One of the most versatile strikes in a fighter's arsenal, the left hook has delivered plenty of beautiful knockouts over the years - but which one stands above the rest?
If you've read many of my MMA articles, you'll surely be aware by now that I'm a huge fan of the left hook.
Perhaps the most versatile technique in boxing, the left or "lead" hook can be used almost anywhere - up close as a heavy punch, extended at range to catch a circling opponent, while under attack as a devastating counter, or to end a combination to "close the door" and protect the thrower's chin by hiding it behind their lead shoulder while dissuading their opponent from countering with a right hand.
Throughout boxing history careers have been made or taken to a new level by virtue of an effective left hook.
Smokin' Joe Frazier is regarded as the greatest left "hooker" of all time, his devastating left hand regularly bludgeoning his opponents into unconsciousness in relentless barrages that made him one of the best heavyweight champions in the sport's history.
Tommy Morrison, an otherwise middling boxer who was best known for his role in Rocky IV, became a legitimate heavyweight contender almost exclusively due to his ridiculously powerful left hook that had a tendency to end fights in sudden and vicious fashion.
Floyd Patterson, one of the smallest and fastest heavyweights in the sport's history, knocked out many larger men with his famous "gazelle punch", a leaping left hook that covered tremendous distance and packed ridiculous power; this punch would later become a staple in Mike Tyson's arsenal, whose style improved upon Patterson's to make him one of the most feared knockout artists in combat sports history.
And then there's the great Sugar Ray Robinson, often regarded as the best pound-for-pounder boxer the sport has ever seen, who possessed an exemplary left hook of his own and is credited with the "best left hook in boxing history" for his flawless finish of Gene Fullmer back in 1957.
Though the left hook has been somewhat underutilized in mixed martial arts, there are still plenty of fighters that have found great success courtesy of the punch.
Jose Aldo's boxing has always been superb, but his left hook is a much-overlooked aspect of his game especially when combined with his masterful use of pivots; you can see both aspects as well as his creativity in this shot against Frankie Edgar, where Aldo is retracting his leg following a kick and meets a charging Edgar with a jumping left hook in midair. His late career has been bolstered by a brutal left hook to the body, adding another wrinkle to the longtime great's offensive arsenal.
Paul Daley is known as perhaps the best left hook knockout artist in the sport's history as he's scored a ridiculous amount of finishes with his lead hand, and is a rare left-handed fighter that opts to fight orthodox in order to have a disproportionately powerful lead hand.
Michael Bisping, a volume-puncher who was always known as a contender that could never defeat the elites of the division, managed to capture the UFC title against all odds almost entirely due to the addition of a powerful left hook to his established skillset.
MMA may not have a Frazier-like embodient of the punch (yet), but there have still been plenty of fighters that pack a mean left hook and tons of knockouts have stemmed from the blow. Today, we'll look at the most devastating left hook knockouts in the history of the sport, and since I had such a tough time narrowing the list down, it's a top 15 rather than a top 10.
As always, links in red are GIFs or video clips so you can see the action yourself.
Please also note: this list includes only knockouts stemming from a left hook; lead hooks from southpaws aren't included.
15. Jimi Manuwa vs. Corey Anderson
UFC Fight Night: Manuwa vs. Anderson, March 18 2017
Good ol' Jimi Manuwa. Though he stumbled against top competition and ended his career with a brutal string of losses, in his heyday he was a devastating striker with fight-changing power and a crisp left hook that led him all the way to a contendership bout back in 2017.
Though Volkan Oezdemir ended up dashing his title fight hopes in just 42 seconds, Manuwa entered the title eliminator off of a pair of impressive knockout wins stemming from his thunderous left hand.
The first knockout came against Ovince Saint Preux and would have earned an honourable mention if it wasn't noted here; Manuwa outstruck "OSP" throughout their sub-eight minute affair courtesy of sharp boxing and some nasty left hooks to the body.
Backing his prey up to the cage, Manuwa landed a sharp left uppercut to his victim's midsection before a thudding right cross sent Ovince sprawling, holding onto the cage to keep himself up.
A second right hand from Jimi missed the mark, but the crispy left that followed turned the lights off and sent OSP to the canvas, leaving his left leg folded over to create quite the grotesque visual.
Manuwa's follow up bout against Corey Anderson, a rising prospect with a strong wrestling background that was 4-1 in his last five with the loss being a split decision to Shogun Rua, was even more left-hand dominant.
The standout wrestler continously circled to Manuwa's left from the opening bell, clearly seeking to avoid Manuwa's powerful right cross.
This tactic would be great when fighting a one-sided puncher like, say, Dan Henderson, but even after Manuwa's last performance clearly highlighted his nasty lead hand, Corey seemed to be completely unaware that circling so heavy to Manuwa's left was a terrible idea.
A well-timed jab from Manuwa sent Anderson to a knee as the wrestler foolishly tried to lead with a rear uppercut; on the retreat, Anderson once again looked to circle out to Manuwa's left as he had repeatedly been doing for the three minutes the fight lasted.
14. Josh Emmett vs. Ricardo Lamas
UFC on Fox: Lawler vs. Dos Anjos, December 16 2017
Team Alpha Male's Josh Emmett is currently a top contender in the featherweight division known for throwing wild fast-ball punches, having incredible power (particularly with his overhand right), and having incredible conditioning considering his taxing style.
