A new year is here, and that means it’s time for Combat Press to take a look back at the best of MMA in 2021. In the coming days, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
The most exciting aspect of any MMA event is sepctacular knockouts. As much as fans love a knock-down, drag-out three- or five-round brawl – or even a flying submission – fight fans love, more than anything, a good old-fashioned cold-cocking.
2021 was chock full of crazy knockouts with one of the craziest knockouts of the year coming on Dec. 3 at Bellator 272 main event. Bantamweight champ Sergio Pettis was in his first title defense against former RIZIN, Shooto and Bellator titleholder Kyoji Horiguchi. In a battle that Horiguchi was winning quite dominantly, the pair entered the fourth round with Pettis badly needing a finish.
Roughly 90 seconds into the round, as they were separating from a punching exchange, Pettis threw a kick that Horiguchi ducked under, and he followed it up with a spinning backfist that put the Japanese fighter out cold. While that was one of the most shocking knockouts of the year, there was one that was even better.
At UFC Vegas 18 in Feb. 2021, Cory Sandhagen entered the co-main event against Frankie Edgar, after a beautiful TKO of Marlon Moraes only four months prior. The Colorado native had his sights set on a earning a title challenge. Edgar’s previous fight was a split-decision win over Pedro Munhoz in his bantamweight debut. He was looking to put together a title run in his third, and lightest, weight class. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for the former lightweight king.
Less than 30 seconds into the fight, as the two were exchanging strikes, Sandhagen missed on an inside leg kick and spun around. As the two squared back up, Edgar was seemingly about a half-step into one of his patented overhand rights, and Sandhagen quickly popped up with a flying knee landing squarely on Edgar’s chin. Edgar immediately went stiff as a board, and was asleep before he was halfway to the mat.
The Edgar knockout came at only 28 seconds of the first round, and while there was not a full crowd at the UFC Apex, it was a knockout that could be heard aroudn the world. For this, Cory Sandhagen wins the Combat Press award for 2021 Knockout of the Year.
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