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The Top Ten Knockouts of 2008

With just a few days left in the 2008 calendar year, will be taking a look at the best of the best in 2008.

During our series, we will break down the “Top Ten Submissions of the Year” and the “Top Ten Fights of the Year.”

But let’s begin our look back at all the great MMA action that 2008 provided by focusing on 2008’s “Top Ten Knockouts.”

Trying to narrow this down to ten and then to rank them is a lot harder than my skills make it seem. The qualifications were a combination of pre-fight drama, excitement of the knockout itself, and the greatest repercussions of the results.

As with most of these lists, everyone will complain and make a pitch with their opinions. I welcome your arguments in the comments section; let me know what I missed!

10. Jeremy Stephens vs. Rafael dos Anjos – UFC 91 – 11/15/2008

Stephens is a Midwest banger with phenomenal heart and heavy hands. He has had mixed results in the UFC so far, but word from anyone who trains with him is the sky is the limit. Dos Anjos is a Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner with experience in Pancrase and Fury FC among others. Dos Anjos had won the first round rather handily by taking Stephens down and controlling him on the floor for most of it. The second round seemed to have woken up Stephens as he put in a much more energetic performance and started to land on his feet but again fell to dos Anjos’ controlling ground game. The shortly into the third round Stephens unleashed what could only be called an flying upper cut as he took almost two full steps before unleashing it on dos Anjos. Dos Anjos fell like a sack of potatoes and Stephens showed us one of the more spirited post fight celebrations as he tried to run straight through the cage fence.

9. Anthony Johnson vs. Tommy Speer – UFC Fight Night 13 – 04/02/2008

Anthony Johnson was a touted wrestler in high school and college who used his athletic gifts to develop a very dynamic striking game. Tommy Speer was the runner up for season six of The Ultimate Fighter, a gifted wrestler in his own right who although coming off a loss in the finals to Mac Danzig showed impressive skills throughout the show. Speer’s second UFC fight did not go as planned, as right off the bat Johnson hit him with a head kick and a knee that sent him reeling. Once Speer hit survival mode, Johnson poured on the punishment and put his lights out with a right hand against the cage.

8. Wilson Gouveia vs. Jason Lambert – UFC 80 – 01/19/2008

Wilson Gouveia was originally a highly touted prospect out of American Top Team who had an up and down early career. Gouveia started to establish himself in the UFC and Lambert was his highest profile match yet. Jason Lambert was a veteran who had been in and out of organizations for a long time before breaking into the UFC. Lambert rode into this fight riding a all-time confidence high after taking out Renato “Babalu” Sobral in his previous fight. But he quickly came back to reality as he gave Gouveia everything he had in the first round but failed to finish him. The second round came and Gouveia finally kept Lambert off of him long enough to work his striking, which started the beginning of the end. Lambert got over anxious and tried to finish Gouveia in an exchange, but kept his chin up and ate a left hook and some mat for his troubles.

7. Rory Markham vs. Brodie Farber – UFC Fight Night 14 – 07/19/2008

Rory Markham was the veteran from Miletich Fighting Systems who was coming into the UFC off of a successful stint in the IFL. Brodie Farber was a prospect who had been fighting for quite some time but never broke into a big show until this fight in the UFC. Sometimes the pressure of your first fight in a big stage, especially the biggest stage in the sport, can affect your performance. Farber was obviously nervous pre-fight and when the action started did not fight the smartest fight. At one point Farber had Markham back-peddling, mistook it for Markham being in trouble, and chased him with punches in an effort to finish. Markham rewarded Farber’s hastiness and low hand placement with a right head kick. Lights out.

6. Matt Wiman vs. Thiago Tavares – UFC 85 – 06/07/2008

Matt Wiman was a veteran of season five of The Ultimate Fighter, and had built a nice three fight win streak going into this fight with Tavares. Thiago Tavares was another highly touted prospect from Brazil with a twelve fight win streak going until he lost to Tyson Griffin by decision. Wiman needed a high-profile win and Tavares needed to get back on a winning track. Unfortunately for Tavares, his troubles would continue in the UFC. After a high paced grappling affair in the first round, Tavares came out in the second round looking tired. Wiman pushed the pace and both men exchanged haymakers. Wiman finally connected with a big right hand against the fence and turned off Tavares for the evening, earning himself a big man-hug from Chuck Liddell to boot!

