2019 gave fans a lot to cheer about in the "Knockout of the Year" category. Jessica Andrade lived up to her "Bate Estaca" -- or pile driver -- nickname when she nearly slammed Rose Namajunas through the cage floor to capture the strawweight title. Valentina Shevchenko sent shockwaves through the flyweight division when she transformed Jessica Eye into a board with a flush head kick. Jairzinho Rozenstruik performed unauthorized plastic surgery on Alistair Overeem's face with a nightmarish last-second right hand. These thrilling finishes do not even account for some incredible knockouts outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, whether it be Raymond Daniels spinning a full 720 degrees to deliver a punch that knocked out Wilker Barros and several of his immediate family members or Davy Gallon sending Ross Pearson to the shadow realm with a rolling thunder kick that would make Peter Graham blush.
Despite the devastating nature of many of these performances, they do not hold a candle to what took place on July 6. The gravitas of their meeting, the speed with which it concluded and the ferocity of the fight-ending strike all make Jorge Masvidal's flying knee knockout of Ben Askren at UFC 239 the obvious pick for the 2019 Knockout of the Year.
Coming into their bout, the undefeated 19-0 Askren was perhaps a win away from an elusive welterweight title shot, having made his promotional debut with a controversial bulldog choke technical submission of Robbie Lawler at UFC 235. Nevertheless, Askren emerged victorious against the former champ, overcoming adversity in the form of a slam reminiscent of the World Wrestling Federation greats, and put himself in a position to take on the #4 ranked Masvidal. The former street fighter-turned-MMA star Masvidal rebounded from two consecutive losses to score a thrilling upset of his own months earlier, starching Darren Till and taking home an extra $100k in bonus money.
The buildup to their meeting was fraught with trash talk and hyperbole as Askren and Masvidal traded barbs, with one claiming that a win would be "pretty simple" and the other ratcheting things up with rhetoric like he will "make sure his bloodline doesn't reproduce." Despite the fact that two title fights -- one featuring Jon Jones -- highlighted this summer card, all eyes were on Askren vs. Masvidal.
Askren strode out to the cage with "Give Up the Funk" by Parliament, high-fiving and smiling at the crowd before stepping foot inside the Octagon without a care in the world. A more focused Masvidal emerged to the daunting theme from "Scarface," as composed by Giorgio Moroder, but when he spotted his rival watching him make the walk, "Gamebred" started smiling himself. As he was bounding across the canvas, security was extra careful to make certain the two combatants did not come to blows early. Masvidal hopped away, grinning all the while. A more jovial expression slightly hardened for Askren during his introduction, while Masvidal showed nothing but confidence and joy at the prospect of the pain that he knew he was about to inflict. Masvidal leaned back against the fence with his arms tucked behind him, a pose that is more the style of Karolina Kowalkiewicz and her traditional easy-going demeanor. At that point, it seemed the Floridian knew something that we did not.
As Masvidal finally gained an unobstructed view of his foe, the smile on his face grew several sizes larger and he started mouthing words at Askren. Gamebred knew what was about to happen. Referee Jason Herzog clocked in the action, and Masvidal took two steps forward before accelerating to a sprint. "The fight clock is brought to…" is all that play-by-play commentator Jon Anik was able to get through in his fight introduction before Masvidal leapt into the air and landed the flying knee to end all flying knees.
To look back and find a flying strike of such epic proportion, we would have to go back 13 years to Hero's 5 in 2006, when the legendary Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto scorched Kazuyuki Miyata with a flying knee of his own that clocked in at an astonishing four seconds. Even so, the official stoppage time of this 2019 knockout of five seconds is somewhat misleading, as Askren was out cold before he hit the ground with 4:57 left in the first round. The American Top Team standout spent the extra few seconds that ticked off the clock unloading two extra thunderous right hands, though Askren had already been stricken with rigor mortis to the point where it looked as if “Funky” had been frozen in carbonite and though referee Herzog was already rushing in to save the doomed Askren. Before doctors and officials could burst into the cage to tend to the previously unbeaten wrestler, Masvidal let out all of his emotions at once, screaming at Askren and slamming his hand on the floor several times. Just as he had separated Askren from his consciousness, he simultaneously stripped commentator Joe Rogan of his ability to say anything beyond "oh my goodness" or "wow" for a full 20 seconds.
UFC highlight reels are littered with the wreckage and destruction from the perfect moments of great fights. Most fighters go their entire careers without having one defining moment, and arguably Masvidal, a 46-fight vet to that point, had never before enjoyed such a moment. That all changed with one small step for Masvidal, one giant leap for MMA.
Although the final two bouts on the card were thrilling, neither came close to matching the intensity of the record-shattering knockout from Gamebred. The crowd leapt to its feet, all 18,000 fans in the T-Mobile Arena not entirely sure of what happened but eventually, after putting it all together amidst the shock and adrenaline, erupting at what had just taken place before them. At just five seconds into the opening frame, Masvidal scored the quickest knockout in UFC history. Undoubtedly a staple in highlight reels for years to come, a record that stood for over 13 years courtesy of Duane “Bang” Ludwig was shattered the moment Askren's hair touched the canvas. Nearly a consensus pick from our staff, this finish is Sherdog.com's 2019 "Knockout of the Year."