When he took on former title challenger Ricardo Lamas back in 2017 however, his UFC record was 3-1 with all four of his Octagon showings ending with the reading of the judges' scorecards.
This combined with the step up in competition made him a sizeable underdog against the well rounded veteran, but little did bettors know that Emmett would finally start to make good on his potential and show his fight-ending power that night.
The story of the fight took a dissappointing turn on weigh-in day as Emmett missed the mark, weighing in at 148.5 pounds for a 145-pound fight, the first and only time in the Arizonan's career he would miss weight.
Come fight night however, Emmett would pull out his memory eraser and give the MMA community something entirely different to talk about.
Late in the opening round, Emmett whiffed on one of his trademark wild right hands, but like usual, he didn't throw his shot alone - a wicked left hook followed close behind.
As several other unfortunate souls on this list attempted to do, Lamas tried to exchange hooks while out of position and instead found himself eating a nuclear bomb before his hand was even near its target.
Lamas was out on impact and fell to the canvas, stiff as a board.
That's one way to make people forget about a weight miss, though I'm sure he'd have preferred to keep his full pay and have gotten his deserved performance bonus.
13. Jose Aldo vs. Jeremy Stephens
UFC on Fox: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2, July 28 2018
Despite nearly a decade of dominance against the top featherweights in the world and his status as one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, Aldo's technical prowess still seems to be underrated when MMA "GOAT" discussions crop up amongst fans and pundits alike.
Though personally I have Georges St. Pierre as the greatest in terms of resume and accomplishments (and I make the statistical case for it here), I still maintain that in terms of all-round skill and technical ability in all areas of mixed martial arts, Jose Aldo in his prime is the greatest talent the sport has seen to date.
Aldo's sublime defense and head movement are often what's most talked about in his recent fights as he has climbed back to the top of a second division at bantamweight, but his offense is equally as slick and effective, even if his worries over conserving energy have made his finishing rate steeply decline compared to his days in the WEC.
Before his move down to bantamweight however, after suffering back-to-back title losses to Max Holloway, Aldo would fall in love with the left hook to the body.
In what may not have been his cleanest performance, Aldo faced the always tough (if not very smart) Jeremy Stephens on a Fox event and opted to engage where Stephens has always done his best work - in the middle of a brawl.
Stephens soon found out that despite his love of wild brawling, Aldo was not only willing to bite down on the mouthpiece and slug it out, but he was also way better at it. It didn't take long for Stephens to begin getting pieced up by the featherweight GOAT and to regret having ever pissed off the man they call "Scarface".
Late in the hectic opening round, Aldo would unveil his new favourite weapon - a nasty left hook to the liver.
The body shot started its travels from the pits of hell and slammed into Stephens' stomach, sending him crumpled up on the floor in agony. Though the incredibly tough Stephens tried valiantly to survive, he simply couldn't recover from the crippling body shot and Stephens suffered just the second stoppage by strikes in his 42-fight career, having fought many of the toughest lightweights on the UFC roster over the years.
12. Alex Pereira vs. Thomas Powell
LFA 95, November 20 2020
Just like boxing, kickboxing has seen their fair share of left hook knockout artists, with perhaps the most well-known being the "Turkish Tyson", Gokhan Saki, who based most of his career off of his left hand and would regularly throw entire combinations using only his lead arm.
None have been as absolutely devastating however as Alex "Poatan" Pereira.
The Brazilian kickboxer has absolute dynamite in his hands (and knees) and that freakish power combined with a granite chin propelled him to capture both the middleweight and light heavyweight championship belts in Glory. His resume features two victories over current UFC middleweight king Israel Adesanya, including a devastating KO in a fight Pereira took on short notice.
Though his flying knee and right hand have scored a bevy of knockouts in their own right, his left hand is his most feared weapon and for good reason.
After a submission loss in his MMA debut in 2015, Pereira earned a few knockouts before heading back to kickboxing where he would earn two Glory championships; with one foot still in the world of kickboxing, he ventured stateside to fight in LFA in 2020 against poor 4-4 Thomas Powell.
Although Powell certainly held an experience advantage in mixed martial arts against the 2-1 Pereira, he was completely in over his head and found himself unable to take Pereira down. Trapped in Pereira's merciless wheelhouse, Powell would quickly fall victim to Poatan's ludicrous left hook in spectacular fashion.
Pereira threw the picture-perfect hook in retreat as Powell came forward, his fist turning Powell's chin with a sickening thud that sent his overmatched victim face-first into the canvas. Poor Powell was out cold for several minutes, the frightening power of Poatan putting middleweights in the sport on notice.
Thanks to his MMA training under the tutelage of Glover Teixeira and his world class kickboxing acumen, the UFC picked up the former Glory double champ in 2021 after he decided to dedicate himself fully to the sport.
He has since picked up three victories in the UFC (including another left hook KO, this time over contender Sean Strickland) which, combined with their prior history, has earned him a title shot against old rival Israel Adesanya for the middleweight crown at UFC 281. Adesanya's funeral is currently scheduled for November 12 at Madison Square Garden.
11. Irene Aldana vs. Ketlen Vieira
UFC 245, December 14 2019
In the UFC's women's divisions, you won't find a better left hook than the one thrown by Mexican bantamweight contender Irene Aldana.
