Before there was the UFC, there was Mortal Kombat. First released in arcades back in October ’92, the addictively gory video-game franchise sought to answer the eternal question: Who would win in a fight between a kung-fu expert and a paddy-hatted immortal who can shoot lightning out of his hands?
The most memorable of aspect of the MK series has always been the trademark “Fatalities” — which have gotten progressively more over-the-top in the last 19 years. Of course, the sport of mixed martial arts often gives us similar moments of decisive ultra-violence. So in honor of the ninth installment of the game, which hits stores tomorrow, we decided to count down our favorite finishing moves in MMA. They may not be as dramatic as a spine being ripped out of your opponent’s body, but in the real world, this is as nasty as it gets…
#10: The Elbow Storm
A barrage of elbows to the head of a helpless fighter will make even hardened fans of the sport wince in sympathy — even if we’ve been watching this scene play out dozens of times since 1994. But there’s no questioning the raw efficiency of a “hellbow” assault from the top, which has the power to turn cocky contenders into broken shells.
#9: The Twister
If a spine was to pop out of somebody’s body during an MMA fight, it would probably be due to the Twister, an unbearably painful body/neck-crank popularized by Eddie Bravo, which has been pulled off in MMA competition by Chan Sung Jung and Shayna Baszler. When you can put a person in that much agony just with your arms and legs, who needs a flying spear?
See also: The Anaconda Body Lock
#8: The Spinning Backfist
Between the torque produced by the body’s rotation, and the odd angle that the blow comes from, the spinning backfist has been responsible for some knockouts that are as unexpected as they are devastating. Most of the time, the recipient is completely caught off-guard. Just ask Matt Serra.
#7: The Front Kick to the Face
It might not be as flashy as some of the other moves on this list, but when it lands just right, it is so, so sweet. In fact, the kick that every seven-year-old white belt learns on their first day at Kiddie Karate can be honed into a crippling death blow — especially if you learn it from Steven Seagal.
See also: Cory Tait vs. Dino Gambatesa
While most mixed martial artists are well-mannered sporting types, there are some guys who go in there specifically looking to shatter bones. Rousimar Palhares is one of those guys. Like Masukazu Imanari, Palhares became famous for twisting knees and ankles beyond their breaking points. As if his trademark submission wasn’t dangerous enough, his victory celebration is even more terrifying. Put an extra set of arms on that dude and he’s the Brazilian Goro.
#5: The Slam Knockout
There’s no greater alpha-male move than picking up your opponent and slamming his head on the mat. Rampage Jackson made an entire career out of it while competing in Japan. More recently, the MMA body-slam KO has been featured on SportsCenter and employed in a women’s match. So really, it’s an alpha-person move now — and not something you’d ever want to be on the losing end of.
See also: Frank Shamrock vs. Igor Zinoviev, Tito Ortiz vs. Evan Tanner
#4: The Cartwheel Kick
If you’re an old-school fan of Mortal Kombat, you probably appreciate a good cartwheel. And as Brian Ebersole proved more than once, this kind of thing can also be successful in a real fight — as long as you’re insane enough to try it.
See also: The Capoeira kick knockout
#3: The Inverted Flying Triangle
We’ll probably never see it reproduced in a video game because it comes on so slowly. But Bellator’s fighters have now produced two of these acrobatic chokes, and both times the victim was put dead to sleep.
See also: The original, Toby Imada vs. Jorge Masvidal
#2: The Showtime Kick
Even though it’s only been attempted in one MMA fight — thanks to the pioneering work of creative ass-kicker Anthony Pettis — we had to put this unforgettable moment from WEC 53 on the list. After all, the Showtime Kick is something you’d think would only be possible in a video game. Now, even heavyweights are trying to get a piece. And even though it didn’t actually knock Ben Henderson out, it clinched the decision for Pettis, won him a title, and served as the final sendoff for a legendary promotion.
#1: The Flying Knee
The perfect union of athleticism and brutality, the flying knee KO is MMA’s equivalent of the tomahawk jam. We could have used any number of videos to illustrate this one, but we thought it was appropriate to re-post Patricky Pitbull’s recent Bellator knockout of Toby Imada. After getting clocked, Imada sways back and forth in a very Mortal Kombat sort of way, and you half-expect Sean Wheelock to growl “FINISH HIM!” into the mic.
See also: Jose Aldo vs. Cub Swanson, Kid Yamamoto vs. Kazuyuki Miyata, James Irvin vs. Terry Martin
Bonus video! — “MMA Kombat,” by lookoutawhale