Of all the ways in which bodies can violently collide, perhaps none is as visceral as the flying knee.
The single most powerful strike a human being can throw, it leverages all of an individual’s weight with immense momentum to strike with the hardest surface of the leg, which is capable of generating far more power than the arm. Just ask #ChrisWeidman, who fell to a vicious flying knee courtesy of #YoelRomero at last weekend's UFC 205 event.
Few survive a flush flying knee, but it is also a very telegraphed strike and easy to avoid when thrown without due care, making it a sizable risk. With impeccable timing, a flying knee can result in spectacular knockouts, unlike any other strike in combat sports.
When James Irvin knocked out Terry Martin just nine seconds into the second round of their 2005 bout at UFC 54, it was the first flying knee KO in UFC history. Since then, the art of the flying knee has increased both in popularity, and the sophistication of its application.
One of the most brutal knockouts of all time, Page kept his hands low, baiting Santos’ attack, and as Santos leaned in with a right straight, Page leapt into the air with a flying counter, smashing Santos in the forehead and crushing his skull in the process.
Santos rolled around on the canvas in immense pain, denied the small mercy of unconsciousness as his skull collapsed into pieces. A devastating knockout which left even the most desensitized fans deeply uncomfortable, Page openly expressed concern for his opponent post-fight in an act of great sportsmanship.
Early adopters of the technique include #BJPenn, a former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion, who notched his first title defense in 2008.
Backing challenger #SeanSherk into the fence, Penn charged at him. As Sherk leaned down to attempt a single leg takedown, the leg he had attempted to grab skyrocketed into his chin, leaving him at the mercy of Penn’s follow-up punches before the bout was waved off.
One of the most infamous flying knee knockouts came three years later at UFC 132, when #CarlosCondit front kicked #DongHyunKim in the gut, driving him to the fence, before rushing forward and landing a perfect knee directly to Kim’s chin. Kim remained conscious, but badly hurt and incapable of defending himself as Condit’s strikes on the ground resulted in a TKO stoppage win.
In more recent times, the technique has been used effectively at the highest levels of the sport.
Touted prospect #ThomasAlmeida had a rough first round against #BradPickett, being dropped repeatedly by the Englishman’s sharp pocket boxing. The Muay Thai stylist would forgo the crisp boxing combinations which have led to so many of his victories, and instead resorted to an unusual and incredibly rare bicycle knee.
Leaping into the air, his right knee rose first, before his left knee came soon after, intercepting Pickett’s chin, as Almeida’s left hand grasped the back of his opponent’s head, pulling him towards the crippling strike. Pickett went tumbling to the mat, completely unconscious in what remains one of the greatest knockouts in the history of the bantamweight division.
Almeida was not the only fighter to find success with the bicycle knee at a high level, though he was perhaps the first to do so in the UFC. At WEC 41, before he was the sport’s greatest defensive fighter and its most consistent technician, #JoseAldo destroyed #CubSwanson in just eight seconds, immediately rushing forward at the opening bell and leveling Swanson with the bicycle knee, landing both the left and right knees on Swanson’s face before the referee called a halt to the bout, as Swanson lay on the ground, clutching his head in agony.
It was the first of two career knockout wins via knee for Aldo in UFC/Strikeforce/WEC/Pride competition, although his victory of Chad Mendes was not of the flying variety. However, for Yoel Romero, his UFC 205 flying knee knockout of Chris Weidman was not his first inside the Octagon.
In his UFC debut, the Cuban Olympian laid waste to Clifford Starks as the latter leaned forward. In a fraction of a second, Romero had reacted, Starks’ legs failing him as a knee crashed into his face. Brutal punches on the ground quickly ended the bout as Romero showed flashes of the brilliant dynamism which would come to embody his career.
As visceral a technique as it is, the flying knee skirts the border between artistry and bloodshed unlike any other, capable of creating the most impactful collisions possible in the sport. Between the innate risk, the immense skill necessary for its execution and the brutal knockouts which result, it remains a technique which will create some of the sport’s most thrilling moments for years to come.
Flying Knees in the UFC:
- UFC 205: Yoel Romero def. Chris Weidman
- UFC 189: Thomas Almeida def. Brad Pickett
- UFC 189: Jeremy Stephens def. Dennis Bermudez
- UFC 54: James Irvin def. Terry Martin
- UFC 132: Carlos Condit def. Dong Hyun Kim
- UFC 85: Thiago Alves def. Matt Hughes
- UFC 60: Spencer Fisher def. Matt Wiman
- UFC 84: B.J. Penn def. Sean Sherk
- The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale: Pablo Garza def. Fredson Paixao
- UFC 172: Chris Beal def. Patrick Williams
- UFC 180: Fabricio Werdum def. Mark Hunt
- UFC on FOX 7: Yoel Romero def. Clifford Starks
- UFC Fight Night 38: Godofredo Pepey def. Noad Lahat
- UFC on FOX 14: Makwan Amirkhani def. Andy Ogle
- UFC Fight Night 82: Diego Rivas def. Noad Lahat