Khalil Ibn Rountree Jr. known as “The War Horse” of the UFC light heavyweight division, is an exciting and powerful striker with a foundation in Muay Thai and a “never back down or out” fighting ethos.
Born February 26th, 1990, in Los Angeles, California and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, the 31 year-old has captured the attention of MMA fans for his most recent performance scoring the first and only oblique kick TKO.
Whilst his resume may not appear to be the most consistent, his dedication to his craft and length of tenure within the UFC has shown his evolution as a fighter and maturity in the way he approaches any and every bout that is put before him.
Weighing 300lbs (136kg) at the age of 20, he found himself watching The Ultimate Fighter with his brother and soon after, decided to begin training MMA under Wand Fight Team gym. After losing nearly 150lbs (68kg) in weight, he would get his first 7 amateur fights finishing with a record of 6-1; 4 of those being via devastating KO/TKOs (one of those in 39 seconds), 1 submission, and 1 decision win.
Rountree successfully tried out for The Ultimate Fighter season 23 under former Women’s Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s team. He would go on to win a dominant performance over Muhammed Dereese, winning via 2nd round TKO.
Unfortunately, Rountree tasted his second career defeat (by rear-naked choke submission) at the hands of Cory Hendricks in the quarter-final. However, Hendricks withdrew due to a neck injury upon which Dana White brought Rountree back for the semi-final round.
Rountree was then scheduled to face former teammate, Josh Stansbury, which would be a competitive barn burner back and forth fight for as long as it lasted. Both scoring knockdowns in the first, Khalil overcame the necessary adversity and finished Josh with a lead hook followed by a left straight from southpaw dropping Josh a final time. He completed the fight with a ground and pound finish in the first round.
After losing the Ultimate Fighter Light Heavyweight tournament final to Andrew Sanchez he would begin his official UFC career later that year. Overcoming further adversity refining his stand up, clinch and clinch striking, and effective movement, he pushed his toughness and heart to the limit through sheer endurance, and trial and error.
Rountree truly embodies the ‘never die’ attitude of the likes of lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. He adapts his style after each fight, and when faced with defeat, picks himself straight back up from the canvas to double down on proving he can hang with the best light heavyweights in the world.
Okay, so now you’ve got some context on The War Horse’s backstory and career, let’s get into the countdown of these monumental, and violent match ups – as we breakdown Khalil Rountree’s Top 5 MMA Finishes! (in descending order)
5. Vs. Muhammed Dereese – TUF 23 (April 20, 2016)
For some, this may have been the first time they were introduced to “The War Horse”, and if so, they wouldn’t have been disappointed. There was a reason I mentioned this bout earlier because it gives an indication of the violence to come.
As described by Dana White, this would be a classic, striker versus grappler match up. It would not be an easy task for Rountree on paper given Dereese was 4-0 leading into this bout, with two of those victories being via overwhelming ground and pound and a guillotine choke, both in the first round.
The first round started with both exchanging hard hooks and overhand rights. Rountree quickly became acquainted with Dereese’s wrestling pedigree when his lead uppercut was slipped and Dereese transitioned to his back and side and took him down driving an outside trip.
Rountree showed good wrestling defence, which was slightly frantic but he managed to get to his feet quickly, forcing a further stand-up exchange. This again was cut short by another outside trip takedown by Dereese, straight into side control.
Rountree would attempt to avoid some knee on belly ground and pound, but would soon succumb to an anaconda-like body triangle. Dereese struggled to sink his choke in deep whilst Rountree’s hand fought his way to a better position.
Forcing Dereese to release the choke, he attempted another rear-naked choke (which in a post-fight interview Rountree said annoyed him), the round would end with Rountree defending further clinch and takedown attempts with thunderous elbows and hammer fists.
The second round saw a more patient Rountree press forward, keeping range with his straight jab whilst throwing Dereese’s perception of his timing off with his pendulum step. Feinting a left hook and a straight jab forced Dereese to guard up, wherein Rountree saw the perfect opportunity to throw a roundhouse kick to the head which put the finish in motion.