Primarily a slick offensive outfighter that enjoys throwing crisp combinations, she has evolved her left hand into one of the best in the business, pairing a stinging jab with a powerful left hook to complement her traditional right straight.
At UFC 245, Aldana saw herself as a sizeable underdog against undefeated Brazilian Ketlen Vieira, who many felt was on the verge of a title shot.
The battle of rising prospects started off well enough for the favourite as Vieira got the better of several exchanges on the feet, establishing a strong jab of her own.
Aldana began to find her timing as the round wore on however, and Vieira soon found out why it isn't wise to try and trade left hooks with Irene Aldana.
Stepping into the pocket near the end of the round, Aldana leapt in with a picturesque left hook that floored Vieira; a few follow up punches put her out cold and erased the zero from Vieira's ledger.
Rather than trying to avoid the incoming left hand, Vieira had attempted to stand her ground and exchange lead hooks - in doing so she committed a cardinal sin in the world of boxing, and unlike in the next entry on this list, she paid dearly for doing so.
10. Carlos Condit vs. Dan Hardy
UFC 120, October 16 2010
There's an old boxing adage that, if you're a boxing fan, you've likely heard before: "never hook with a hooker".
The seemingly wise advice typically applies when a fighter is facing off with a boxer known for throwing tight, crisp hooks - essentially, you want to avoid trading hooks with such a fighter given that their speed, power, accuracy, and timing will likely be superior and thus their punch will typically land first and hardest.
If you haven't developed an excellent hook of your own, then it's certainly best to follow that advice - if you have however, then "hooking with a hooker" may be the best form of offense.
Fighters who are known for throwing heavy lead hooks will often develop an overconfidence in their trademark punch - ie., because of their success and confidence in landing it, they are more than willing to exchange hooks because they believe theirs will be cleaner, faster, and more powerful, in line with the old adage.
This often leads them to being open to being hit in this exchange - a savvy fighter then can draw a "hooker" into an exchange of hooks and attempt to avoid their opponent's shot at the same time, or with enough confidence in their chin, simply exchange and let the stronger-jawwed fighter prevail.
In this way, a smart fighter with a sturdy chin may be served very well if they "hook with a hooker" and enter into an equal exchange of lead hooks.
This was shown perfectly in the co-main event of UFC 120 as former WEC champion and future interim UFC champ Carlos Condit faced off with England's Dan Hardy.
Coming off of a lopsided loss to Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight championship, Hardy aimed to right the ship and return to title contention against a fellow striker in Condit.
Hardy's love of the lead hook was well documented at that point, and although he didn't have the number of knockouts with it as his stablemate Paul Daley did, it was still easily regarded as his most dangerous weapon and one that had to be respected by his opponents or they'd taste the canvas like Rory Markham did.
Known as an aggressive volume striker with a knack for finishing fights from anywhere, Condit had developed a clean left hook of his own and he possessed one of the greatest chins in the sport's history - even many years later, Condit is still competing and has never been knocked out in 46 fights while facing the stiffest competition available.
So when he faced off with Hardy in London, he decided to betray conventional boxing wisdom - he signed Hardy up to a contest of chins as he opted to hook with a hooker.
Sure enough, the two entered into an exchange of left hooks late in the opening round, both landing at almost the exact same time. Sure enough, Condit's gamble paid off and his chin held up; Hardy's wasn't so lucky.
Though Hardy's left hook did knock Condit off balance, the "Natural Born Killer" was still clear-eyed and upright when the smoke cleared - the "Outlaw" however found himself laying on the canvas wondering how he got there. A few follow up shots completed Hardy's transition to the netherrealm and the shocking reality set in for the London crowd - Condit had hooked with a hooker and won.
9. Michael Bisping vs. Luke Rockhold
UFC 199, June 4 2016
You can't have an article on left hooks in MMA without mentioning the great "Left Hook Larry".
Once the quintessential gatekeeper of the UFC's middleweight division, Michael "The Count" Bisping had toiled away for years attempting to earn a crack at UFC gold but always stumbled against the top contenders.
Since winning the third season of The Ultimate Fighter way back in 2006, Bisping had competed two dozen times in the UFC and the only fighters he lost to (outside of a decision loss to Tim Kennedy in 2014) were former or future champions in the sport: Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen (he was a champ in the WEC don't forget, and a multiple time UFC title challenger), Vitor Belfort, and Luke Rockhold.
It seemed like he would forever be an elite middleweight that just couldn't quite get to the championship level.
In 2014, he faced off against future rival Luke Rockhold for the first time, getting dropped by a head kick and submitted by a guillotine early in the second round, albeit it came after a bad eye poke which Bisping seemed to have problems with ever since it happened earlier in the fight.
His next two outings were largely typical Bisping fare, with him outstriking CB Dolloway and Thales Leites en route to decision victories. But then he got a chance to square off against the great Anderson Silva, who he had been chasing for the better part of a decade.
Of course, Silva had been struck down from his throne atop the middleweight division and had fallen on hard times by then, having broken his leg in disgusting fashion against Weidman in their rematch, then tested positive for steroids following a return bout and (originally) a decision win over Nick Diaz. But to Bisping, this was his world title fight - he had been chasing the man for years, and now he finally got to put hands on him.
And put hands on him he did - despite many believing Bisping would be no match for Silva on the feet, Bisping's smart addition of a clean left hook to his striking arsenal gave Silva tons of trouble throughout the bout, even leading to the brash Brit dropping the aging Spider in the second round.
