The fight game is a fickle mistress. In a sliver of a second, years of painstaking perfectionism can crumble while an also-ran suddenly finds himself on the threshold of the throne. It is for this arcane hope that fighters walk through the fire and plunge themselves into Spartanism.
The sport of mixed martial arts transcends disciplines; a fighter has an array of weapons at his side when going into battle. But most do not know the pain that comes with carving and hammering a man into a fighter armed with such a diverse arsenal. Elite mixed martial artists know not just how to launch a pronged assault, but also how to countervail one.
We, the bloodthirsty throngs, have seen fighters meet their end in many ways. But the ever-changing face of MMA has increasingly chosen urbanity over its primordial traits. So much so that even a novice in today’s game could run circles around a renowned warrior of the prior era.
Not that that’s a bad thing – the number of conoisseurs of sophisticated savagery is growing.
With successive generations of fighters becoming more adroit than the last, the time of the casual fan is dusking. Those who started from that rank have risen because their loyalty to the sport has given them vision that helps them appreciate what they would have been blind to in their infancy.
But there’s one thing that can unite generations-old and the greenest of fight fans – ultra-violence. Regardless of how polished the mixed martial artist or his lead on the score cards, there comes a moment in a contest when every sinew of a fighter’s self aligns in harmony. A sort of timeless force charges body, mind and warrior nucleus. It is as inexplicable as a spitting cobra’s laser accuracy that unerringly shoots venom into the opposer’s eyes or a lion’s unfaltering instinct to snap down on the jugular.
The result is a frozen-in-time, blink-and-miss-it knockout – the force of a lighting strike that petrifies the steeliest of fighters and renders them limp. We’re talking about strikes that are coursing with tectonic force, which put battle-hardened men and women in limbo.
We’ve curated a collection of the 13 most painful to watch faceplant knockouts in MMA history. For your viewing pleasure.
#13 Anthony “Rumble” Johnson vs DJ Linderman
After his triumphant return to the octagon in 2014, Anthony Johnson said that he was grateful to Dana White showing him the door because of his repeated violations of weight limits. In the post-fight interview after beating steaming contender Phil Davis, Rumble said that being cut had made him the “beast” he is.
That is no exaggeration – he could probably snuff out the lights on a buffalo or a horse. After pyrrhic attempts to fit in as a Welterweight and a Middleweight, Rumble finally accepted that his true identity is at Light Heavyweight.
A decision whose felicity is verified by the number of bodies he’s left in his trail of carnage. One of those was Bellator veteran DJ Linderman.
The two faced off for Titan FC in November 2012 in what was only Rumble’s third fight at 205 lbs. A little into the first round, it appeared as though Linderman had accidentally poked Rumble in the eye. With no respite offered by the referee, Linderman charged forward, hoping to exploit the assumed chink in Rumble’s armour.
What he got was a ballistic right hand instead.
Rumble’s resurgence would create the unique and fearsome record of the most sub-minute knockouts in UFC history(5). In a couple of months, at UFC 210, Rumble will seek to avenge his loss to Daniel Cormier and sign off on a true Cinderella story by winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
Oh and did we mention? He slept perennial contender Glover Teixiera in his previous fight with a single punch, leaving him looking not too dissimilar to Linderman after it.