Top 5 Head-Kick Knockouts in UFC History

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From the roaring kicks of Bruce Lee to the crane kick of The Karate Kid, the head kick is a devastating technique that has enthralled cinema goers and martial arts enthusiasts since the early days of the Kung-Fu craze in the seventies and eighties.

Just a simple turn of the lower foot, and an extension of the striking leg into the air, could be enough to put out the lights of anyone unlucky enough to get in the way.

The head kick has been adapted across various martial arts. Karate, taekwondo, capoeira and Muay Thai are a few of the most well-known arts to utilize this deadly technique.

There is more than one way to showcase a head kick. Techniques include; the roundhouse kick, the crane kick, an axe kick and a heel kick amongst very many others.

The first head-kick knockout was showcased by Pete Williams against Mark “The Hammer” Coleman at UFC 17 on May 15th, 1998. This was a shocking moment, as Mark Coleman was perceived as an unstoppable beast, yet for a newcomer like Williams to come onto the scene and humanize “The Hammer” in such a destructive fashion proved to be a major upset back then.

Since that historic event, there have been a significant amount of exciting knockouts involving a kick to the head; from historic title victories to career-ending kill switches and dramatic upsets, you can always count on a simple kick to the head to send a shockwave of thrills.

With that covered, lets Kick-start the Top 5 Head-Kick Knockouts in UFC History! (in descending order)

5. Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Eye – UFC 238 (Jun. 8, 2019)

After Nicco Montaño, the first UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion, was stripped of her title, Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko won the championship after defeating former Women’s Strawweight Champion and Muay Thai rival, Joanna Jędrzejczyk. American Flyweight contender, Jessica Eye stepped up as Shevchenko’s first challenger.

In round 1, sticking to a southpaw against Eye’s orthodox stance, the champion established control in the round with kicks to the body and secured top control after two successful takedowns.

In round 2, Shevchenko continued the pressure with more body kicks. Jessica continued the pursuit and attempted to catch the champion’s body kicks, only for Shevchenko to break the pattern, catch the challenger off guard and score a thunderous kick to the head.

Just like that, the fight was over at 26 seconds into round 2. The victory secured the Kyrgyzstani her first successful title defence and established her status as a force to be reckoned with in the Women’s Flyweight division.

4. Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson – UFC 274 (May 7, 2022)

Right around the dawn of the new decade, two legendary veterans, Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson and “Iron” Michael Chandler, struggled to find success with both suffering losses to Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira.

In a chance to break their losing streak, both warriors collided in a lightweight bout in Phoenix, Arizona.

At the start of round 1, both lightweights engaged in the stand up, throwing punches and kicks at each other. It wasn’t until “El Cucuy” countered a leg kick and landed a solid right jab that Chandler was knocked to the ground.

Ferguson continued the pressure with Chandler backing up against the cage, yet the former Bellator Champion survived after a blazing exchange.

Despite suffering a double leg takedown and taking heavy punches from the former NCAA Division I Wrestler, Ferguson managed to pound him with vicious elbows. Chandler still managed to dominate the guard position, opening a cut above Ferguson’s eye, all before the end of a thunderous round 1.

When round 2 began, the crowd waited anxiously to see who would land the first blow, yet no one could have expected Chandler to connect with a front kick that would break the iron chin of “El Cucuy”.

Again, just like that, the former Interim Champion landed face first on the canvas, and at just 17 seconds of round 2, “Iron” Michael Chandler emerged victorious.

3. Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards – UFC 278 (Aug. 20, 2022)

It had been seven years since their first encounter at UFC on Fox: dos Anjos vs. Cowboy 2 (2015). Now at UFC 278, Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman and Leon Edwards would come face to face in the octagon again, this time with Usman as the defending champion.

Since his previous defeat to Usman, Edwards had stacked up an impressive unbeaten streak of nine wins and one no contest. It seemed the time had finally come for the Jamaican-born Englishman to claim the grand prize that he had been working towards his entire career.

In round 1, the reigning champion established his wrestling dominance with a successful takedown, yet in a stunning turnaround, Edwards took Usman to the ground with an impressive Kosoto Gake (minor outer hook), securing the full mount in the process. The underdog transitioned into back control before the end of round 1.