The thrilling back-and-forth striking affair wasn't without its share of controversy however, as at the end of the third round, while Bisping foolishly looked away from Silva to complain to the ref about missing his mouthpiece, Silva knocked Bisping down and nearly out with a flying knee.
Making his own foolish mistake in kind likely cost Silva the fight however, as Silva walked away in celebration before the bell sounded to end the round, thinking the fight was over and he had scored a knockout, but the referee had not yet called off the bout; had he properly tried to finish Bisping with punches to end the round, he likely would've gotten the knockout victory.
Instead, Bisping showed ridiculous heart by not only coming out for but winning the fourth round, taking the fight to Silva despite being so badly rocked at the end of the previous stanza. At the end of the fight, Bisping was awarded the decision victory in what he considered his world title fight.
Simply beating a legend like Silva wouldn't be the pinnacle of Bisping's career however - later that year, while he was on set for the filming of a movie and not in his usual "fight shape", Bisping would receive a phone call that would change everything.
Due to an injury, newly crowned champion Luke Rockhold was left without an opponent and the UFC needed someone to step in on just three weeks' notice to save the show. Despite the incredibly short notice and terrible training situation, Bisping was thrilled to finally receive his crack at UFC gold regardless of the circumstances and not only was he going to fight Rockhold, but according to him, he would knock him out in the very first round.
Such bravado seemed silly to many - while Bisping easily mopped the floor with the sensationally awkward Rockhold in the trash talking department, Rockhold had just demolished Chris Weidman and dispatched Bisping rather handily less than two years prior. But Bisping, as he mockingly would say, "conceived, believed, and achieved" thanks to his newfound love of the left hook.
You see, not only was his left hook his newest and most potent weapon; it was also the perfect weapon to beat Luke Rockhold.
Although many would later accuse him of being "chinny" after subsequent knockout losses, the truth is that Rockhold's chin has never been a problem - his defensive flaws and lack of care to protect said chin however combined to see him eating massive punches he clearly didn't see coming as soon as he faced opponents that picked up on these flaws. Bisping was simply the first to fully exploit the champion's weaknesses, and boy did he ever.
To be more specific, Rockhold has always been particularly lazy with his retreats, often backing straight up and simply leaning back to avoid strikes rather than getting out on an angle or covering up.
He regularly stepped in with his jab and then keeps his jabbing hand low when he backs out of the exchange, never raising his shoulder or tucking his chin behind it to protect himself from counters. As a southpaw, this flaw opens him up perfectly for a left hook over his lead shoulder, and with his bladed stance, it's virtually impossible for Rockhold to see coming.
About three-and-a-half minutes into the opening round, Rockhold's characteristic flaws would prove fatal.
Stepping in far too much in an attempt to land his southpaw jab, Rockhold put himself in a horrendous defensive position for two reasons: A) his lead foot was far inside Bisping's, giving Bisping a dominant angle of attack and B) he ended up way too close to Bisping and clearly overstepped, making it impossible to retreat in time before Bisping had a chance to counter.
Instead of trying to correct this mistake in an appropriate manner (like clinching to smother Bisping's return), Rockhold did what he always does in retreat - he backpedalled, leaving his chin up in the air with his lead hand (and shoulder) down. In fairness, Bisping's right hand was too slow to catch Rockhold before he had stepped out of range - but his left sure wasn't.
The Count's left hook soared the top and put Rockhold down in a heap. The champion tried his best to recover, frantically getting up and attempting to clinch his assailant, but once again Rockhold's outstretched arm did nothing to help him as Bisping held Rockhold's chin up with his right hand and lowered the boom with his left.
Dropped once more and this time propped up against the cage, Rockhold's lights were shut off in emphatic fashion by Bisping's follow-up shots as The Count became the new middleweight champion. Bisping not only achieved his lifelong goal of becoming a UFC champion a full decade after making his UFC debut, but he also became the first British UFC champion to boot.
Bisping christened himself as "Left Hook Larry" in a post-fight interview that night and cemented himself as one of the toughest and most determined fighters the sport has ever seen. And to think, his championship glory never would have happened had he not developed a killer left hook late in his career.
Ironically, after defending his crown in a razor-close rematch with Dan Henderson, Left Hook Larry himself would be felled by a beautiful left hook courtesy of Canadian legend Georges St. Pierre in his successful bid to become a two-weight champion, though his sheer toughness somehow enabled Bisping to survive the shot and many savage elbows before he ultimately succumbed to a rear-naked choke.
8. Ross Pearson vs. Sam Stout
UFC 185, March 14 2015
Ross Pearson is one of those fighters that is much better than his record implies.
Though he retired with a record of 20-17 and lost seven of his last eight fights (including one by an incredibly rare rolling thunder) and had alternated wins and losses for quite some time before that, the 26-fight UFC vet was an incredibly tough out in the stacked lightweight division that had excellent hands and impressive head movement at his best.
England's Pearson had a penchant for giving fans their moneys' worth by engaging in exciting wars, and when he faced scrappy Canadian Sam Stout at UFC 185, another of those wars was expected.
Stout himself was known for putting on exciting battles for the fans, though he saw the scorecards much more often (in both wins and losses) than the heavy handed Pearson.
