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Looking Back at Edson Barboza’s Most Iconic Knockout of All Time (Video)
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Looking Back at Edson Barboza’s Most Iconic Knockout of All Time (Video)

We all saw the rush. It was perhaps the first viral knockout in UFC history and whenever it’s Edson Barboza fight week, we’re sure to see more. Of course, we’re talking about Barboza’s spinning wheel knockout of Terry Etim.

UFC 142 took place on January 14, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The card was headlined by a featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. Kicking off the pay-per-view portion of the card was a lightweight match between two rising stars in the division, Barboza and Etim.

Barboza came into the fight undefeated at 9-0, with three of those wins coming in the UFC. His first fight in the promotion ended when his opponent could no longer stand due to Barboza’s now signature leg kicks. In his next two fights, against Anthony Njokuani and Ross Pearson respectively, Barboza picked up both Fight of the Night bonuses and wins.

Etim also entered the UFC undefeated, but lost two of his first three fights in the promotion. He then won five of his next six with four finishes and three Submission of the Night bonuses. Etim had a record of 15-3 by the time he entered the Octagon against Barboza.

Stylistically, the fight was a classic striker vs. grappler matchup. Barboza possessed a brutal Muay Thai style with crushing power and one of the fastest switch kicks the sport had ever seen. Etim’s play, on the other hand, was characterized by slick submissions, using his long limbs to strangle his opponents with a variety of chokes.

Achieved the first wheel kick KO in UFC history! 💢 Will Edson Barboza make history again at #UFC262? (LIVE tonight on E+ PPV: bit.ly/33wjxzk)

Posted by UFC on Saturday, May 15, 2021

The fight started with Etim applying pressure and shooting for a takedown in the first 15 seconds of the fight. On his second takedown attempt, Etim managed to knock Barboza to the ground. In an early victory for Barboza, he was able to defeat Etim almost immediately and get back to his feet. Etim’s next takedown attempt was botched and he ate a knee to the body for his efforts. Unable to get the fight to the ground, Etim began trying to establish his jab. Meanwhile, Barboza began using several kicks to attack Etim’s head, body and legs.

Round two started where round one left off, with Etim walking forward behind his jab and hitting Barboza with kicks to the legs. Undeterred, Etim continued to pressure Barboza, eventually securing a double leg takedown. As in the first round, Barboza was immediately able to lift Etim with a butterfly hook and take the opportunity to get back to his feet. The round continued at a relatively measured pace, with neither fighter really able to land anything significant. Going into the third round, it looked like Barboza was at the top of the scorecards and Etim needed a finish to take the win.

Etim came out very aggressive in the third round, once again stalking Barboza and finding a home for his jab. For the first two minutes of the round, Etim controlled the Octagon. That would all change in an instant. As Etim continued to press forward, Barboza planted his front foot, turned around and flushed Etim’s jaw with the heel of his foot. As most saw in the now iconic climax, Etim immediately froze and fell like a tree being cut down. The crowd erupted for the hometown fighter. It was the first spinning wheel knockout in UFC history.

Etim, once a highly touted prospect, was never able to recover from the crushing defeat. He fought only once more in the UFC, eventually retiring less than two years later at the age of 27. Although he would lose his next fight to Jamie Varner, Barboza has had a long career that has seen him fight the who’s who of the lightweight division and headline UFC cards on May 18, 2024.

One of the great aspects of mixed martial arts and sports in general is immortalizing moments in time. Clips and images that take on a life of their own and far surpass the popularity and fame of those who created them. Based on the number of times both hardcore and casual fans have seen the spinning wheel thrill, it’s safe to say that Barboza’s knockout of Etim is one of those moments.

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