Within the next 5 seconds Rountree threw a flurry of nine heavy shots consisting of hooks and uppercuts before Dereese collapsed covering up. Before he could even conceive the thought of shooting for a leg, the “The War Horse” attacked Dereese with three otherworldly strikes consisting of two overhands and a hammer fist – to the crowd’s roaring delight.
Rountree now stands above his ‘prey’ ready to execute his final blows. His weapon of choice? Not one, but two soccer kicks placed right to the liver before Herb Dean called an end to the fight at 38 seconds of round 2.
4. Vs. Justin Polendey – RFA 33 (Dec. 11, 2015)
Much earlier in his career, The War Horse showed his ability to throw caution to the wind and engage in the art of war straight in the heart of the fire. Ironically, this was an early bout where Khalil’s heart, and more specifically his chin, was tested by Justin Polendey.
Khalil starts the fight in his squared orthodox stance before switching to southpaw. Pushing the pace and trying to find the finish, Roundtree continues to throw telegraphed strikes. Whilst his straight, and double jab found success, Rountree headhunted whilst Polendey was on the back foot gauging Rowntree’s timing.
Rountree, feeling confident, pushed forward with a reckless burst of short hooks trying to fight in close range. Whilst cutting the space in half, Rountree threw a winging left hook leaving his chin exposed for a counter uppercut which momentarily rocked him.
Fighting on instinct taking a lot of damage, Rountree refused to back down, trading straights and hooks, all glancing blows, until he was caught again by Polendey which saw his legs wobble and shake.
Recovering quickly, Rountree stepped forward, blocking more effectively and sticking behind his jab. Rountree notes Polendey’s urge to immediately counter after receiving an attack. Realizing that his mistake was not setting up his powerful left hook, Rountree switches stances after each attack
Now establishing a change of levels, Rountree attacks with a lead body kick and guards high, expecting the immediate straight overhand which he blocks with ease.
Rountree then proceeds to throw a hook to disrupt the pattern and KO’s Polendey with a left lead hook which shakes the roof off the room at 1:42 of round 1.
Overcoming adversity and showing an ability to adapt by ‘downloading data’ from his opponent were vital in executing the necessary changes to win this fight.
3. Vs. Paul Craig – UFC FN 113 (July 16, 2017)
Opening this match up to a rapturous reception from the Scottish crowd, Rountree began trying to counter Craig from his southpaw stance, keeping his lead hand low whilst attempting to explode with a counter straight.
Rountree then began to push the space, switching to a conventional stance aiming to crack Craig with a lead right hook and often accompanying it with a straight. Rountree scouts Craig’s timing, and inactivity to push the pace, or attack with anything but a low leg kick.
Eventually, Rountree pulls on the leg kick and explodes with a counter hook followed by an uppercut. A desperation shoot brings the action to the ground, but not in Craig’s favour. Rountree, who saw the takedown attempt a mile away, now sprawls and lands a vicious signature soccer kick to Craig’s body with malign force.
The action returns to the feet with Craig backing up to the cage while Rountree attempts to use his familiar pendulum step into a head kick from his TUF bout. Craig blocks with desperation – sure he’s free from danger but is met with a blistering short left uppercut that scores the first and only knockdown.
Rountree follows up with pinpoint accurate, signature hammer fist ground and pound offence which scores his violent TKO finish over the Scotsman on his home turf at 4.56 of round 1.
Rountree then stands over his opponent staring at his handiwork as Craig begins to come back around to consciousness.
2. Vs. Gökhan Saki – UFC 226 (July 7, 2018)
Fighting out of southpaw stance, Rountree stuck behind his jab, throwing it to set up a hook from the same hand and use it as a deterrent for an engaging Saki.
Saki attempts to change levels with the occasional head kick and body jab, but Rountree appears to be focused on having a counter for every time Saki steps forward, getting the better of every exchange. Beginning to successfully understand his timing, Rountree begins to counter Saki’s strikes and perceive low leg kicks by checking them.
