Buzzer-beating KOs & rare submissions: The 10 best UFC finishes of 2018
Here, RT Sport looks back at the 10 best finishes from MMA's biggest promotion.
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Conor McGregor by submission (rear naked choke) - UFC 229, October 6.
After months of build-up, a destroyed bus and criminal proceedings issued against Conor McGregor for his role in one of the year's more notorious mixed martial arts stories, in the end it was Russia's Nurmagomedov who had his hand raised in a fight billed as the biggest in the sport's history.
Khabib's suffocating grappling style once again got the job done for the immensely popular fighter, as he slowly took the Irishman apart piece by piece - even dropping McGregor for the first time in his entire career with a thunderous overhand early in the second round.
While Nurmagomedov's post-fight antics engineered a black eye for the UFC, little doubt remains as to who the world's best 155lb fighter is.
Yair Rodriguez def. Chan Sung Jung by KO (elbow) - UFC Fight Night 139, November 10.
Mexican fighter Rodriguez has long been billed as one of the UFC's brightest prospects, though a defeat suffered against wily veteran Frankie Edgar 18 months ago looked to have stifled his upward progression.
Not for long, however. After a contractual dispute with the UFC was settled, 'El Pantera' returned to action in November against the tough-as-nails former featherweight title challenger Sung Jung, also known as the 'Korean Zombie'.
The magnificent, back-and-forth affair was punctuated by one of the wildest finishes to a fight in the 25-year history of the UFC as Rodriguez slammed an oddly-angled elbow directly to the chin of an onrushing Sung Jung moments before the final bell sounded. What followed was the latest, and perhaps most spectacular, knockout of the year as Rodriguez claimed victory with just one second remaining in the final round.
Brian Ortega def. Frankie Edgar by KO (punch) - UFC 222, March 3.
If you polled a section of mixed martial arts fans to describe Frankie Edgar in one word, odds are that the description that would appear atop the list would be 'durable'.
The former lightweight champion, who now calls the featherweight division his home, had never been finished in his 13-year professional career - until he ran into Brian Ortega.
The recently defeated title challenger needed less than a round to vanquish the future hall of famer, as he floored Edgar with a first round uppercut which appeared to lift the veteran off his feet. The result was all the more surprising considering Ortega, to that point at least, had been far more well known for his submission prowess than his effectiveness on the feet.
Lyoto Machida def. Vitor Belfort by KO (front kick) - UFC 224, May 12.
Front kick knockouts (or a crane kick if you want to get technical) are a rarity in mixed martial arts but both Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort have now been involved in two of them each.
Machida used the devastating technique to defeat Randy Couture more than seven years, while Anderson Silva did the same to Belfort just two months prior.
History would repeat itself for both fighters this year when the two Brazilian legends clashed where Machida would once again rely on the spectacular technique to remove Belfort from his consciousness. Fool me once...
Daniel Cormier def. Stipe Miocic by KO (punches) - UFC 226, July 7.
For so long, Daniel Cormier's athletic career had been defined by coming in second place. The two-time Olympian failed to medal in his two attempts in the world's most prestigious grappling tournament. His collegiate amateur wrestling career was conducted in the shadows of national rival Cael Sanderson and, once he got to the UFC, he found himself unable to get past the challenge of Jon Jones.
That would all change, however. A series of incidents outside of the cage have restricted Jones to just a handful of fights in the last few years and without that stumbling block, Cormier claimed the organization's 205lb title.
The biggest prize though, both figuratively and literally, came this year when 'DC' became just the second fighter after Conor McGregor told hold titles in two different weight classes simultaneously when he knocked then-champ Stipe Miocic out inside the first round to become one of the most successful fighters in UFC history.
Dustin Poirier def. Eddie Alvarez by TKO (punches) - UFC on FOX 30, July 28.
Dustin Poirier appears to have undergone a career renaissance since his first-round defeat to Conor McGregor in 2014 and his subsequent move up to 155lbs.
Since then, 'The Diamond' has lost just once in ten bouts and has placed himself firmly in title contention for a shot at the championship currently held by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
His best performance of the year arguably came in a rematch against former champ Eddie Alvarez. Poirier's laser-pointed striking took its toll on Alvarez throughout the nine-minute contest in a career best performance, prompting the referee to adjudge Alvarez unable to continue. Even though a bout with Nate Diaz failed to materialise in November, you can expect more of the same from Poirier in 2019.
Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Brandon Davis by submission (modified kneebar) - UFC 228, September 8.
Rarely does a fighter come along who appears a certainty to fight for a title in the UFC but that is exactly the path that Zabit Magomedsharipov appears to be on.
The Russian is perfect in his first four UFC bouts (16-1 overall) but it was his most recent bout against Brandon Davis which will really have caused the rest of the featherweight division to sit up and take notice.
After displaying silky smooth striking on his feet, Zabit took advantage of a scramble on the ground to sink in what would, on any other night, be considered a standalone contender for the UFC's submission of the year. In fact, it was the second time that this particular variation of a kneebar had been successful in 25 years and thousands of UFC fights. The first time it was applied? Four fights prior on the same card when Aljamain Sterling used the exact same technique to beat Cody Stamann.
Gunnar Nelson def. Alex Oliveira by submission (rear naked choke) - UFC 231, December 8.
Perhaps it wasn't the most astonishing submission of the year, but it was certainly the goriest.
Nelson, the Icelandic submission ace who divides his time between the Mjolnir gym in his native country and John Kavanagh's SBG Ireland in Dublin, left opponent Alex Oliveira with a permanent scar to remember him by after a massive elbow delivered from the mount position opened a horrendous gash on the Brazilian's forehead which would later require more than 30 stitches to close.
Nelson took the opportunity to sink in a rear naked choke, causing Oliveira to tap as blood spurted out of his head like a leaky faucet. Ouch.
Yoel Romero def. Luke Rockhold by KO (punches) - UFC 221, February 11.
Imagine getting knocked out in front of millions across the globe watching on television, only to have the fighter who defeated you kiss you on the lips as you attempt to regain your senses and divine what has happened from the limited evidence available to you at the time?
This is exactly what happened to Luke Rockhold in February when he fought former Cuban Olympic wrestler Yoel Romero. After being sent to floor by a left straight from Romero, Rockhold found himself sitting upright against the fence - an off position in the world of free fighting - but before he was able to take stock of the situation, Romero uncorked another mammoth left hand to the defenseless Rockhold, ending the fight.
Insult was added to injury with the post-fight peck, which Rockhold clearly didn't enjoy as much as his opponent had perhaps intended.
Alexander Volkov def. Fabricio Werdum by KO (punches) - UFC Fight Night 127, March 17.
Many moons ago, Fabricio Werdum became the first man in a decade to defeat Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko in a huge upset in the now-defunct Strikeforce promotion.
Last March in London, Moscovite Alexander Volkov earned a measure of revenge for Russian MMA by finishing the former UFC heavyweight champion by strikes in the fourth round of their clash in London.
A subsequent KO loss to Derrick Lewis (in a fight he was winning on the scorecards, but which could also have made the Top 10 finishes of the year) appears to have temporarily derailed Volkov's chances of becoming the latest UFC champion to hail from Russia. But the performance against Werdum signposts the fact that the fighter nicknamed 'Drago' will be in the upper echelon of UFC heavyweights for as long as his contract allows.