Stout however was coming off of the first knockout loss of his 31-fight career less than a year prior, albeit it came up a weight class at welterweight. Returning to his home at 155 pounds, Stout happily obliged Pearson in his "stand and bang" style of fighting and the two gave the crowd everything they were looking for in the first round.
In the second, Pearson's textbook counter left hook put an early end to their thrilling war and sent the Canadian down for the count in an instant.
As Stout looked to land an overhand right, Pearson covered up and ducked perfectly, letting Stout's power hand sail clear past the top of his head.
As he rose out of his crouch, Pearson loaded up on his left hand as Stout looked to extend his combination with a left hook of his own toward Pearson's midsection. Pearson's impeccably placed shot cracked Stout's chin before his right hand could return to its proper defensive position, and that was all it took for Pearson to return to the win column and earn himself a $50,000 bonus check in the process.
7. Aaron Pico vs. Justin Linn
Bellator 183, September 24 2017
Aaron Pico is perhaps MMA's best example of pushing a great young prospect too early in their development.
When Pico made his MMA debut in 2017 at the age of just 20 years old, he was considered the most exciting prospect to come to the sport in quite some time.
The standout martial artist competed as a boxer in his early years en route to a National Junior Golden Gloves championship as well as National and International titles in junior pankration (essentially a mixture of wrestling and boxing). Later he would compete in wrestling and win multiple national and international titles in the sport, ultimately placing second in the US Olympic Team Trials at the age of just 19, narrowly missing out on being an Olympian despite bypassing the standard collegiate wrestling circuit entirely.
Instead, Pico set his sights on MMA and signed with Bellator, foregoing any amateur bouts given his extensive wrestling, boxing, and pankration experience. His boxing was also progressing under the tutelage of famed boxing coach Freddie Roach, who heaped praise on his young pupil, only adding to the hype surrounding the inevitable star.
Despite the fact he was making his MMA debut, Bellator opted to match the uber-prospect up with an experienced 8-2 fighter in Zach Freeman. Such a professional experience gap is virtually unheard of in combat sports for a fighter making their pro debut, especially given that the veteran had a solid record and not a sub-500 winning rate which would have mitigated the experience factor.
Bellator's prospect was hyped to high heaven with their commentators even claiming he could be a champion within just a few fights - unfortunately, it was all a bit too much too soon for the young star-in-the-making, as Pico was clipped by an uppercut and subsequently submitted by a guillotine in just 24 seconds.
Dropping down to his more appropriate weight class of 145 pounds, Pico opted to face a similarly experienced 7-3 fighter in Justin Linn to right the ship. This time, Pico's boxing prowess would take center stage and showed a glimpse of why Aaron Pico's career was being so heavily anticipated by the MMA community.
As he backed up toward the cage, Linn attempted to land a right hand on the advancing Pico - as soon as Pico saw Linn's right hand coming, he launched a left hook from the hip that lanced Linn's jaw like a lightning bolt.
Not only was it a beautiful left hook, but the way Linn's upper body swung around before he fell backwards and into the cage added to the emphatic and violent finish.
Pico's next fight would end with another exceptional left hook, this time to the body, and the prospect rose up the ranks only to take two knockout losses in a row against stiffer competition, exposing his willingness to get into a brawl as his biggest weakness.
He has since extended his record to 10-3 with 9 finishes as he works his way back toward the top, but time will tell if he can reach the lofty heights that his potential would imply. For now, we can still marvel at the beauty of his lead hook.
6. Dan Henderson vs. Wanderlei Silva II
PRIDE 33, February 24 2007
It may be shocking for some to find out that yes, Dan Henderson does in fact have a left hand. Maybe just as shockingly, Henderson's left was actually pretty useful at times back in the day, even if later in his career it was essentially non-existent except as a range-finder to set up his famous H-bomb.
The UFC 17 tournament winner had previously dropped a decision to Wanderlei Silva in his PRIDE debut at PRIDE 12 way back at the turn of the millenium. Following that loss, Henderson would make a name for himself in the promotion thanks to his Olympic wrestling background and clubbing right hand, beating many top names in PRIDE's welterweight (their welterweight was 185 pounds) and middleweight (205 pounds) divisions over the years, eventually winning the PRIDE 2005 Welterweight Grand Prix and capturing their 185 pound title in the process.
Wanderlei meanwhile absolutely slaughtered PRIDE's middleweight (205 pounds) division, viciously knocking out notable victims like Rampage Jackson (twice) and Kazushi Sakuraba (thrice). He would reign atop the division for years, with his only losses coming via a split decision to Mark Hunt at heavyweight, and a decision to Ricardo Arona in a tournament bout which was avenged in his next outing.
After an injury to PRIDE's heavyweight champion Fedor Emilianenko, Wanderlei would enter the 2006 Heavyweight Grand Prix as an alternate and knocked out Kazuyuki Fujita to earn himself a semi-final berth.
In the semis, Wanderlei squared off with Mirko Cro Cop for the second time, having previously fought the heavyweight kickboxer to a "draw" back in 2002 (the fight was under special rules given Cro Cop was new to MMA at the time, and as such was not judged if no knockout occurred in the time allotted; spectators however virtually all agree Wanderlei won the bout).
Unfortunately for Wanderlei, his years of dominance came crashing to a halt as the Croation nearly decapitated him with a head kick in the opening round.
