Michael Chandler’s jaw-dropping front-kick KO of Tony Ferguson was the standout moment from UFC 274 on Saturday night.
‘El Cucuy’ was the unfortunate recipient of the fight-ending shot and it slides into our top 10 list of the best head-kick knockouts in UFC history.
There’s some stiff competition from the likes of Holly Holm and Edson Barboza, so where does Chandler’s offering rank?
Tony Ferguson suffered a horrendous knockout by Michael Chandler at UFC 274
10. Anderson Silva on Vitor Belfort – R, 3:25 (2011)
This was supposed to be Silva’s toughest test to date as far as striker vs striker match-ups go.
Fellow Brazilian Belfort was in his prime and entered on a three-fight knockout streak over Rich Franklin, Matt Lindland and Terry Martin.
The atmosphere was electric and Silva would reaffirm his place as one of the biggest stars in the sport with the most iconic KO of his storied career.
With both men standing in front of each other in the centre of the octagon, Silva would catch his Brazilian compatriot with a vicious disguised front kick to the face.
Now known as the ‘Spider Kick’, Belfort folded to the mat and was stopped for the very first time.
Anderson Silva had his eyes on the prize with a ludicrous knockout of Vitor Belfort in 2011
9. Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Eye – R2, 0:26 (2019)
This one shocked everybody, including the referee Rob Madrigal after he was caught on camera looking as though he’d seen a ghost.
Shevchenko defended her flyweight championship in fine style with a brutal head kick.
The Kyrgyzstani is such an incredible striker but her lower limbs are where the main threat lies as Eye found out in savage fashion.
There was hardly any telegraphing and the kick with her left leg snapped up, connecting with the inside of the ankle and sending her opponent slumping backwards.
It was obvious straight away from sickening sound that no follow up strikes would be needed.
Valentina Shevchenko (left) remains one of the most dangerous strikers in the world
8. Stephen Thompson vs Dan Stittgen – R1, 4:13 (2012)
It seems fitting that there’s a spot for ‘Wonderboy’ in our top 10. He is without doubt one of the most technically gifted strikers in UFC history.
His prowess was obvious on his promotional debut at the expense of the unfortunate Dan Stittgen.
He moved to his left and almost immediately raised his right leg to his opponent’s blind spot around the corner.
Stephen Thompson made a statement on his UFC debut with head kick KO of Dan Stittgen
Stittgen had no chance and the foot landed flush on the mark. He slumped to the mat straight away.
What made it doubly impressive is that Thompson was following up a right hand almost instantaneously.
It was straight out of the textbook – a picture perfect, clean KO.
7. Lando Vannata vs John Makdessi – R1, 1:40 (2016)
A walk-off wheel-kick knockout from Vannata makes the cut at No 7.
The 24-year-old went into just his second UFC fight up against the much more experienced Makdessi but that mattered little as he came up with the goods.
It took him under two minutes and Makdessi just moved around to his right at the worst possible moment.
Lando Vannata’s wheel-kick on John Makdessi earned him a Performance of the Night bonus
The heel connected with his face and that was all she wrote, with the referee moving in swiftly to stop further punishment.
Unsurprisingly, Vannata took home the $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.
He has been unable to string together two consecutive wins since then and that finish has been his highlight in the UFC so far.
6. Mirko Cro Cop vs Gabriel Gonzaga – R1, 4:57 (2007)
Recency bias is probably at play in this list but the devastating Cro Cop KO from 15 years ago remains a replayed moment in UFC montages.
When a heavyweight can be that athletic, the impact is all the more seismic.
Both fighters were circling in a clockwise direction for a solid 10 seconds so it was an intelligent play from Cro Cop to throw the kick.
It struck the top of the head and proved to be fight-ending despite the fact that Gonzaga moved away from the strike at the last second.
