Penick’s 2015 MMA Awards: “KO of the Year” – Holly Holm’s head kick over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

(Matt Roberts) USA TODAY

Yesterday I kicked off my year-end awards for 2015 with the clear choice for “Fight of the Year,” but when it comes to the top KO of the year, there were tons of options available. As the series continues today, I’ve got my pick for the best knockout of 2015, along with thoughts on several other (T)KO stoppages from the year, and a large number of honorable mentions. It was a good year for fans of MMA violence.

2015 “KO of the Year” – Holly Holm’s stunning head kick KO over Ronda Rousey – UFC 193 – Nov. 15

Perhaps the most epic finish (only slightly edging out Conor McGregor’s 13-second KO over Jose Aldo – more on that below) of 2015, Holly Holm’s game-changing performance at UFC 193 in Australia culminated in a signature moment. She had already hurt Rousey badly time and time again through the first round and a half, and as Rousey stumbled down and tried to get up with her back turned to Holm, she turned back around into an absolutely nasty head kick that sent her crashing unconscious to the mat. Holm’s follow up hammerfists only hammered home the point of the finish, but it was the image of Rousey getting cracked by that kick that permeated far beyond the MMA bubble, a meme-worthy image that was everywhere in the week following the bout. That it was the fall of one of the UFC’s biggest ever stars only added to the moment, and established Holm as the new woman to beat at 135 lbs.


The Best of the Rest (In Chronological Order)

Paul Felder’s spinning back fist over Danny Castillo – UFC 182: This was just a fantastic highlight to start off 2015, as Felder landed a picture perfect spinning back fist to send Castillo to the mat. He failed to follow up from there in his subsequent performances, but this was one hell of a moment on a good card to begin the year.

Thiago Santos’ head kick KO over Steve Bosse – UFC Fight Night 70: This was my pick at the mid-way point of the year, and deserves mention on this list as a standout finish. Here’s what I said on the finish at the time: “It’s a stand out in not only technique but absolute viciousness. Santos set up the head kick last weekend with a hard kick to the body, and quickly recognized he’d have the head open. The next shot thrown knocked Bosse out cold with one of the sickest sounds you could hear accompanying a KO blow inside the Octagon. It’s the type of highlight that sticks with you, and while there were some nice finishes throughout the year, some in more important fights, this one’s out to an early lead, and it’ll be hard to beat it over the next six months.” Clearly it was bested, but it certainly wasn’t easy.

Thomas Almeida’s flying knee KO over Brad Pickett – UFC 189: This was absolute insanity, and to stand out on a night of standout fights on probably the best fight card of 2015 just highlights how great it was. The finish came early in the second round after a real fun back and forth, and Almeida scored his sick flying knee directly to the jaw after Pickett had one of his own blocked. It was one of many highlights for the young undefeated bantamweight on the year, but definitely his best.

Uriah Hall’s spinning jump kick TKO over Gegard Mousasi – UFC Fight Night 75: Probably the comeback of the year, Hall landed the perfect strike out of nowhere after dropping the second round and getting controlled early on by the vet in Mousasi. This was exactly the type of thing Hall’s capable of pulling off, jumping with the spin kick and catching someone on the jaw, but his inconsistency continues to keep him down. Still, you can’t deny him a spot on this list with how crazy that finish was.

Frankie Edgar’s first round KO over Chad Mendes – TUF 22 Finale: How absolutely insane was this finish? Catching Mendes with a perfect two punch combo and putting his lights out to leave no question of his status in the division was the statement Edgar needed. It might not matter because of the result in the next fight, but it was absolutely one of the best pure striking KOs of the year.

Conor McGregor’s 13 second KO over Jose Aldo – UFC 194: A real close second to Holly Holm, McGregor taking out the only UFC Featherweight Champion ever in essentially his first striking exchange was insanity. Aldo went down so quickly from the initial blow that you almost couldn’t tell what had happened from the original camera angle until McGregor was on top of him throwing hammerfists. McGregor established himself as the best at 145 lbs, and enters 2016 as the new biggest star in the sport.


Honorable Mentions

-Makwan Amirkhani’s flying knee over Andy Ogle – UFC on Fox 14
-Thiago Alves’ come from behind TKO over Jordan Mein – UFC 183
-Matt Dwyer’s superman punch over William Macario (w/Flair flop) – UFC Fight Night 61
-Sam Alvey’s comeback KO over Cezar Ferreira – UFC Fight Night 61
-Leon Edwards’ eight-second KO over Seth Baczynski – UFC Fight Night 64
-Ovince St. Preux uppercut to ground finish over Pat Cummins – UFC on Fox 15
-Dan Hooker’s come from behind head kick over Hatsu Hioki – UFC Fight Night 65
-Robert Whittaker stops Brad Tavares with multiple knock downs – UFC Fight Night 65
-Shawn Jordan’s sweet chin music over Derrick Lewis – UFC Fight Night 68
-Anthony Birchak’s face-planting KO over Joe Soto – UFC Fight Night 68
-Dan Henderson’s counter-KO over Tim Boetsch – UFC Fight Night 68
-Patricio “Pitbull” Freire knocks out Daniel Weichel – Bellator 138
-Hisaki Kato’s superman punch over Joe Schilling – Bellator 139
-Yoel Romero’s elbows from hell over Lyoto Machida – UFC Fight Night 70
-Stephen Thompson’s spinning heel kick to the face over Jake Ellenberger – TUF 21 Finale
-Adriano Martins KO over Islam Makhachev – UFC 192
-Rafael Carvalho’s liver kick TKO over Brandon Halsey – Bellator 144
-Alex Oliveira’s third round KO over Piotr Hallmann – UFC Fight Night 77
-Thomas Almeida’s brutal first round KO over Anthony Birchak – UFC Fight Night 77
-Gian Villante’s first round KO over Anthony Perosh – UFC 193
-Melvin Manhoef’s KO over Hisaki Kato – Bellator 146
-Andre Fili’s head kick and follow up over Gabriel Benitez – UFC Fight Night 78
-Doo Ho Choi’s first round TKO over Sam Sicilia – UFC Fight Night 79
-Tim Means’ left hook KO over John Howard – UFC Fight Night 80
-Nate Marquardt’s KO over CB Dollaway – UFC on Fox 17
-Rafael dos Anjos’ body shots to ground finish over Donald Cerrone – UFC on Fox 17

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

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