Wanderlei would return at PRIDE 33 in another rematch, this time at his home of 205 pounds to defend his PRIDE title against old foe Dan Henderson, who was moving back up to the weight class in his attempt to become the first (and only) fighter to capture titles in two different divisions in PRIDE.
The historic fight would live up to expectations as the two veterans slugged it out in the ring, with Henderson seemingly getting the better of the longtime champ. In the third and final round (PRIDE had a ten minute first round followed by one five-minute round, with an additional five minute round for title fights), Henderson landed a spinning back fist that wobbled the "Axe Murderer".
As he always did, Wanderlei swung back and got himself back into the fight, fighting to get back to the middle of the ring. Moving with Henderson's trademark right hand, Wanderlei decided to stand his ground and slug it out in the centre of the arena, eating a throwaway left hook and managing to avoid Henderson's next right hand as he attempted to land a right of his own.
Henderson didn't finish his combination with the H-bomb however, and before Wanderlei's right arm could come back up to offer any sort of defense, Henderson's left hook came crashing into the champion's jaw. Wanderlei was instantly knocked unconscious, his body collapsing like a felled tree, his head bouncing off of the canvas like a basketball before Henderson's famous diving forearm finisher sent his head crashing into the floorboards a second time.
The beautiful left hook was a rarity from Henderson, who would later completely fall in love with his right hand and practically refused to throw anything of significance with his left for the rest of his career. Yet back in the day, he managed to score one of the most brilliant left hook KOs in MMA history, while also demonstrating just how important and effective "closing the door" in your combinations can be by ending your combos with a left hook.
As you can see, Henderson's use of the left hook to end his combination finished the fight, and had Wanderlei opted to follow the same rule by throwing one of his own rather than ending his combination with his right hook, the movement may well have gotten his head out of the line of fire and saved him from a devastating loss. Instead, he was on the receiving end of a second straight dehabilitating knockout.
5. Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards
UFC 131, June 11 2011
It may be a surprise for many that a fighter with the nickname "Hands of Stone" would have not a single knockout victory to his name in the UFC despite fighting for the promotion ten times.
Indeed, it wasn't until Sam Stout's eleventh outing in the UFC that he scored his first KO inside the world famous Octagon, and that would be his lone stoppage victory in the UFC even after adding an additional nine bouts to his resume.
But that single, lonely knockout? Boy was it a beauty.
The Canadian scrapper came out to a roaring Vancouver crowd at UFC 131, Eminem's "Go To Sleep" shaking the rafters as his veteran opponent Yves Edwards paced back and forth inside the cage. Yours truly was also in attendance, the first UFC event I had ever been to; expecting the two lightweights to put on a Fight of the Night war, little did I know I was about to witness a shocking and brutal knockout that would ignite the crowd into a frenzy.
Late in the opening stanza of what was, as expected, a good striking battle between two elite lightweights, the southpaw Yves Edwards coiled up and threw his right hook. An excellent lead hook-er in his own right, his lead hand connects on Stout's chin as the Canadian enters to throw a right hand to Edwards' midsection.
You can see in the slow-motion replays Stout's shot to the body paved the way for the knockout blow - after both men land, Yves' lead hand instinctively retracts to cover his body rather than his chin. As a skilled striker, Edwards also sports good form and keeps his shoulder high to "hide" his chin - however, Stout throws his left hook at a high angle so it sails right past the shoulder and connects squarely on Edwards' jaw anyway.
Not only did Stout throw a perfectly placed and powerful left hook, but he did so while in a dominant position; Stout placed his lead foot on the outside of Edwards' lead leg as he came in, giving him a superior angle from which to generate power from that his opponent.
It all combined to create a clean, vicious knockout that put Edwards out on impact, the back of his head bouncing off the floorboards as the Canadian crowd erupted into pandemonium.
Ironically, Stout would later be on the receiving end of a similarly brilliant left hook just a few years later near the end of his career, as you saw earlier in this list, but as the saying goes: "You live by the sword, you die by the sword".
Sam Stout may not have lived up to his nickname for the majority of his UFC career (albeit he took part in plenty of memorable wars and earned Fight of the Night honours on six occasions), but on that fateful night in Vancouver, his "Hands of Stone" produced one of the finest left hook knockouts in MMA history.
4. Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva I
UFC 162, July 6 2013
Heading into UFC 162, Anderson Silva was at the height of his powers and his reign of dominance over the middleweight division seemed destined to continue forever.
Before he had thoroughly embarassed Stephan Bonnar on short notice up at light heavyweight, Silva had trounced the only man that had ever come close to beating him in the UFC, Chael Sonnen, in a rematch that didn't even last two rounds.
He had won all 17 of his bouts (15 via form of finish) since he entered the world famous Octagon in 2006, had the record for most consecutive title defenses with ten (eleven if you include his win over Travis Lutter, when Lutter missed weight and therefore it wasn't "official"), and had even won three fights up a weight class in ridiculously dominant fashion.
Chris Weidman however was viewed by many as his stiffest test to date.
The undefeated 9-0 NCAA Division I All-American wrestler was a superb grappler that had developed a solid and effective striking game to boot, and given Silva's only "weakness" appeared to be in getting out-wrestled by elite grapplers, his skills matched up well with the dominant champion.
Despite the favourable style and unblemished record, Weidman was still more than a 2 to 1 dog when he entered the cage with the greatest middleweight of all time, and of all the people who did think Weidman could pull the upset, not one would have predicted it would have occurred on the feet.