5. Josh Kosheck vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida – UFC Fight for the Troops – 12/10/2008

Josh Koscheck was the veteran from season one of The Ultimate Fighter, the cocky fighter everyone loves to hate. A highly ranked welterweight who was coming off a loss to number one contender Thiago Alves only 45 days prior. Yoshiyuki Yoshida was the unknown Japanese fighter with the judo black belt coming off of an impressive octagon debut by putting Jon Koppenhaver to sleep. The main event for the troops did not disappoint, as Koscheck showed Yoshida what being a top five welterweight in the UFC really means. After a feeling out process, Koscheck quickly realized Yoshida game-planned for his overhand right. Luckily for Koscheck, Yoshida did not have a defense for a straight right hand to the face. Good night Yoshida.

4. Junior dos Santos vs. Fabricio Werdum – UFC 90 – 10/25/2008

Fabricio Werdum is a top ten ranked heavyweight and a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt who was supposed to get a tune up fight while he waited for the foggy UFC heavyweight title picture to clear itself out. Well, no one let Junior dos Santos know about the plans. The Nogueira protégé came into the fight a well-kept secret, as know one outside of Brazil had really seen him fight. But dos Santos proved he belonged in the UFC and in that fight as he felt out Werdum’s stand up long enough to land a well placed uppercut right on the button just 81 seconds into the fight. As big of an upset as there has been all year.

3. Yves Edwards vs. Edson Berto – EliteXC Street Certified – 02/16/2008

This was not a fight of major consequence. Edson Berto was an up and comer with boxing in his background and serious potential, but had yet to show it on the big stage. Yves Edwards was looking to jumpstart his promising career in a new venue after coming off a string of losses. Both were fighting to get a leg up in the new lightweight division in EliteXC. But it was Edwards who would wind up reminding everyone why he was considered the uncrowned champion of the lightweight division at one time. The beginning of the first round showed how dynamic both fighters were on the feet as the striking went back and forth. Once it went to the ground Yves started to assert himself with some ground and pound. An impatient referee stood them back up with a minute left for no good reason, and Berto went in for a single leg takedown and would not give it up when Edwards fought off his initial shot. Edwards decided to end the night for Berto with knee to the head while Berto still held onto the single leg. An unbelievable move from an amazing fighter.

2. Rashad Evans vs. Chuck Liddell – UFC 88 – 09/06/2008

This was a set up fight for the biggest potential title fight in UFC history. Chuck Liddell, the former light-heavyweight champion, would beat another top contender and undefeated fighter in Rashad Evans and get a shot at reclaiming his title from the only other fighter in the weight division as popular as him, Forrest Griffin. Dana White and company were already counting their pay-per-view buys. But Evans had other ideas. The season two champion of The Ultimate Fighter was undefeated for a reason, not only was he an unbelievable athlete, but he had an excellent training camp as well. They game planned perfectly for a suddenly all too predictable Liddell and took home the title shot. After a back and forth feeling out period in the first round, Evans came out in the second round ready to turn up the temperature a little. Evans was obviously frustrating Liddell with his bob-n-weave tactics and Liddell was getting desperate to cause some damage. Liddell attacks were continually sloppier one after another, until Evans finally connected with a right hand that dropped the legend for the first time in his career.

1. Wanderlei Silva vs. Keith Jardine – UFC 84 – 05/24/2008

What can you say about Wanderlei Silva that hasn’t already been said; Pride middleweight champion for over five years straight, 18 undefeated fights in a row, and Pride 2003 middleweight Grand Prix champion. Silva is a legend in our sport, but he had lost some of his luster over the last year and a half as he had a string of losses to some of the elite in MMA. A forth loss in a row to a very tough Keith Jardine may have spelled the end of a legend. Jardine was coming into this fight riding high after a dominant decision win over Chuck Liddell. Taking out two legends inside of nine months would have been a career maker for Jardine. Silva apparently wasn’t ready to cash in his 401K just yet. They met in the middle, Jardine came out with his usually awkward stance, and Silva came out and took the middle and waited for him. Jardine tried to jab to set up distance but ate a few haymakers in the process. The second bomb from Silva dropped Jardine to the floor, and once Silva sensed the end was near he pounced. I think the frustrations of losing three in a row came out in that moment and he pounded Jardine into the floorboards so bad he did not move for almost eight minutes afterwards.

Honorable mention:

— Robert Emerson vs. Manny Gamburyan – UFC 87 – 08/09/2008

— Alessio Sakara vs Joe Vedepo – UFC Fight Night 15 – 09/17/2008

— Tyler Bryan vs. Shawn Parker – LOF 25 – 05/16/2008 (No Contest) – This was a double- knockout that took place about 15 seconds into the fight. If you haven’t seen it, find it on YouTube. The reaction of guest referee Shonie Carter alone makes it worth the view.

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