Top UFC knockouts of 2023: Ismael Bonfin’s flying knee, Umar Nurmagomedov’s shocking punch lead the way

There is nothing in professional sports like a vicious knockout. It’s refreshing to some and horrifying to others, but it always evokes a genuine emotional response. The UFC has shown no shortage of reactions in the first three months of 2023.

The new year has already produced some legitimate contenders for Knockout of the Year. Ismael Bonfin planted Terrance McKinney with a flying knee, Johnny Walker dropped Paul Craig on one leg and Umar Nurmagomedov took a KO that surprised even him.

The UFC roster will need to come up with something truly special if they want to match CBS Sports 2022 KO of the Year, Leon Edwards’ shocking head kick topples Kamaru Usman. If this list is any indication, the fighters are certainly up for the challenge.

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

Umar Nurmagomedov op. Raoni Barcelos (January 14)

Nurmagomedov scored an early contender for Knockout of the Year on the first UFC card of 2023. Nurmagomedov, who had never scored a knockout in 15 professional fights, floored Barcelos with a shot that confused even the Russian. The undefeated fighter whistled to the knee but caught Barcelos with a short left hand while Nurmagomedov was on one leg. The sneaky hit immediately turned off the lights and earned multiple replays.

Dan Ige op. Damon Jackson (January 14)

Ige packs a serious punch and lived up to his “50K” moniker thanks to a vicious left hook that earned him a Performance of the Night bonus. Ige caught Jackson coming in and promptly dropped him. No follow-up shots were needed as Ige casually walked away. Jackson didn’t dodge the punch, but he narrowly avoided destruction. Jackson crumpled from the fall with his heels out and his knees turning in. Fortunately, he was able to leave the Octagon under the power of his own legs.

Ismael Bonfim def. Terrance McKinney (January 21)

Expectations were high for Bonfim after a successful run in the “Contender Series” and regional circuit. However, 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 McKinney’s mouthpiece before launching a double knee that disabled and planted McKinney.

Bruno Ferreira op. Gregory Rodrigues (January 21)

Rodrigues had warmed to UFC fans with knockout power to match his indomitable spirit. Stoppage wins against Chidi Njokuani and Julian Marquez made Rodrigues look big. Ferreira changed all that. Rodrigues stayed open while pressing the action and ate a big shot from Ferreira at UFC 283 that knocked him unconscious. It was a nasty punch that improved Ferreira to 10-0 and crowned him the UFC’s winningest fighter.

Johnny Walker def. Paul Craig (January 21)

Nurmagomedov isn’t the only fighter to land a big shot on one leg. A week after KO of the Year contender Nurmagomedov, Walker delivered a solid finish at UFC 283. Walker landed an early kick that Craig caught. Undeterred, Walker unleashed a flurry of right hands and punches that sent Craig off the fence. Walker continued to bombard Craig with punches as Craig held onto Walker’s leg for dear life. The referee judged his defense to be unintelligent and stopped the fight moments later.

Rinya Nakamura def. Toshiomi Kazama (February 4)

Generally speaking, someone hits the canvas when two fighters agree to stand in the pocket and exchange. Nakamura was the beneficiary of such an exchange. Nakamura landed a nasty left hook 30 seconds into the fight that bounced Kazama’s head to the canvas. The quick KO cemented Nakamura as the “Road to UFC” heavyweight champion.

Justin Tafa def. Parker Porter (February 11)

Tafa taught Porker a painful lesson about why you don’t enter the area with your hands down. Tafa sent his fellow Australians into a frenzy when he fell on Porter with a counter right hook and left uppercut. The shot sent Porter flying. Tafa pleaded with fellow New Zealand-born heavyweight Mark Hunt, walking away without a follow-up. The entire match lasted just 66 seconds.

Kleydson Rodrigues def. Shannon Ross (February 11)

Rodrigues was a storm that Ross just couldn’t handle. Rodrigues unloaded on Ross like someone mashing the buttons on a video game controller. The sum of Rodrigues’ attack was more successful than its individual parts. Two furious spinning attacks didn’t do much, but a terrific flurry of hooks to the head and body melted Ross down for a stoppage just 59 seconds into Round 1.

Philipe Lins def. Ovince Saint Preux (February 18)

It took Lins less than a minute to send Saint Preux packing. Lins broke “OSP” with a long left straight about 20 seconds into the opening frame and never took his foot off the gas. Saint Preux was visibly affected by this shot and it gave Lins all the confidence he needed to continue the finish. Lins chased Saint Preux around the Octagon landing looping hooks and uppercuts. It was a particularly long left hand that dropped Saint Preux and a follow-up shot that sealed the deal.

Trevor Peake or. Erick Gonzalez (February 25)

It wasn’t pretty, but it was definitely effective. Peek threw technique out the window and went full Donkey Kong on Gonzalez. Peek repeatedly hit his opponent with standing hammer fists and all sorts of strikes. Gonzalez nearly got out of the first round, but eventually collapsed from the onslaught with just over a second left in the opening frame.

Jordan Levitt orm. Victor Martinez (February 25)

Leavitt needed to make an impression after being submitted by Paddy Pimblett and he did just that against Martinez. Leavitt scored just the second knockout of his career, and first by strikes, in impressive fashion. Leavitt hurt Martinez with a thrust kick to the body, secured the clinch and punished him with knees and elbows to the head and body. Martinez could not withstand the attack and crashed into the fence. Plenty of rebounds for Leavitt.

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

Barriault bounced back from a difficult first round and made Marquez pay for his early success. Marquez looked sharper than usual in round 1, landing more often and with better accuracy than his Canadian foe. However, his efforts did not continue in two rounds. Marquez was visibly tired in Round 2 and Barriault — living up to his “Powerbar” nickname — maintained a solid performance. Barriault backed Marquez up against the fence and unleashed a surprising number of strikes. Referee Mark Smith was content to let Marquez soak up blow after blow despite Marquez losing his mouthpiece, repeatedly bombing and spinning away. The total number of strikes in Round 2 was 95 to 35 in favor of Barriault before the fight be mercifully terminated.

Ian Gary op. Kenan Song (March 4)

Garry is the goods. The Irish fighter bounced back from being knocked down in the first round and took the fight to his opponent. Gary looked so slick in the close, getting Song up against the fence and crushing him with a knee. Garry followed up with two powerful shots to the body, leaned back to avoid the counter and knocked his foe down to end the third round. Gary improved to 11-0 and Song left with all kinds of scrapes, bruises and swelling.

Dricuss du Plessis def. Derek Brunson (March 4)

Branson pulled out of his planned retirement and it ended very badly for the perennial contender. Brunson fought pretty well in the 1st round against a physically imposing opponent 10 years his junior. Unfortunately for Brunson, he was unable to sustain the exit and began to weather out in Round 2. Du Plessis lost offense for most of the round before dropping Brunson in the final 30 seconds. Du Plessis went to work with the soil and the pound. Brunson’s corner should be applauded for flying in, but the damage was already done. It was the second time in 2023 that a fight on this list ended at 4:59 of a round.

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