The first round started off well for the challenger as he was able to take down "The Spider" and landed some heavy ground and pound, but he was far from the first wrestler that scored early on the champion only to find themselves napping in the Octagon later in the fight.
The end of the round seemed to indicate the tide was beginning to turn as Silva regained his footing and began to taunt his young challenger, something that had become a staple of Anderson's title reign.
The second round saw Silva begin to land heavy leg kicks as he continued to play with his food, daring Weidman to try to strike with him. Unlike many of Silva's other opponents however, Weidman kept his composure and stayed within himself, continuing to throw strikes but refusing to get over-aggressive or present an open target for the world class counter striker.
His refusal to do something stupid just made Anderson ramp up his antics, hoping he would get under Weidman's skin and earn himself another highlight reel finish as a result. But this time, he took it too far, his lack of respect for his opponent's ability ultimately causing his downfall.
Pretending to be hurt by a punch, Silva wobbled his legs and put his hands by his waist - at this point, he wasn't even looking for a counter, instead opting to bend backward at the waist to avoid Weidman's strikes as if he were Neo from The Matrix.
Silva rolled with a light left hook, then did the same to avoid a right hand - but instead of following with a punch from the opposite side as combinations almost always do in MMA, Weidman threw his right hand back up in Silva's face. The strike was never intended to hurt or phase Anderson - instead, it forced Silva to react, which he did, putting his torso further behind his hips in the process as he swayed back to avoid the impact.
Only, when you're leaning back at the waist, you can no longer move your feet to retreat, and you can only lean back so far before you run out of room to maneuver.
Silva found this out the hard way as Weidman stepped forward with a left hook - the Spider no longer had any room to avoid the shot, and being bent so far backward over his hips, his chin was in absolutely no position to absorb any kind of impact.
Weidman's left sent the nigh-untouchable champion tumbling to the mat. The world watched in shock as Weidman bounced Silva's head off the canvas with follow-up shots, hammering home the fact the world had just witnessed one of the greatest strikers to ever compete get knocked out cold.
Silva is and was certainly the better striker in terms of technique and skill, but Weidman showed that night the benefits of sticking to the fundamentals and that even the best of the best can't always get away with breaking the rules.
Like the Roy Jones Jr.'s of the world that inspired him, fighters like Silva can bend or outright break the laws of striking due to their advantages in speed, timing, reflexes, and ability to read their opponents, but when you continuously play with fire, one day you will get burned.
Though it wasn't as pretty as some of the other lead hooks in this list, Weidman's left hook on Silva may just be the most impactful in the sport's history. With it, the greatest middleweight of all time that was on the greatest run the sport had ever seen was felled, and a once untouchable legend crumbled under the weight of his own success.
3. Paul Daley vs. Scott Smith
Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu II, December 4 2010
One can't mention left hook knockouts in mixed martial arts without mentioning Paul "Semtex" Daley.
Though some UFC fans may know him as "the guy that was kicked out of the UFC for punching Josh Koscheck after the bell", Daley has always been one of the most explosive and exciting welterweights on the planet, even if his grappling regularly let him down against elite competition.
One of a rare breed of strikers who are left handed but opt to fight orthodox rather than southpaw, Daley's lead hand is as a result extraordinarily powerful and dexterous for an orthodox fighter. Though his right hand is nothing to scoff at, it's his lead that instills fear in the hearts of men and has led to a ridiculous amount of knockdowns and knockouts over his 63-fight career.
There is certainly no shortage of left hook KOs to choose from in Daley's highlight reel, but there is one that rises above the rest - his one-hitter-quitter on the always dangerous Scott Smith.
A fighter known for mounting ridiculous comebacks, Smith had already taken some big shots from Daley in the early stages of their fight at Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu II back in 2010.
After getting rocked by a pair of left hooks, Smith wobbled momentarily before he managed to throw shots back at a pursuing Daley, who evaded excellently. Like always, Smith came back firing and after having been rocked, he charged forward to get it right back. Only this time, he did so at his own peril.
Daley wisely retreated to reset as Smith plowed forward in an attempt to pursue a right hand, his chin completely unprotected as he recklessly charged at the British banger. Seeing his opponent's jaw offered up on a silver platter, Daley let loose a quick check left hook that sent Smith crashing face-first into the canvas, stiff as a board.
Though Daley is known as a slugger, his finish of Smith showcased textbook boxing fundamentals that resulted in a gloriously violent finish.
The impact of Smith's face hitting the floor was almost as brutal as the hook that caused it, and the vicious knockout remains one of the most memorable in MMA history.
2. Quinton Rampage Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva III
UFC 92, December 27 2008
In terms of raw, unbridled power, Rampage's left hook on Wanderlei Silva may just take the cake as the biggest left hook in MMA history.
The two men entered the Octagon at UFC 92 having already been well acquainted with one another from their days fighting in PRIDE.
During his dominant reign atop the PRIDE 205-pound division, Wanderlei Silva had used his punishing Muay Thai knees and wild, flurrying hooks to dispatch Jackson not once, but twice in brutal fashion.
Since their time in the famed Japanese promotion, Rampage had earned his way to a UFC title and dethroned then-dominant champ Chuck Liddell and had also unified the title with PRIDE double champion Dan Henderson, who had dethroned Wanderlei back in 2007. Jackson however had just dropped his title to heavy underdog Forrest Griffin, getting his leg chopped down in a close five round battle.