Throwing the jab out there, Rountree perceives Saki’s stance switch and loads up a vicious straight down the barrel to intercept Saki’s low leg kick.
Rocked and dazzled, Saki attempts to recover but is met by menacing hammer fists raining down on him. Comparable to strikes from a billy club, Rountree’s fist repeatedly smashes into a compromised Saki before referee Jason Herzog has seen enough, and calls the fight at 1:36 of the very first round.
Rountree’s implementation of a bouncing stance allowing him to move freely, comfortably paired with his timing of slips and counters was flawless. Rountree’s victory was so calculated, and effective that he was also awarded his first Performance of the Night bonus, as the cherry on top.
1. Vs. Modestas Bukauskas – UFC FN 191 (Sept. 4, 2021)
This was the comeback fight Rountree desperately needed to get back into the winning column. On the back of a 2-fight losing streak, Rountree needed to perform at his very best now.
Leading up to this bout, Rountree had moved his camp over several of his fights to Thailand to work on his Muay Thai skills, particularly his clinch game which was exposed by Johnny Walker several bouts prior.
Rountree and Bukauskas do not touch gloves and the fight starts with Bukauskas throwing with pure violence behind each strike. Rountree sits back preparing with his counters.
Eventually, his lead hand begins to land, roughing Bukauskas up enough for him to respect his power and back up. Either that, or he wasn’t interested in his head snapping back anymore.
Rountree sensing a possible finish pushes the pace, following up with straights, overhands and hooks all landing, forcing Bukauskas further back.
Chasing him to the cage, Rountree unloads more combinations forcing several strategic sprints out of Bukauskas’ way. Rountree wields his vicious combinations with precise power strikes, whilst walking his bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed opponent down as his prey questions his every decision.
Further combinations break Bukauskas’ nose demonstrating that this Rountree is a far different beast from that of his prior bouts. He stalks his prey, but doesn’t recklessly chase the finish.
Bukauskas goes back to fundamentals, attempting to establish his jab, which is too little too late at this point. For every jab thrown his way, Rountree fires back with intense counter straights and hooks to break his guard.
By now, Rountree is well into his groove, sizing up the strikes, attempting to create openings to get his desired finish. Rountree begins to mix his combinations up incorporating a deafening leg kick, and finishing with a hook that stings Bukauskas.
Attempting to get his wits about him, Rountree focuses his attention on slamming leg strikes to the thigh forming a large welt on his opponent as round 1 ends.
Round 2 starts very differently to the first with Rountree taking the center of the stage. I use the word ‘stage’ to attempt to articulate the painful, merciless mastery of violence Rountree inflicts on his victim.
Painting the cage with his opponent’s blood, the latter continues to bleed from his broken nose when Rountree unloads big rights and lefts, finishing with chopping leg kicks. Remember when I mentioned ‘painting’ the cage?
Bukauskas’ leg now turns the same crimson red as his face, and whilst he attempts to ignore the damage, Rountree marches forward landing another strike sending him into the cage.
Rountree begins to shrug off any offence he receives, adopting his refined Muay Thai-style stance, lifting his leg up several times and establishing a kick to the knee.
Bukauskas sees an opportunity to land a big strike, leaping forward with his lead leg planted like a tree in the Amazon rainforest. Rountree anticipates this and picture-perfectly counters whatever attack Bukauskas attempts with a short sidekick stomping through his leg. A scream echoes through the arena as Bukauskas falls down wincing and screaming in pain.
Herb Dean mercifully calls an end to the fight immediately at 2.30 of round 2, knowing it definitely could not continue. Bukauskas is quickly tended to by medical staff.
Rountree walks off with a stone-cold expression at first, but is happy with his handiwork. He is informed by Michael Bisping that his choice of technique may have destroyed his opponent’s ACL and multiple ligaments, which he acknowledges, but says (in the octagon interview above) that it’s actually something he’s worked on.