TKO vs KO: 25 Awesome Highlights In Boxing and MMA

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Few moments are as electrifying as a fight-ending knockouts in combat sports. Regardless if its TKO vs KO, these finishes can be memorable.

You know about the fighters, you’re invested in their storyline, and now you’ve just witnessed them commit, or be victim to extreme violence.

And although they’re often used interchangeably by casual fans, KO and TKO are distinct in many ways – each carrying its own set of rules and dramatic implications.

And so we’re gonna dive into the differences between the two and share some of the best examples of the 2 fight finishes in recorded history.

TKO vs KO: What’s the Difference?

Let’s look at the big differences between knockouts and technical knockouts. 

What is a Knockout?

A conventional knockout occurs when one competitor is knocked unconscious or unable to rise to their feet within a specified period, usually a 10-second count in a boxing match. 

Knockouts in boxing are when the fighter does not respond to the referee’s count and cannot continue to fight.

It’s often the result of a single powerful punch, but it can also result from a combination of punches and strikes.

And as we’ll cover a bit down the page, boxing, and MMA knockouts are slightly different. 

What is a Technical Knockout?

A technical knockout is declared when a fighter cannot continue the fight safely. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of consciousness, though.

A TKO can be called for several reasons:

  • The referee intervenes and stops the fight, believing one fighter is taking excessive damage and can’t defend themselves adequately.
  • A body shot leaves the opponent unable to continue fighting.
  • The ringside physician may recommend the fight be stopped due to a fighter’s injuries (Doctor Stoppage).
  • There’s also the corner stoppage where the fighter’s ringside team throws in the towel, indicating they want the fight stopped to protect fighter safety. 

Other Types of TKOs:

  1. Inability to Continue: Sometimes, a fighter may be able to stand but is clearly disoriented, not defending themselves, or otherwise unable to continue in the eyes of the referee.
  2. Exhaustion: Rare but possible. A fighter is so fatigued that they cannot adequately defend themselves or continue fighting.
  3. Equipment Failure: It’s extremely rare, but if a fighter’s essential equipment, like gloves or mouthpiece, can’t be fixed in a timely manner, a TKO can be declared.
  4. Failure to Answer the Bell: If a fighter is unable or unwilling to come out of their corner when a new round is set to begin, a TKO is declared.

Specific Rule-based TKOs:

  1. Three Knockdown Rule: In some MMA promotions, a TKO is automatically declared if a fighter is knocked down three times in a single round, regardless of time count or even it’s a flash knockdown.
  2. Accumulated Fouls: While usually leading to a disqualification, accumulated fouls that don’t necessarily indicate ill intent but do hinder the victim’s ability to continue might result in a TKO.

KOs in Boxing vs MMA

While the basic idea of a KO is the same in both sports, there are some key differences due to the varying rules, techniques, and contexts in boxing and MMA.

KOs in Boxing:

  1. Striking Limitations: In boxing, KOs are achieved using punches exclusively. Kicks, elbows, knees, and other strike types are not allowed.
  2. Count: The referee starts a count when a boxer is knocked down. A KO is declared if the boxer doesn’t get up by the count of 10 (unless its Wilder vs Fury 1).
  3. Protective Count: Sometimes, if a boxer is on their feet but not intelligently defending themselves, the referee may initiate a standing eight-count. However, this doesn’t automatically result in a KO.
  4. Gloves: The gloves in boxing are generally heavier, which can sometimes lessen the impact of individual punches but can also add weight to the punch depending on how it lands.

KOs in MMA

  1. Diverse Striking: In MMA, KOs can be achieved through various forms of striking: punches, kicks, knees, and elbows are all fair game.
  2. No Count: In MMA, there’s usually no counting when a fighter is knocked down. The referee steps in if one fighter can no longer intelligently defend themselves, whether they are standing or on the ground.
  3. Ground and Pound: In MMA, fighters can continue to strike their opponents even after they’ve been knocked down, leading to KO via ground and pound. Soemthing that’s not possible in boxing.
  4. Gloves: MMA gloves are lighter with less padding, which can make strikes more impactful, increasing the likelihood of a KO.
  5. Range of Positions: KOs in MMA can happen from a wider variety of positions including from the back, from the mount, and even occasionally from the bottom.
  6. Submission: While not classified as a type of knockout, some submissions can also render a fighter unconscious in MMA, adding another dimension to how a fight can end abruptly.

TKOs in Boxing vs MMA

The criteria for declaring a TKO differ between the two sports due to their varying rules, techniques, and fight conditions.

Here are some of the main differences:

TKOs in Boxing

Striking Limitations: In boxing, TKOs generally result from a sustained assault of punches where the opponent cannot adequately defend themselves.

Referee Count: Again, in boxing, the referee may initiate a count if a fighter is in trouble, even while standing. If a fighter is knocked down multiple times in a single round, some jurisdictions have rules for automatic TKOs.

