MMATorch Roundtable: Contributor Picks for Top Five Favorite Finishes in MMA in 2015

(Matt Roberts) USA TODAY

What were your five favorite finishes in 2015 (KO or submission) and why?


5. Uriah Hall goes highlight reel on Gegard Mousasi – Hall finished Gegard Mousasi with a jumping spinning back kick, flying knee, and punches. Do I even need to say anything else? Many fights are finished. A lot of fights are finished with punches. Very few fights are finished with flying knees. I can’t remember a fight that was ever finished with a jumping spinning back kick. For all the frustration that Hall presents as an inconsistent fighter, his ability to finish in explosive fashion is almost unparalleled in the sport. This sequence of video game techniques to beat a top 10 middleweight may never be seen again, and should be watched on a semi-regular basis by everyone not named Gegard Mousasi.

4. T.J. Dillashaw shows it wasn’t a fluke against Renan Barao – Before dropping his title to Dillashaw, Barao was getting some talk as the best P4P fighter in the world. Then along came Dillashaw. Dillashaw demolished the then champion in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. While the performance appeared convincing, there were some that thought his win over Barao was a fluke. Dillashaw showed that was not the case at all, as he put on a masterful performance in the rematch, finishing the Brazilian a round earlier than their previous fight. Power, technique, footwork and precision were all on display as Dillashaw punched the hell out of Barao, forcing the ref to step in and cementing Dillashaw’s status as a top fighter.

3. Ronda Rousey submits Cat Zingano in 14 seconds – Watching Rousey fight has been an exercise in thinking she can’t possibly top herself, but still somehow expecting her to do so. This fight, if you can really call 14 seconds in the Octagon a fight, was Rousey continuing to do the unimaginable. Zingano had developed something of a reputation as a slow starter, and perhaps that’s why she came out hot and immediately launched a flying knee. Rousey avoided the kill shot, and promptly invented a new way to armbar someone that had never been seen. Oh, she also set a record for fastest finish in UFC championship history. Heart-breaking for Zingano, but awe-inspiring for the rest of us.

2. Conor McGregor puts Jose Aldo’s lights out in 13 seconds – Rousey’s record championship finish didn’t even last a year as Conor McGregor knocked Jose Aldo out cold at UFC 194. This was the same Jose Aldo who had only lost one time in his career, that being 10 years ago. The same Jose Aldo who was the only featherweight champion the organization had ever known. McGregor, as usual, made outlandish claims and statements leading up to the most promoted fight the UFC had ever staged. He set the bar impossibly high, and then cleared it in a way that no one could have predicted. McGregor and his left hand have backed up everything he’s ever claimed, and he may have overtaken Rousey as the sports biggest star with this performance.

1. Holly Holm shocks the world – Rousey’s second appearance in this list comes on the wrong end of the finish. No one gave Holly Holm much of a chance, as she was merely next in line to get annihilated to her by the UFC’s biggest star. Most weren’t expecting anything competitive, let alone any type of victory. Not only did Holm batter and bloody the best fighter in women’s MMA history, she loaded up on a left high kick and almost took Rousey’s head off to finish her. See Rousey topple to the canvas, unconscious, is one of the most shocking and amazing moments I’ve witnessed in my life as a sports fan, ever.


Ronda Rousey’s submission over Cat Zingano at UFC 184 and her knockout of Bethe Correia at UFC 190 have to be on the list. Those were some great performances in bigtime title fights. And at the same time, Holly Holm knocking out Rousey at UFC 193 is equally as huge. Luke Rockhold had some really good finishes this year, with a slick submission over Lyoto Machida at UFC on FOX 15 and his ground-and-pound finish over Chris Weidman at UFC 194.  Either of those is worthy. Conor McGregor’s knockout of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 has to be on this list. That was amazing, and a definite transformative moment for MMA. Robbie Lawler’s knockout of Rory MacDonald at UFC 189 was also an incredible moment. MacDonald had taken a pounding, but kept coming. Lawler shut his lights out, though, and retained the UFC Welterweight Championship.


1) McGregor KOs Jose Aldo in 13 seconds and breaks the Internet.
2) Overeem KOs dos Santos and my brain stops working for atleast an hour.
3) Arlovski KOs Browne and solidifies the comeback of the year.
4) Werdum Submits Velasquez and gains the title.
5) Holm KOs Rousey to exit the era of Ronda.


I’ll admit my #1 choice is getting the high recognition in large part due to the high profile of the finish, but when Holly Holm landed the head kick that put Ronda Rousey out cold, it was both emphatic and a landscape changer for the entire sport. You’d be hard pressed to find a fight with that high of a profile feature such a definitive ending that I feel obligated to place it at the top of the list. Wait… why am I justifying my choice? That was genuinely a badass KO! So what if I’ve already seen it a thousand times (as has everyone else)? A great moment in the sport and an all-time great KO.

On the flip side, Rousey gets the #2 spot with her acrobatic sub of Cat Zingano in 14 seconds. We’ve seen all varieties of armbars, but we’ve never seen anything like the one Rousey pulled off on a charging Zingano and I have to believe that we never will again. Zingano’s poor decision to charge the Olympic judoka set it up and with all due respect to Zingano (whom I love watching fight and have all the respect in the world for), I don’t see anyone being dumb enough to repeat a similar strategy.

