MMA Junkie’s Knockout of the Month for December: A title-saving spinning backfist

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best knockouts from December 2021: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s Knockout of the Month award for December.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting for your choice.


Nominee: Sergio Pettis def. Kyoji Horiguchi at Bellator 272

Sergio Pettis (22-5 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) produced one of the greatest knockouts in Bellator history when he rallied to defend his bantamweight title against Kyoji Horiguchi (29-4 MMA, 1-1 BMMA).

After getting dominated for three rounds, Pettis found an opening in the fourth round. A missed head-kick allowed Pettis the opportunity to twist into a spinning backfist that caught Horiguchi clean, putting the lights out for the absolutely stunning comeback knockout.

Nominee: Jamahal Hill def. Jimmy Crute at UFC on ESPN 31

Jamahal Hill (9-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) rebounded from his first loss in devastating fashion when he finished Jimmy Crute (12-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC)

Hill didn’t need long to find his target early in the light heavyweight matchup. He dropped Crute in the opening moments and nearly got a stoppage, then waiting again to land the exact same check right hook to finish the job just 48 seconds in.

Nominee: Tai Tuivasa def. Augusto Sakai at UFC 269

Tai Tuivasa (14-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) put away Augusto Sakai (15-4-1 MMA, 4-3 UFC) in devastating fashion to extend his winning streak to four fights.

Seconds into Round 2 of the heavyweight bout, Tuivasa closed the distance, connected with a left hook that wobbled Sakai and followed up with a combination that sent Sakai straight to the canvas.

Nominee: Roberto Soldic def. Mamed Khalidov at KSW 65

Roberto Soldic (20-3) became a double champion under the KSW when he knocked out Mamed Khalidov (35-8-2) to add the middleweight belt to his resume alongside the welterweight strap.

Soldic landed a devastating left hand in the second round of the contest, dropping Khalidov then smashing him with multiple ground shots until the referee pulled him off for two belts in two divisions.

Nominee: Derrick Lewis def. Chris Daukaus at UFC Fight Night 199

Derrick Lewis (26-8 MMA, 17-6 UFC) set the UFC’s all-time knockout record when he shut down Chris Daukaus (12-4 MMA, 4-1 UFC) for his 13th octagon finish with strikes.

Lewis produced a trademark effort in the heavyweight fight. He waiting for his opportunity to explode on Daukaus, unleashing a savage combination from close range that hurt his opponent and eventually dropped him for the knockout finish.

The winner

The winner: Sergio Pettis

Things didn’t look like they were going Pettis’ way, until they did in remarkable fashion.

After a difficult first three-and-a-half rounds, Pettis delivered an all-time violent knockout when he flattened Kyoji Horiguchi with a perfectly placed spinning backfist, which stopped the contest at 3:24 of Round 4, to retain his bantamweight title.

Adding to the shock was the fact that, for all intents and purposes, Pettis was down three rounds to none against Horiguchi heading into the fourth.

The opening round began with a portion of the Mohegan Sun Arena crowd behind their countryman – and another group was audibly supportive of the internationally popular Japanese fighter.

Horiguchi scored a takedown midway through the first round but wasn’t able to do much with it. For the rest of the round, the fight stayed standing. A technical striking match ensued, but Pettis struggled with Horiguchi’s footwork and movement.

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In Round 2, it was more of the same. Horiguchi got the fight to the canvas. After a brief time on the ground, Pettis shot up a submission, which allowed him back up. Once again, Horiguchi showed to be a step ahead, but Pettis caught him with a good punch that opened a cut on the challenger under his right eye.

Feints and leg kicks were in Horiguchi’s attack to begin Round 3, but history repeated itself, and the fight hit the canvas before striking on the feet – exchanges that went in Horiguchi’s favor.

It looked like more of the same in Round 4 – until Pettis threw a head kick on a scramble midway through the round. The head kick whiffed, but Pettis used his momentum to throw a spinning backfist that floored Horiguchi and sent the crowd into pandemonium.

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