When round 2 began, it looked like Usman had regained full control of the fight by out striking the challenger and pressuring him against the cage. Despite this, Edwards kept his composure, re-established his distance and landed a few significant strikes of his own. Before the end of round 2, Usman secured a second takedown.

Despite holding his own, it seemed like Edwards’ luck had run out as “The Nigerian Nightmare” utilized his wrestling prowess to take the challenger down twice in round 3 and pressured him against the cage.

By round 4, Edwards was falling behind on the score cards as Usman was securing his fifth takedown and landing more solid strikes.

By the fifth and final round, it looked like another successful defence for Usman was at hand, yet Edwards held on. And in one of the most shocking moments in recent memory, the thirty year-old landed a thunderous left kick to the head, knocking Usman out cold.

At 4:04 of round 5, The Nigerian Nightmare was over, and Edwards claimed the Welterweight Championship in a true Rocky-style moment.

2. Mirko Cro Cop vs. Gabriel Gonzaga – UFC 70 (Apr. 21, 2007)

In his heyday, Mirko Filipović, AKA Mirko “Cro Cop”, was one of the most feared athletes in K-1 and Pride FC. With his signature roundhouse kicks, the Croatian kickboxer left a legacy of exciting knockouts in his wake; including Bob Sapp, Igor Vovchanchyn, Alexander Emelianenko and Wanderlei Silva.

After winning the 2006 Grand Prix at Pride Conflict Absolute, the thirty two year-old sought to replicate the same success in another major promotion, and at UFC 70, “Cro Cop” took on Brazilian heavyweight, Gabriel Gonzaga, in a title elimination bout.

In the beginning of round 1, “Cro Cop” landed his signature kick to the body, only for Gonzaga to absorb it and score a single leg takedown.

After controlling most of round one in a guard position, the referee broke the position and the two fighters were back on their feet, and in the final ten seconds of the round, Gonzaga landed a stunning right kick to the Croatian’s head.

In one of the most stunning upsets in UFC history, Gonzaga used Cro Cop’s most powerful weapon against him, knocking him out cold at 4:51 of round 1.

The result of the knockout left a frightening image of Cro Cop’s unconscious body landing with his right foot twisted backwards.

1. Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey – UFC 193 (Nov. 15, 2015)

Before she was a WWE superstar, contemporary fans may have forgotten that the Olympic gold medallist in judo, Ronda Rousey, was the first UFC Women’s Champion and the most accomplished athlete in the world.

By November 2015, Rousey held an impressive 12-0 winning streak, and six successful title defences.

An accomplished boxer and kickboxer, Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm, stood up to the challenge with nothing but an unbeaten record of 10-0.

Right from the get-go, Holm’s strong stance and sharp strikes held the edge over Rousey. As the champion attempted to close the distance, “The Preacher’s Daughter” was landing an abundance of strikes on the very woman who was once thought to have been untouchable.

The simple fact was that in Rousey’s goal to gain the clinch, the Olympic Gold medallist was stepping out of her comfort zone, attempting to outperform the former kickboxing champion in the striking game.

In a shocking twist, when Rousey gained the clinch, it would be Holm who would be the one to take a page out of Rousey’s own book, taking her down instead.

When round 2 began, the champion grew desperate, throwing everything at the wall, but “The Preacher’s Daughter” was too quick for her.

After recovering from a knockdown, Rousey’s chin was left exposed, leaving her at the mercy of a roaring roundhouse kick to the head.

At 59 seconds of round 2, the Bantamweight queen was dethroned, leading to Holm’s first major title victory paving a new wave of competitive women to come.

So, there you have it folks, 5 of the best head-kick knockouts in UFC history!

What was your favourite head-kick knockout from the list above? Which finishing knockouts or submissions should we cover next? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram!

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James Stampone

James’ passion for martial arts combat originated from his love of action cinema, inspiring him to practise the arts from a young age. He is trained in Muay Thai, Boxing, Wing Chun, Kali and Jiu-Jitsu. Through these practises he has not only reaped the benefits of learning technical skills, but also studied real-world survival techniques, with each discipline enriching his mental stamina and wellbeing. James is a movie buff and an MMA fan, engaging with the tactical skills and strategies of every fight.

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