#3 was the flying knee KO Thomas Almeida pulled off on Brad Pickett at the ever-lauded UFC 189. The fight itself was awesome too (I think I forgot to mention that one as an honorable mention for best fights of the year… oh well) with Pickett having his moments in the first round even as Almeida did most of the damage throughout the fight. I can’t recall a more natural looking flying knee either which is why this one edges out Jeremy Stephens landing his own against Dennis Bermudez at the same event (did I forget that one on best fights of the year too? UFC 189 really was badass wasn’t it…)

#4 goes to Demetrious Johnson for setting a record that will never be broken with the latest possible finish that a fight can have, pulling off the armbar at 4:59 of the fifth round on Kyoji Horiguchi in an otherwise blase UFC 186. The armbar itself wasn’t overtly spectacular, but the speed in which he looked to pull it off knowing that time was running out to pull out a finish was extremely impressive and a big FU to the critics who call him boring. For some reason he still has that label though…

I have my doubts anyone else will mention my choice for #5, but Aljamain Sterling’s arm-triangle from the bottom of Takeya Mizugaki is another thing that I’ve never before seen either, and feel the youngster deserves mad props for the impressive sub. The UFC will be kicking themselves if they let him get away as Sterling is currently a free agent. His athleticism his what most rave about, but with submissions like that he is proving to be much more than that.

Honorable mentions are the aforementioned Jeremy Stephens flying knee KO of Dennis Bermudez, Thales Leites arm triangle choke on Tim Boetsch, Paul Felder’s spinning back fist KO of Danny Castillo, Hisaki Kato’s superman punch KO on Joe Schilling, Frank Mir beating Todd Duffee to the punch, and as much as I hate to admit it (yes, I’m still bitter about a whole year’s worth of buildup for 13 damn seconds!), Conor McGregor’s precisely timed left hand ending the six-year reign of Jose Aldo.


1. Holly Holm def Ronda Rousey via headkick KO in the second round – UFC 193 “Rousey vs Holm”

The head kick heard around the world.  After Holly Holm waged a brutal assault on Ronda Rousey she finished the bout off by placing her shin to Rousey’s neck. The only thing that has disappointed me in the wake of Rousey’s collapse is not one fan has released a video of that momentous head kick set to “Oops Upside Your Head” by The Gap Band.

2. Thiago Santos def Steve Bosse via headkick KO in the first round – UFC Fight Night 70 “Romero vs Machida”

Coming at only :29 of the very first round, Thiago Santos unleashed a violent left high kick to the head of Steve Bosse that quickly and dramatically ended the Canadians debut. The sound of the kick reverberated throughout the building.

3. Stephen Thompson def Jake Ellenberger via Spinning Heel Kick in the first round – TUF 21 Finale “Thompson vs Ellenberger”

Stephen Thompson is the first to initiate and win the clinch and grappling exchanges in this match. Then at 2:37 of the round Thompson lands a hook kick to the right eye of Ellenberger, which is the beginning of the end for this fight.

Ellenberger loses another grappling exchange after initiating an inside trip, makes it back to his feet and is met with the first spinning heel kick that lands flush to his temple knocking him to the ground. Somehow Ellenberger manages to make it to his feet and retake the center of the Octagon and is immediately met with another spinning heel kick by Thompson which ends the fight.

The reason this is one of my favorite TKOs because it shows the diversity of strikes and the grappling of Stephen Thompson and his evolution at a mixed martial artist, especially after the brutal and merciless beating his suffered at the hands of Matt Brown.

4. Thomas Almeida def Brad Pickett via Flying Knee KO in the second round – UFC 189 “Mendes vs McGregor”

After round one between Thomas Almeida and Brad Pickett, I was skeptical of the hype surrounding Almeida. The reason being that Almeida was getting touched up by an older and slower Pickett. Then seconds into the second round Almeida throws a hard straight jab and steps in and goes airborne with a flying double knee that puts Pickett away.

This is one of my favorite knockouts because everything about it is picture perfect. Almeida sets up and times the knee perfectly. Pickett eats a hard jab and as Almeida moves in, Pickett starts to duck under, Almeida flashes the right knee before placing the left knee on Pickett’s chin. The knee lands so flush it sounds like the crack of bat hitting a ball at Fenway Park.

5. Al Iaquinta def Joe Lauzon via TKO in the second round – UFC 183 “Silva vs Diaz”

In my opinion this is the best performance of Al Iaquinta’s career in the UFC; unfortunately it took place against one of the fighters I love, Joe Lauzon. During this fight Iaquinta was able to use movement, slips, feints, misdirection, body shots, precision striking and combinations to force Marc Goddard to step in on Lauzon’s behalf earning him the second round TKO.

The beginning of the end comes at 2:20 of the second round as Iaquinta hits Lauzon with a hard jab-straight combination that stuns him. Knowing that he had Lauzon hurt Iaquinta patiently but persistently pressures and turns up the heat. Iaquinta lands a big right hand that sends Lauzon careening to the ground and Iaquinta follows with big hammer fists. Smartly, Iaquinta allows Lauzon to stand up rather than get caught in Lauzon’s guard and allow him to recover. Then at 1:34 of the fight Iaquinta lands a nice combination which forces Marc Goddard to end the fight.

[Photo (c) Matt Roberts via USA Today Sports]

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