In the world of mixed martial arts there are few techniques as brutal, but spectacularly beautiful, than the head kick.
A strike that can end a fight in an instant, we saw it in all its destructive force this weekend at UFC 238 when women’s flyweight world champion Valentina Shevchenko landed a lights-out shot on number one contender Jessica Eye.
Over the years there have been some incredible examples in the UFC – here we take a look at five of the very best.
Edson Barboza v Terry Etim – UFC 142, January 2012
The head kick that all others are still judged by. When Brazilian Barboza took on Britain’s Etim in Rio few could have predicted the earth-shattering outcome. A stunning spinning wheel kick caught Etim right on the jaw, immediately stiffening the Liverpool man, who was unconscious before hitting the canvas.
Gabriel Gonzaga v Mirko Filipovic – UFC 70, April 2007
Mirko Cro-cop came into the UFC with a fierce reputation in the fight game. ‘Right foot hospital, left foot cemetery’ was a quote that told you all you need to know about his kicking prowess. On this night in Manchester, however, the world stood in stunned silence as Brazilian Gonzaga unleashed a night-ending bolt from the blue in the very first round.
Holly Holm v Ronda Rousey – UFC 193, November 2015
The kick that changed the face of women’s MMA. Both went into the fight unbeaten, Rousey having eviscerated all before her. Few gave the ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ much chance but she dominated from the outset finishing things with a swift kick to the face of a stumbling Rousey – the follow up punches on the ground were redundant.
Lyoto Machida v Randy Couture – UFC 129, April 2011
In terms of technique, few hold a candle to this strike from Machida. While most knockout will come from spinning techniques, this front kick was a thing of pure beauty. The speed and timing to connect with the chin of Hall of Fame legend Couture was incredible. This was closely-run in this list by a similar effort from Anderson Silva against Vitor Belfort.
Aleksandar Rakic v Jimi Manuwa – UFC Fight Night 153, June 2019
A recent addition to the list from earlier this month. On a four-fight win streak in the UFC, Rakic was looking towards the light-heavyweight top-10, while Manuwa was coming off three reverses. A swift swing of the Austrian’s left leg continued his momentum in devastating fashion, and sent the Brit into retirement.
Henry Cejudo added to his impressive fight-CV by becoming just the fourth person in UFC history to be a consecutive two-weight world champion.
His third-round stoppage of Brazilian Marlon Moraes added the bantamweight strap to the flyweight belt already in his possession.
With a wrestling gold medal from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Cejudo’s latest win had many suggesting his now takes his place among the greatest fighters of all time.
Cejudo didn’t have things his all his own way though, the Brazilian looked strong in the first round using his kicks to keep the grappler at a safe distance.
It was a similar story going into the early knockings of the second, but Cejudo upped his work rate and managed to close the distance finding real joy with knees in the clinch.
As Moraes tired into the third, The Messenger was able to take control, eventually taking proceedings to the mat. A choke attempt was stunted, but Cejudo’s dominant ground game could not be quelled as he finished the fight with a flurry of punches and elbows to make history. Cejudo now stands at 15-2, Moraes slips to a 22-6 record.
Elsewhere, the highly anticipated lightweight clash between Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone ended in something of a disappointment.
Going into the fight both men knew a win would secure a fight with the winner of UFC 242’s headliner in Abu Dhabi – Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier – but after an electrifying first two rounds, which still garnered the Fight of the Night accolade, it would be the doctor who would bring a premature end to the contest.
Cerrone, now 36-12, had taken the first round with an accurate and varied attack targeting the whole of Ferguson’s body. The fight stayed upright for much of the second stanza, but it was Ferguson now doing the damage.
He drew blood early in the round, landing heavily to the face of the Cowboy, who was visibly marked around both eyes, thanks mainly to vicious jabs from Ferguson.
The round ended in controversy as El Cucuy landed a shot after the bell, but there was no point deduction.
Just as the third period was about to start, Cerrone appeared to blow his nose, causing a rush of air and blood to the already-damaged right eye causing it to practically close from the swelling.
After a brief consultation doctors declared him unfit to continue, handing Ferguson the win, a 25-3 record, and a title shot in the not-too-distant future.
Women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defended her crown in devastating fashion against number-one contender Jessica Eye.
After dominating the first round on the ground, The Bullet landed a devastating head-kick in the opening seconds of round two rendering Eye unconscious before she even hit the canvas.
It was one of the most brutal knockout in the history of the women’s game, and took Shevchenko to 17-3, while Eye dropped to 14-7.
The Muslim fighter will be competing for the first time since a dominant fourth-round submission victory over Conor McGregor at UFC 229 last October.
Nurmagomedov was suspended for nine months following his involvement in the post-fight melee between his team and rival McGregor’s team but will look to defend his belt for a second time on September 7.
Poirier, who is unbeaten in his last six fights, elevated himself into interim-champ status after a deeply impressive victory over the reigning featherweight king Max Holloway at UFC 236.
UFC president Dana White confirmed after that triumph he would be next in line to challenge Nurmagomedov and the two will now headline the blockbuster event.
It will mark the first pay-per-view card the promotion has hosted in Abu Dhabi since UFC 112 back in 2010 having held a Fight Night event in 2014.
The venue is still to be decided but it will most likely require a bespoke built indoor arena with a capacity of up to 16,000.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, last month said: “Although we don’t yet have an arena that accommodates the capacity of such a mega event and its huge number of spectators, DCT Abu Dhabi is committed to building an arena for this event which can give the international event experience to UAE’s spectators.
“We are regularly contacting and meeting the UFC team from Las Vegas to review the technical requirements and to integrate them into our plans.
“Our flagship arena development is on-track and we are set to hand it over to the UFC’s team in August, ahead of the event.”
UFC 242 will air live on pay-per-view exclusively through the ESPN+ streaming service. Tickets will go on sale on Ticketmaster from noon on Friday.