def. Andre Fialho (May 20)

Buckley keeps piling on the stoppages. It doesn't hold a candle to his 2020 Knockout of the Year against Impa Kasanganay, but Buckley's head kick KO of Fialho was pretty. Buckley kicked up his left leg and caught Fialho clean. Buckley casually strolled up and cracked Fialho with an unnecessary hammer fist to punctuate the fight.

Jim Miller def. Jesse Butler (June 3)

Miller's record-setting 25th UFC win was also the fastest of his remarkable 54-fight career. Butler, a short-notice replacement, was severely outgunned at UFC Fight Night in Vegas. Miller uncorked a hellacious punch that knocked out Butler in 23 seconds flat. Miller extended a number of UFC records he already held, including: most UFC wins (25), most UFC fights (42) and most UFC lightweight finishes (15).

Manuel Torres def. Nikolas Motta (June 17)

There are few things in combat sports that can match the brutality of a perfectly-landed elbow. "Contender Series" alum Torres extended his first-round winning streak to five straight with a crushing step in elbow against Motta. The finish came in under two minutes and cemented Torres as a rising prospect in the lightweight division.

Robbie Lawler def. Niko Price (July 8)

What a way to go out. Lawler was in pursuit of his 30th career win when he was paired with Niko Price in Lawler's retirement match during UFC International Fight Week. It was certainly a winnable matchup but some were concerned with how well a war-weathered Lawler could endure. Well, the former UFC welterweight champion turned back the clock and tied a bow on his legendary career with one last highlight-reel KO.

Roman Kopylov def. Claudio Ribeiro (July 29)

Kopylov had a rocky start to his UFC run but has steadied the ship in scary ways. Kopylov finished Ribeiro with a vicious head kick that was as audibly frightening as it was visually frightening. It was Kopylov's third straight stoppage win and he called out the UFC's No. 5 ranked middleweight Sean Strickland afterwards.

Derrick Lewis def. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (July 29)

Lewis must have sensed that Jorge Masvidal was in the building because "The Black Beast" delivered a running flying switch knee to kick off his fight at UFC 291. It was arguably more impressive considering the sheer mass of Lewis, but less memorable because it didn't result in the one-shot KO that Masvidal famously delivered to Ben Askren. Still, it only took Lewis 30 seconds or so to put the finishing touches on a monstrous victory.

Justin Gaethje def. Dustin Poirier (July 29)

Gaethje earned his status as the BMF of UFC with a thunderous head-kick KO of Poirier at UFC 291. Gaethje won the ceremonial belt, made a strong case to challenge for the UFC lightweight title and avenged his 2018 loss to Poirier in one fell swoop. It was an eerie moment considering that Leon Edwards delivered a one-shot head-kick to Gaethje's teammate Kamaru Usman in the previous main event in Salt Lake City.

Sean O'Malley def. Aljamain Sterling (Aug. 19)

Welcome to superstardom, "Suga" Sean. O'Malley silenced those who felt his popularity had contributed to an unearned bantamweight title shot at UFC 292. O'Malley expertly used his movement to negate Sterling's suffocating grappling. O'Malley remained poised, saw his opening and floored Sterling with a lightning-fast right hook. Some pinpoint accurate ground-and-pound busted up Sterling and forced the referee to intervene.

Max Holloway def. "Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung (Aug. 26)

Singapore hosted the final resting place of "Korean Zombie." Former UFC featherweight champion Holloway sent fellow veteran Jung into retirement with a thrilling faceplant KO in their main event tilt. It was a fun match punctuated with a trademark "Zombie" slugfest. Hearing the Singapore crowd sing Jung out of the cage was a touching moment and one of MMA's best retirements outcome be damned.