Nothing in MMA is as decisive as the knockout. Head kick finishes make some of the most spectacular and shocking of them all.
We’ve already had Part 1. uploaded for a while. So, here’s part 2 of the 7 best head kick knockouts in MMA history. Let us know your picks in the comments!
First up, Mr. head kick himself. The infamously deadly and devastating Mirko Cro Cop.
#3 – Mirko Cro Cop vs. Wanderlei Silva 2 – Pride FC: Final Conflict Absolute
Pride FC fans were frothing at the mouth for this match up. It’d be impossible to find two MMA fighters at the time more feared for their destructive and night ending striking skills. Both men were known as killers in the ring and two of the most ruthless finishers in the game. They’d also met previously early on in their MMA careers and scrapped to a draw.
Mirko Cro Cop owned a sinister tagline that became his signature slogan. Right leg hospital, left leg cemetery. As a southpaw, it was his rear left leg that would swing like an unstoppable bludgeon into the open side of his opponent. He had the pinpoint precision to completely wipe out a rib or liver, and the dexterity to take a fighters head from his shoulders, using his shin like an executioner’s axe. When a man seemed like his chin couldn’t be bested in would step Cro Cop.
Size vs. ferocity
Wanderlei wasn’t the biggest man on the PRIDE roster. But what he lacked in size against the heavyweight he made up for in sheer rage. PRIDE fans loved Wanderlei because he was vicious, menacing, and possessed. Muscles rippled on even more muscle strapped to his stocky frame. His nickname as the Axe Murder was well earned, choosing to take a wreckless approach to Muay Thai, with an emphasis on swinging hook after hook piled on top of jaw breaking knees and shattering kicks. There was a time when he just didn’t seem to be real – something way past human.
Silva comes out swinging but it’s Cro Cop who backs him into the ropes. The Brazilian shoots for a poor times takedown and it doesn’t take much effort from the Croation to sprawl and remain standing. He quickly swiped Wand’s feet from under him, falls into full guard, and unleashes a rain of hammer fists. Wanderlei upkicks to escape but eats a hard straight left to end up back flat on the canvas with the Croation swarming in to strike.
After the round mostly plays out with Crop Cop trying to break down Wanderlei and attack him from closed guard, the referee stands both fighters back to their feet. Wand is carrying considerable damage on his face at this point with his right eye being all but closed – the very side that’s open to Cro Cop’s murderous left high kick.
Wand is cautioned with a yellow card, complete with a 10% cut of his purse for inactivity. Pride refs could be merciless at times and were known for pushing the action. They were also known for the old ‘if he dies, he dies’ thing. Don’t believe us? Load up FightPass once you’ve read this and find out! We’ll do a whole article on this soon.
Back to the scrap!
Now, the Brazilian knows he needs to go for broke. He becomes wilder and even more reckless in his pursuit to land his clenched blue fist on the end of Cro Cop’s chin. Wand start to look tired as his opponent eats a few but does well to move and pivot out of harm’s way. As Wand takes a deep breath and circles to his left.
Up comes the deadly left high kick of Mirko Cro Cop, smashing straight through any kind of guard and rendering the Axe Murderer out cold. All set up perfectly behind a lazy right jab and a short, sharp feint to cover the incoming kick. Textbook southpaw stye – brutal Cro Cop delivery.
#2 – Loyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture – UFC 129
Lyoto machida has always been the UFC’s original karate kid. Also known as “The Dragon”, he brought a unique brand of striking handed down to him by his father, the head of Shotokan in Brazil. In an age where Muay Thai and western boxing were the flavors of the octagon, Machida was the poster boy of cage fighting karatekas.
What set Lyoto apart was his elusiveness and angles. He was an excellent counter striker and hit his opponents with things they’d never even seen before. After all, there weren’t many other high-level karate fighters standing at the top of the MMA sphere at that point. What this did was almost earn karate it’s legitimacy back.
Today Loyoto fights under the Bellator banner, but his dancing partner for this throwdown has long since retired. Randy Couture will never be a name to forget though as the first fighter to hold the belt consecutively in two divisions (LHW & HW). He was best known as one of the first complete fighters to truly blend styles and cross train. Randy had Greco-Roman wrestling and a signature dirty boxing style he’d use to rough house larger opponents.
