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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
As we move on to 2012, we'll take a look back at the year that was in 2011 with MMATorch's 11 of 11. For the first 11 days of 2012, several MMATorch writers will be providing top 11 lists in a number of different categories regarding the year of MMA in 2011. Today we continue with Jamie Penick's top 11 knockouts of 2011.
2011 provided no shortage of knockout wins in MMA, with some insane finishes on display at the highest levels of the sport. Now, a list like this is one that's going to have a lot of subjectivity to it, and outside of some of the more obvious choices at the top, not everyone will agree with the fights included, or the order they're in. So feel free to send in what you believe were the top 11 knockouts of the year to MMATorchEditor@gmail.com, and we'll post some of the top lists from our readers later this week. Additionally, I compiled a similar list at the halfway point of the year, but in reflecting on that list and the fights that have come since, there are some differences at the top. The finishes that made this list took their spots from a combination of importance, "Oh, s***" factor, and personal preference. With that out of the way, here are my top 11 knockouts of 2011:
11.) JDS def. Cain Velasquez - UFC on Fox - November 12:
Though it wasn't the most vicious or most technical knockout of the year, Junior dos Santos' Championship winning finish of Cain Velasquez in just 64 seconds was the most important knockout of the year for the UFC. This was the most-watched fight in MMA history in North America, with over ten million tuning in for the fight itself live or on DVR. Dos Santos clipped Velasquez with a big right behind the ear, and finished him up with strikes on the ground. It was a dominant win to start off dos Santos' title reign, and holds its spot in UFC history as their first ever fight on network television.
10.) Michael McDonald def. Alex Soto - UFC 139 - November 19:
The youngest fighter on the UFC's roster, Michael McDonald entered UFC 139 off of two exciting fights in the Octagon in 2011. Both of those fights went to decision, however, and he wanted to prove himself as a finisher against late replacement Alex Soto in San Jose. He did just that with massively exciting flurry in just under a minute. First he rocked Soto with a straight right, then dropped him with another one. Soto scrambled and got back to his feet, but was rushed by McDonald again, and dropped once again against the cage. Follow up punches brought a halt to the fight at just :56 seconds of the first round
9.) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira def. Brendan Schaub - UFC 134 - August 27:
In terms of spectacle and crowd reaction, Nogueira returning to action after 18 months off in front of a rabid hometown crowd in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and knocking out Brendan Schaub was as great as you could get. The crowd was already in a frenzy before the fight began, and Nogueira walking through the younger Schaub's attacks early on in the round had them going strong as well. Then, he tagged Schaub, followed him down, and knocked him out cold against the cage in a triumphant bounce back win. It was - on top of being an excellent knockout - an incredible moment and one of the most memorable finishes of the year.
8.) Jake Ellenberger def. Jake Shields - UFC Fight Night 26 - September 17:
Jake Shields entered his second headlining fight in the UFC having just lost his father the month before, and was hoping to bounce back from a loss to Georges St-Pierre in April. Instead, Ellenberger handed him only the second TKO stoppage loss of his career, and the first in over 11 years. Ellenberger delivered two brutal knees to the face that dropped Shields, and he finished it off with punches to pick up by far the biggest win of his career.
7.)"The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung def. Mark Hominick - UFC 140 - December 10/Johny Hendricks def. Jon Fitch - UFC 141 - December 30:
Alright, this is a bit of a cheat, but both are very similar and deserving of a spot on the list. "The Korean Zombie" landed a picture perfect counter-right that dropped Hominick, and then he landed two more strikes on the ground to finish off the former title challenger. Then later in the month, Hendricks knocked perennial #2 welterweight Jon Fitch out with two incredibly placed punches. The first left knocked Fitch out cold, then the fall woke him up, and Hendricks dropped one more on him that put him briefly out again. It was a huge finish, and a massively impressive win.
6.) Cheick Kongo def. Pat Barry - UFC on Versus 4 - June 26:
This was one of the greatest comeback wins in UFC history, as Kongo survived a vicious onslaught from Barry only to earn a decisive knockout when backed up against the cage. Barry dropped Kongo three separate times, almost getting the fight stopped in the process. Kongo somehow survived, got to his feet, and stumbled backwards. As Barry tried to rush in, Kongo dropped him with a right, then another right, and one more punch on the ground brought an end to the bout. It was thrilling, and a huge finish for Kongo.
5.) Carlos Condit def. Dong Hyun Kim - UFC 132 - July 2:
Condit's flying knee on Dong Hyun Kim was beautiful. That's simply what it was. He was already a highly thought of welterweight, and when he handed Kim his first official loss in July he put himself in title contention. This remains the last fight he's had, but the performance was enough to get him slotted into place for a title shot twice, the Interim version of which he'll actually get next month in Las Vegas.
4.) Sam Stout def. Yves Edwards - UFC 131 - June 11:
This was the most technically sound knockout of the year, and while it was a fantastic punch, it has dipped slightly for me as the year has gone on because it was the least important of the remaining finishes on the list. Still, when Stout landed his right hand at the same time as Edwards was connecting on one of his own, it led to one of the scarier and more vicious finishes the UFC has ever seen, with Edwards crashing hard to the mat and staying out for several moments. It was the first time in the UFC that Stout had lived up to his "Hands of Stone" moniker, and it was immensely memorable.
3.) Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard - UFC 136 - October 8:
After fighting to a draw in January, Edgar and Maynard put on yet another near-classic fight in October in their third meeting. Maynard again started off with a 10-8 first round, knocking Edgar around the cage with a brutal attack, only slightly less-brutal than the first round of their UFC 125 bout. Edgar then entered the fourth trying to continue the momentum he had built when he took over the second and third. Then it happened, in the midst of a scramble off a failed shot, Edgar clocked Maynard with an uppercut, then followed him to the cage and finished the fight with a flurry of punches that put Maynard out cold. It was a fantastic and decisive finish to their trilogy after two fights that went the distance.
2.) Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort - UFC 126 - February 5:
This will be where the contention in this list comes most likely, as most will probably have this knockout as the best of the year. Look, it was incredible, it was innovative, it was violent, it was unexpected, and it started a trend of front face kick attempts throughout the rest of the year. The kick came out of nowhere and dropped Vitor Belfort in vicious fashion, and Anderson Silva continued to add to his legacy with the finish, but while it was above everything else this year, it was just slightly below the second iteration we would see in the Octagon in 2011.
1.) Lyoto Machida def. Randy Couture - UFC 129 - April 30:
Machida's Karate Kid-style jumping crane kick to Randy Couture's face was the combination of stage, spectacle, and importance to place it atop the list. In front of 55,000 fans in Toronto, "The Dragon" knocked Couture out cold, knocked a tooth out of his mouth, and sent him into retirement. It also eventually brought him a Light Heavyweight Title fight (by default, of course, but it still counts), and gave him a highlight that the UFC will play for years to come. It was an unbelievable finish, and the craziest knockout of 2011 for me.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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