Wanderlei meanwhile had suffered a fall from grace - the once unbeatable "Axe Murderer" had looked largely beatable in his performances following the second Jackson fight, eventually getting knocked out viciously by Mirko Cro Cop before dropping his 205-pound title to Dan Henderson in another brutal KO loss.
His days of frightening dominance over, Wanderlei had managed to turn things around in the UFC despite losing in his promotional debut.
Finally facing off with rival Chuck Liddell after the fight had failed to come to fruition during their primes, Silva faced a fellow former champ who was on his own career downswing and despite all odds the two delivered an unbelievable war for the ages, turning back the clock to beat the holy hell out of each other for fifteen minutes.
A quick KO over Keith Jardine had Silva back in the title hunt, but Rampage still had a score to settle.
Regardless of one fighter already holding two wins over his opponent, a trilogy was booked as it made perfect sense for all involved - Rampage just dropped his title and a win over Wanderlei would put him right back into contention and allow him to settle an old score, while Wanderlei was looking to put himself in title talks so a win over the recent champ would earn him a crack at UFC gold - of course the bad blood and history between them would also sell like hot cakes for the UFC.
Wanderlei may have had Rampage's number in the PRIDE ring, but this time, Jackson wouldn't be denied his long awaited revenge.
Midway through the opening round, Silva looked for one of his trademark flurries as Rampage backed up near the fence, just like Silva had done to countless opponents before him. This time however, Rampage kept his defense tight with a high forearm guard and deflected the incoming fire.
As he rose up out of his shell, he channeled years of pent up frustration into a left hook from hell that sent Silva's soul up into orbit.
The bad blood boiled over as Rampage landed several additional shots on a clearly unconscious Silva (even as the ref was grabbing him), but they were entirely cosmetic - Wanderlei's brain completely short-circuited the moment Rampage's left hand made contact with his jaw.
It was a violent and savage finish that marked Wanderlei's third brutal knockout loss in his last five outings, but for Rampage, it marked a return to form that would see him earn a title shot two years later before he began his decline (not to mention years of contractual disputes).
1. Mauricio Shogun Rua vs. Chuck Liddell
UFC 97, April 18 2009
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua may be primarily known for his brawling style and vicious kicks, but when he wants to, his boxing can be surprisingly beautiful.
His hands have typically been a facet of his game where power and aggression overcome lack of polish and clean technique, with the famed Freddie Roach even commenting when Shogun came to him late in his career that Rua had incredible power despite the fact that technically he had been "punching like a girl".
That may have been a bit over the top, but besides a solid right cross (which earned him his UFC title), Shogun would regularly bullrush opponents and pump hooks in a wild manner, his freakish natural power making up for poor form. His defense also left plenty to be desired at times, opting for a double-forearm guard and relying on his ridiculous toughness rather than utilizing much in the way of head movement.
When he chose to however, he would remind the world that he had plenty of skill to complement his brawling ability, such as the time he sent James Te Huna to the netherrealm.
The knockout against Te Huna narrowly missed this list but certainly deserves mention. It came in the middle of a losing streak that showed Shogun was very much "past his prime" (yet this bout took place late in 2013; Shogun would continue his career regardless even up to this year, going 5-5-1) yet the aging vet still managed to score a ridiculously violent finish courtesy of a check left hook as his opponent charged in recklessly.
Te Huna dropped like he was shot by a .50 cal and it may have been a good thing that he did, as a full-power overhand right from Shogun just narrowly missed his rapidly dropping skull.
Shogun's best left hook however, came years prior when he faced former UFC champion Chuck Liddell in Montreal at UFC 97.
Late in the opening round of their showdown between legends, Shogun came forward with a left hook that was as clean as it was brilliant.
Rather than a typical leaping left hook or gazelle punch that still relies on the same weight shift as a standard left hook, Rua combined a lengthened lead hook with his step forward, utilizing the momentum from the step itself to create fight-ending power while simultaneously covering much more ground than a standard hook.
The shot took advantage of Liddell's counter-punching style perfectly, as Chuck was in the middle of circling to his right (to avoid Shogun's power side no doubt) which he so often does before planting his feet and looking to land a counter right hand or check left hook if his opponents are over aggressive. Here you can clearly see Liddell attempt said check hook, which falls short of the target while Shogun's hits the mark and cracks his chin.
The shot, which I'm going to forever call the "Rua hook", also perfectly sets up its thrower for a follow-up from the right side once their step is complete, as demonstrated by Shogun as he began to throw one of his famous low kicks before realizing his opponent was headed to the canvas.
Simply put it was a gorgeous punch and one that I can watch again and again and still marvel at its perfection. It was, in my humble opinion, the greatest left hook in MMA history.
Jan Blachowicz's cold KO off of a break against Luke Rockhold
Rose Namajunas shocking Joanna Jedrzejczyk to capture gold
Charles Oliveira with a comeback for the ages against Michael Chandler
Mark Hunt breaking Stefan Struve's jaw with a running left
Vicente Luque putting Belal Muhammad to sleep
Mac Danzig faceplanting Joe Stevenson
Anthony Njokuani faceplanting Roger Bowling
Patricky Pitbull Freire faceplanting Ryan Couture
Tony Johnson lamping decorated kickboxer Joe Schilling