Corner Stoppage: The fighter’s corner can signal for a stoppage by throwing in the towel.

Doctor Stoppage: Severe cuts or injuries can cause a doctor to advise the referee to stop the bout.

Failure to Answer the Bell: If a boxer cannot continue to the next round, it’s considered a TKO. 

Types of TKOs in MMA

There is no ten-second count in MMA, so it’s almost always up to the referee’s discretion.

A TKO often happens when a fighter is not adequately defending themselves from a barrage of punches. 

This can be either standing or from ground and pound techniques. 

A fighter’s corner throwing in the towel is considered a TKO in both MMA and Boxing. 

A Medical TKO can also occur when the ringside doctor stops a fight due to cuts, a severe injury, or any other medical condition. This is usually from eye injuries, broken bones, or severe lacerations.


As you can gauge, there are some similarities between the 2 combat sports

  • In both sports, the ultimate aim of a TKO is to protect the fighters. And so the referee has the discretion to stop the fight if one participant cannot defend themselves or is in danger of sustaining serious injury.
  • Corner Stoppage: In both boxing and MMA, the corner can stop the fight if they believe their fighter cannot continue, thus resulting in a TKO.
  • Doctor Stoppage: Both sports allow for a fight to be stopped on medical grounds.

Epic KOs in MMA & Boxing

Now that we’ve gone through the technicalities, let’s highlight some notable knockout victories. 

KOs in Boxing

Here are some notable knockout finishes throughout modern boxing history.

Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks (1988)

Mike Tyson knocked out Spinks just 91 seconds into the first round, solidifying his reputation as one of the most fearsome punchers in boxing history.

George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer (1994)

At 45 years old, George Foreman came from behind to knock out Michael Moorer in the 10th round, becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in the process.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton (2009)

Pacquiao knocked out Hatton in the 2nd round with a devastating left hook, not only winning via knockout but also winning the hearts of many around the world.

Sergio Martinez vs. Paul Williams (2010)

In a great matchup of boxing styles, Martinez avenged a previous loss to Williams with a devastating 2nd-round knockout via a left hook.

Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao (2012)

In their fourth and final meeting, Pacquiao suffered a loss of consciousness via Marquez’s powerful right hand at the end of the 6th round.

And as a forever fan of Pacquiao, this one hurt.

Deontay Wilder vs. Bermane Stiverne 2 (2017)

In their second fight, the first being Wilder’s first decision win (the others coming by KO), Wilder KO’ed Stiverne into basically a lawnchair.

KOs in MMA

As you can imagine, there have been some pretty epic KOs in MMA history.

Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort (UFC 126, 2011)

Anderson Silva’s highlight reel is full of awesome knockouts. But when he delivered a front kick to fellow Brazilian UFC fighter Vitor Belfort’s face, he knocked him out and created one of the most iconic moments in MMA history.

Conor McGregor vs. José Aldo (UFC 194, 2015)

Then interim champion McGregor countered Aldo’s powerful left hook and knocked him our just 13 seconds into the first round to become the UFC Featherweight Champion, making it one of the fastest knockouts in UFC title fight history.

Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey (UFC 193, 2015)

Holm shocked the world by knocking out the then-undefeated Rousey with a head kick in the second round.

Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren (UFC 239, 2019)

Masvidal delivered a flying knee just five seconds into the first round, resulting in the fastest knockout in UFC history.

Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem (UFC 218, 2017)

Before he was heavyweight champion with a reputation as as a devastating African UFC fighter, Ngannou delivered a devastating uppercut that knocked Overeem out cold, making it one of the most brutal KOs in the sport.

Dan Henderson vs Michael Bisping (UFC 100, 2009)

Cauliflower ear aficionado Dan Henderson knocked British fighter Michael Bisping into another dimension and then followed it up with a brutal jumping punch. 

Bonus Note on Double Knockouts & Knockdowns

In combat sports, be it MMA, Boxing, Muay Thai, or any other striking-heavy sport – it’s possible to witness the legendary double knockout.

Check these out!

Epic TKOs in MMA & Boxing

Now let’s look at some of the notable technical knockouts (TKOs) we’ve been spectators to over the years.


There have plenty of great boxing champions delivering TKOs over the years so here’s a quick list.

Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia (2023)

The hotly anticipated fight between young, undefeated fighters ended with a 7th-round TKO via body shot liver punch. 

Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston (1964)

Muhammad Ali proved his naysayers wrong, when at the young age of 22, he won the heavyweight championship via TKO going into the 7th round after Sonny Liston wouldn’t leave his stool.

Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns (1981)

Leonard, behind on the scorecards, showed a TON of heart and stormed back in the later rounds to stop Hearns in a dramatic TKO.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Arturo Gatti (2005)

A fight years in the making, Mayweather Jr. vs Gatti was a brutal beatdown for the tough-as-nails Gatti. Philly Shell master, Mayweather Jr. showed his speed and skill (and illegal boxing moves) but regardless, dominated all 6 rounds before the corner, TKO finish.

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Fernando Vargas (2002)

De La Hoya secured a revenge, TKO victory in the 11th round of a highly intense rematch fight against Vargas.

Vitali Klitschko vs. Lennox Lewis (2003)

Although Klitschko was leading on the scorecards, the fight was stopped by the ringside physicians recommendation because of severe cuts to Klitschko’s face, resulting in a TKO win for Lewis.


Of course MMA will have tons of TKOs from all sorts of positions and methods. But can’t help but highlight here some notable TKOs via punches.

Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz (UFC 47, 2004 & UFC 66, 2006)

Both of Liddell’s wins over Ortiz were TKOs that helped solidify Liddell’s reputation as a striking legend in MMA. And also arguably helped put the UFC on the map. But the finishing combo delivered in the first is particularly noteworthy.

Ronda Rousey vs Amanda Nunes (UFC 207, 2016)

For a comeback fight, Ronda Rousey fought the greatest female fighter of all time Amanda Nunes and felt the consequences.

Cain Velasquez vs. Brock Lesnar (UFC 121, 2010)

Velasquez dismantled the much larger Lesnar to win by first-round TKO and capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship and become the first Mexican UFC fighter to win the gold.

Dan Henderson vs Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce/M-1 Global, 2011)

Hendo vs Fedor was a great, quick fight between all-time legends. Fedor had Hendo backed into a corner early. He was on top of him ground and pounding him, but in a bizarre series of events, Hendo landed a nasty right hand while scrambling back to his feet and took over.

Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira (UFC 281, 2022)

In their 3 matchup (1st MMA fight in the UFC), Alex Pereira once again managed to find a way to beat legendary middleweight champion Adesanya, this time via TKO.

And to cap off these highlights and add context to the difference between TKO vs KO:

Here’s their most recent matchup, where Adesanya avenged his losses via absolute ‘put-to-sleep’ knockout to reclaim the Middleweight title.

Other Types of Finishes in MMA & Boxing

We’ve already covered the striking-based finishes in full-contact combat sports. But let’s quickly cover some other ‘finishes’ that can happen in MMA. 


Though not technically a “finish,” fights that go the scheduled distance without a KO, TKO, or submission are decided by judges’ scores once the fight reaches its time limit:

Unanimous Decision

All judges agree on the winner.

Split Decision

Judges are divided on the winner; the majority determines the victor.

Majority Decision

Two judges agree on the winner, and one judge scores the fight a draw.


With these decisions, there are also times when a fight is too close to call – or perhaps a judge is too corrupt (like in the case of ). That’s when we have ourselves a draw. 

Unanimous Draw

All judges score the fight as a draw.

Split Draw

One judge scores a winner, while the other two judges score the fight as a draw.

Majority Draw

Two judges score the fight as a draw, while one judge scores a winner. This famously happened when Pernell Whittaker boxed Julio Cesar Chavez’s face off to a majority draw.

Submission Finishes

Here are the different ways an MMA fight can end via submission. 

Tap Out

A fighter physically taps the mat or their opponent to indicate they are submitting due to a painful or choking submission hold.

Verbal Submission

A fighter verbally tells the referee that they wish to give up, usually because of a painful submission maneuver or some other unbearable condition.

Technical Submission

A fighter doesn’t tap out but becomes unconscious due to a submission hold like a choke. Or perhaps the fighter is too tough for their own good and gets their arm broken, ala Frank Mir vs. Nogueria.

In these cases, the referee stops the fight to protect the fighter.

Doctor’s Stoppage

When the physician at ringside calls off a fight.

Medical Stoppage

The ringside doctor halts the fight due to cuts, injuries, or any other medical reason that makes it unsafe for a fighter to continue.


There are those considered a legal blow and then all those that aren’t. 

DQ (Disqualification)

A fighter can be disqualified for repeated illegal actions such as eye-poking, groin strikes, or hitting the back of the head.

Depending on the severity and intent, a disqualification may be immediate or may follow point deductions.

No Contest

If a fight is stopped due to an accidental foul and not enough rounds have been completed to go to the judges’ scorecards, the match may be ruled a “No Contest.”

TKO vs KO in Closing

While a KO is a spectacular showcase of a fighter’s power and precision, a TKO often displays a fighter’s skill in sustained offense and their opponent’s inability to continue and/or sheer toughness.

And understanding the difference between the two not only enhances your appreciation for what’s unfolding in the ring or cage but also deepens your grasp of fight strategy and fighter safety.

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We're a team of fight fans and martial arts practitioners. Many of us have been involved in martial arts our entire lives.