Going into the fight…
Going into the fight, Randy made no effort to hide the fact he planned on pressing forward. He wanted to get into Lyoto’s face and not give him the space to lunge in with his elusive fight finishing style. Southpaw Lyoto looked to keep his distance with his masterful footwork, getting loose and supple to strike like a leopard. He’d read Randy from the start and knew the All American would chase the Dragon around the octagon instead of cutting an angle.
Heading into the second Lyoto defended a shot early and he kept his hand down. He got looser, twitching at the hips and feinting punches and kicks from all angles. It’s almost as if he used his mind to drop and expand Randy’s guard to create an opening.
Then, like the Daniel Ruso in the final of the All-Valley Karate-Championship of 1984, it happened. Lyoto drove his left knee up to fake a kick, leapt into the air, and drove the ball of his right foot into the face of Randy Couture. We’d just witnessed the UFC’s first ever crane kick knockout!
#1 – Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort UFC 126
Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva was once the undisputed GOAT of modern MMA. Besides prime Fedor in Pride, there weren’t many fighters who’d taken out their competition quite as impressive as Anderson. An unassuming looking striker, Silva was a finisher with cat-like counter attacks, piercing jabs, and reflexes pulled straight out of a matrix movie.
Forget about the older Anderson you know today. Instead, dig through the archives to see a deadlier eight-limbed spider in action.
Standing across the octagon at UFC 126 would be Vitor Belfort reborn. After becoming the UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament winner at the tender (read ridiculous) age of 19, Vitor was quickly crowned ‘The Phenom’. He’d then go on to be known as one of the most vicious explosive strikers on the circuit, making waves and fighting the best across all major promotions.
Pride, Affliction, Cage Rage, and the UFC – Vitor threw down in them all. Old-school fans will also remember Vitor for his outstanding Carlson Gracie pedigree and being part of one of the most notoriously brutal BJJ and vale tudo teams. Their style was a brutal combination of exceptional technique with tank-like top pressure.
By the time he met Silva at UFC 126, Vitor was making his third run toward the promotions title, taking out Rich Franklin and Matt Lindland along the way. He was running a five fight deep win streak having knocked out his last three opponents with his fabled fast hands.
Anderson, on the other hand, was experienced one of the greatest run of title defenses the sport had ever seen. He held the record for the most consecutive wins in the UFC (13) backed by seven successful title defenses against the best middleweights there were. Chael Sonnen, Damian Maia, Forest Griffin, Patrick Côté, Dan Henderson and more had all met their end in The Spider’s complex web.
Okay, onto the fight.
Anderson came out in his quaint, quasi-Muay Thai stance. Famously leaning over the front leg with rounded shoulders and a lower guard. Both men circling in southpaw.
After a minute or so Anderson begins to loosen up. He drops his guard into more of a lead hand low Bruce Lee style, while Vitor stays Vitor. Both men look for their feints while Anderson kickstart his kung fu hand movements.
What Anderson is doing here isn’t pure theatrics. He’s drawing Vitor’s gaze toward his hands and distracting the challenger. So, not only does it help Anderson find his timing and stay loose, it puzzles his opponent’s and diverts their attention. It’s difficult enough fighting Anderson Silva, never mind worrying what all the unorthodox hand shapes are about.
The first significant move of the fight happens halfway into round one. Anderson throws a huge roundhouse to Vitor’s head, which the challenger dips under, catches on the shoulder, and uses to drive the champ to the mat. Anderson, showing his heyday catlike reflexes, springs back to his feet by coming up around Vitor’s back. Now the fight is on!
A few combinations later the men slow, standing face to face, only feet apart. Now, here’s the real genius behind the best ever head kick knockout in all of MMA.
Anderson knows Vitor has warmed up now – his slow starting phase passed.He’s on guard waiting for another chance to lunge in and look to land some heavy hands. So, what does The Spider do? He lays a trap. Anderson slows down the pace until they’re almost still as statues bar Anderson’s shaking hands. Remember the moving hands part from earlier?
When Vitor switched off for just one second, a snap front kick drove up through the middle. Straight underneath the challenger’s guard, unopposed, and right into his chin. There’s never been a cleaner head kick in mixed martial arts. It was the epitome of precision and effortless technique. We’ll fanboy while writing this – there’s no shame in admitting it.
Vitor did the chicken dance and flopped down to his back. Anderson delivered a few shots which were neither answered nor needed. That is quite literally all she wrote. In less that one round The Spider had taken out one of the most dangerous men on the planet. We’re talking about pre-USADA Vitor here! Make sure to study this clip over and over again. You’ll learn something new every time.
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