Best of MMA 2011: Anderson Silva Delivers the Knockout of the Year

Silva’s front kick takes out Belfort

You’ve seen the best photos. We’ve given you our top fighter and best fight. Today, we take a look at the best knockouts of 2011 – and there were plenty of great ones to choose from. Hit up the HeavyMMA Best of MMA 2011 Knockout of the Year picks. Then check out what we have coming in the next few days as we kiss 2011 goodbye and usher in 2012.

Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort

1. Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort
UFC 126 | Feb. 5 | Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas
Matt Brown: This seems to be the year of “best ever” for me. This KO was by far the best knockout I’ve ever witnessed live. The “footercut,” as we named it, became a quick favorite of several other fighters in 2011 (see No. 2) and seems to be a staple in the arsenal of most strikers. Don’t believe me? Go see our Best of 2011 photos and you’ll see what I mean.
Duane Finley:
I was originally going to write a full description of this fight in grand scale. I was going to reference the pre-fight build-up of two of Brazil’s most popular fighters finally squaring off. But in reality it all can be summed up in three words: front-kick knockout. It was beautiful, violent and the photograph our own James Law captured will forever be one of my most memorable moments in MMA.
Matt Erickson: Looking back on it, we should’ve known something epic was going to happen. When Silva donned a Jabbawockeez mask for his weigh-ins face off with Belfort, the fireworks started. And as we’ve come to expect from Silva, they ended with a grand finale the next night with a front kick that was right on the button. Of all Silva’s highlight reel moments, this one will go down as arguably the greatest in his career – unless he tops it later with something even cooler.

Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture

2. Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture
UFC 129 | April 30 | Rogers Centre, Toronto
Matt Brown: Lyoto Machida also utilized the newly popular front kick to not only knock Randy Couture’s tooth into the front row, but retire one of the greatest fighters in the history of mixed martial arts. While this one might have been more flashy, it wasn’t the original. The original always wins out in my book.
Duane Finley: Karate Kid front-kick knockout. Anything I write would pale in comparison.
Matt Erickson: Seeing this in any venue would’ve been awesome. But watching it happen from floor level while 55,000 fans went silent for a nanosecond before erupting was, as the kids say today, nanners. Just nanners. The combination of a UFC attendance record in a massive stadium and Couture retiring for the last time after the fight added some great historical footnotes to a monumental moment for Machida.

Johny Hendricks vs. Jon Fitch

3. Johny Hendricks vs. Jon Fitch
UFC 141 | Dec. 30 | MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Matt Brown: What more can you say about the beauty of a one-punch knockout? Sure, we see them fairly often in MMA, but when a guy that was a 3-to-1 underdog does it to a consensus Top 3 guy in the division, it’s special. The enormity of the knockout plays a role, as well. This instantly put Hendricks on the map, while pretty much eliminating Fitch from getting a title shot anytime before mid-2013.
Duane Finley: Coming into this fight, there was little dispute Jon Fitch was one of the top welterweights in the world. Unfortunately for Fitch, his seemingly neverending career predicament of misplacement in the title shuffle was not going to improve, win or lose, against Johny Hendricks. On the other hand, the matchup was all upside for Hendricks – and he made the most of the opportunity by knocking out Fitch with a bombing left 12 seconds into the fight. It was a defining moment for the former Division I national champion wrestler as he solidified himself as a contender in the competitive UFC welterweight division. For Fitch, there couldn’t have been a worse outcome.
Matt Erickson: There were experts who saw ways that Johny Hendricks could upset Jon Fitch last week – but none of them (except Hendricks) saw one of those ways being a massive knockout. Fitch hadn’t been finished since 2002, well before he joined the UFC. Think about that for a minute – dude hadn’t been finished in nine years and had lost just once since then, a unanimous decision loss to Georges St-Pierre. No shame in that. So to think Hendricks was going to take the center of the cage and fire off a left hook to put Fitch’s lights out, and so quickly – well, it wasn’t thought of. It just wasn’t going to happen. Until it happened. It took Hendricks 12 seconds to become legendary, and it’ll be interesting to see how he follows it up.

Honorable Mention
John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson: UFC 129 | April 30 | Rogers Centre, Toronto
Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards: UFC 131 | June 11 | Rogers Arena, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry: UFC on Versus 4 | June 26 | Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Brendan Schaub: UFC 134 | Aug. 27 | HSBC Arena, Rio de Janeiro
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jake Shields: UFC Fight Night 26 | Sept. 17 | Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans
Chan Sung Jung vs. Mark Hominick: UFC 140 | Dec. 10 | Air Canada Centre, Toronto

HeavyMMA’s Best of MMA 2011 Series
Best of UFC 2011: The Photographs. Acclaimed MMA photographer James Law shares some of the best captures of the year in a slideshow that has been viewed all around the world in the last 24 hours.
Best of MMA 2011: Fighter of the Year.
With a spotless 4-0 record and four stoppages, it should come as no surprise UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones is our Fighter of the Year.
Best of MMA 2011: Fight of the Year.
It was a fight years in the making, but Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was worth the wait – and one for the ages.
Coming Sunday: Submission of the Year
Coming Monday: Upset of the Year
Coming Tuesday: Event of the Year
Coming Wednesday: Newcomer of the Year