Mirko Cro Cop’s heavy KO of Gabriel Gonzaga in 2007 is an iconic moment in UFC history
5. Lyoto Machida vs Vitor Belfort – R2, 1:00 (2018)
Machida delivered one of the coldest KOs and reactions ever seen.
Belfort, who it has to be said was well past his best, absorbed a front kick to the face that shot out of nowhere, causing him to slump to the canvas.
Where most fighters would have tried to pile on and land a couple more blows, Machida knew the job was done, put his hands on his hips and stared down at his Brazilian compatriot. He then bowed and sunk to his knees.
It is the reaction that elevates this in the list, pure box office from a man who knew exactly what he’d just done and was sure there was no chance of recovery.
There needs to be more Mario Balotelli non-celebration finishes like Machida’s – there’s something very unnerving about it.
4. Michael Chandler vs Tony Ferguson – R2, 0:17 (2022)
Here it is then. Anyone doubting how high Chandler’s brutal KO of Ferguson is can take it up with Dana White.
The UFC president has seen a fair few finishes in his time but described it as ‘the most vicious knockout I’ve ever seen’.
What was impressive was the timing and proximity of Ferguson to Chandler.
Chandler backflipped in celebration and the crowd erupted in Phoenix on Saturday
‘El Cucuy’ would never have expected his opponent to try it with both men so close together and the connection with the bottom of the chin was pure.
He was out like a light and the still image of the kick landing makes Ferguson’s face look like a Salvador Dali painting.
The succession of backflips from Chandler while Ferguson received medical attention added to the surreal nature of the moment, which was the first time the 38-year-old has been finished.
3. Edson Barboza on Terry Etim – R3, 2:02 (2012)
Perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing entry on this list and one that features at every UFC event on the big screen when the main card starts.
Former Muay-Thai kickboxer Barboza produced one for the highlights reel that you can simply never tire of watching again and again.
It was the first spinning wheel kick KO in the UFC and poor Etim’s lights were out the moment Barboza’s heel connected with his chin.
Terry Etim was the unfortunate recipient of one of the most replayed finishes in the UFC
The Brazilian later reflected: ‘I remember that day as very important for me, because I came from my first professional loss in kickboxing.
‘I really knocked the guy out. He was almost dead. It’s very fresh in my mind.’
The way Etim falls instantly after he freezes makes the KO all the more iconic.
2. Holly Holm on Ronda Rousey – R2, 0:59 (2015)
Who could forget the finish dubbed ‘the kick heard around the world’?
Rousey was everything to women’s MMA, a true pioneer at the peak of her powers and Holly Holm was a massive underdog going into their title fight in Melbourne.
But it was Holm who delivered a stunning performance, catching Rousey with a massive head kick on the break.
The beginning of the end of Ronda Rousey’s MMA career came with Holly Holm’s left foot
The clip was shared thousands of times online and marked a changing of the guard with the defeat being the start of Rousey’s decline before retirement.
There are other more technical, powerful kicks on this list but the magnitude of the occasion and what it meant for the UFC has to be taken into account.
To deliver that finish of an icon under the most intense spotlight elevates Holm’s effort to No 2.
1. Joaquin Buckley on Impa Kasanganay – R2, 2:03 (2020)
Joaquin Buckley produced one of the most incredible knockouts in UFC history after a jumping, spinning kick put a devastating end to his fight with Impa Kasanganay two years ago.
It was an even contest in Abu Dhabi when Kasanganay grabbed hold of Buckley’s ankle midway through the second round.
Buckley responded in stunning fashion, showcasing unbelievable technique as he spun to his left and delivered a brutal heel kick to the face to bring the bout to an abrupt close.
The finish sent both the commentary team and Buckley’s camp into a frenzy and quickly went viral on social media, many fans dubbing it the ‘craziest’ knockout ever.
While Buckley is one of the least high profile fighters on this list, the unique nature of the kick and fact that we may never see a similar effort again sets it apart.
Joaquin Buckley will forever be associated with one of the most incredible knockouts