KO vs. TKO (What’s The Difference?)

Leaving the opponent unconscious on the ground is the most decisive way of winning an MMA fight. Every fighter desires to remove the judges from the final outcome and finish the fight by KO or TKO, and fans feel the same. But is there any difference between the two terms?

A knockout results from a strike or combination of strikes that leave a fighter unable to continue. A TKO, or technical knockout, happens when a fighter is no longer defending himself adequately, and the referee stops the fight.

Both these results are grouped in a fighter’s record, but some differences are worth knowing by every fan of the sport.

What Is The Difference Between A TKO And A KO

Technically, both a knockout and a technical knockout count as a KO in a fighter’s record. While they are similar, there are some differences. A knockout ends the fight suddenly with a single blow or a combination of blows, after which a fighter can’t continue fighting.

A technical knockout occurs when one fighter overwhelms the other on the feet or the ground, and the referee decides to stop the fight to save him from receiving further damage. Let’s get into more detail about each outcome.

What Is A KO In MMA?


A knockout is a fight-ending scenario usually resulting from a single strike (punch, kick, elbow, or knee). Or part of a combination that sends a fighter to the canvas, often unconscious and unable to continue.

The downed opponent may still retain consciousness, but he is in no condition to continue fighting. A knockout is rarely contested and leaves no doubt about who the winner is.

Knockout strikes to the head often send the fighter suddenly and violently unconscious, at least briefly, but this is not a necessary condition for a knockout. The main criterion for a clean KO is that a fighter cannot defend himself at all.

A good example of a clean knockout with full consciousness is a liver strike. This completely shuts down the body and leaves you curled up in a ball with all your senses intact to feel the agony.

Single, powerful blows to the head are the most common cause of a knockout, with the jawline and the area behind the ear being the most vulnerable parts of the head.

Body slams are uncommon but very real and have resulted in a knockout. There are even a few cases in the UFC where a fighter cannot continue due to debilitating damage to the legs from vicious low kicks.  

Types of TKOs in MMA

Technical knockouts are not as clear-cut as regular knockouts. A TKO occurs when a fighter can no longer “intelligently defend himself” from incoming attacks.

In this case, the referee decides the fighter is overwhelmed and stops the fight, resulting in a TKO win for the attacker. This scenario is similar to a regular KO, but a TKO can also happen occasionally.

Standing TKO

Unlike a knockout, when the damaged fighter is always down on the mat after being hit, a standing TKO occurs when he is still hurt but not down. The most common scenario in the UFC is a fighter with his back against the cage being bombarded and hurt by barrages of strikes.

There comes a point where the referee decides he’s seen enough and stops the fight, sparing the hurt fighter the possibility of suffering a full knockout.

Ground and Pound TKO

Because the rules allow for striking on the ground, ground-and-pound TKOs are unique to MMA. This kind of TKO is the most frequent in MMA. It happens when a fighter secures a dominant top position, be it a mount or on the back, and constantly punishes the other fighter with strikes.

Usually, referees allow these sequences to last quite a while and give every chance for the bottom fighter to escape. Still, the damage mounts up at a certain point, or the position seems inescapable. This is where the fight is usually stopped.

Tapping out to strikes also falls into the TKO category, at least in the UFC. While this is rare, a fighter may decide he has had enough and submit to the ground strikes he is receiving, which in the UFC results in a TKO. In other originations, though, this is considered a submission win.

Doctor Stoppage

Ringside physicians have the authority to decide if a fighter should no longer continue fighting if he has sustained too many dangerous injuries. Which also results in a TKO loss for the injured fighter. It makes no difference what the injury is.

It could be a massive cut over the eye, an exploded ear, or a fracture. In all cases, the fighter who suffers the injury also suffers a TKO loss due to a doctor’s stoppage.  

Corner Stoppage

A fighter’s corner also can stop the fight by throwing in the towel. Most cornermen prefer not to decide when enough is enough instead of their fighter. Still, there are some cases where the coach deems the danger too grave and the chance of winning too slim and can stop the fight.

A corner stoppage can also happen between rounds when the fighter or his coaches decide he should not continue. In any case, the fighter loses by TKO.

Knockouts and Technical Knockouts in Boxing

Knockouts and Technical Knockouts in Boxing

The terms knockout and technical knockout, like many other things in MMA, come from boxing and are used in the same way in most other full-contact striking combat sports like kickboxing and Muay Thai.

Knockouts in boxing happen when a fighter is struck hard in the head or body and falls to the canvas. The difference from MMA is that in boxing, the referee counts to 10, giving the fallen fighter a chance to recover and resume the fight.

The count is considered a knockdown if the fighter manages to stand and continue fighting. When a boxer falls hard and visibly out of consciousness, the ref can immediately stop the fight without even resorting to the 10-count.

Standing knockdowns can occur if a fighter receives hard blows to the head or body but does not fall down. The referee may decide to give him a 10 count to recover, but standing 10 counts are usually not permitted in higher-level and championship boxing fights.

Fighters can also take a knee on the canvas and use a 10-count to regain their composure if they are unable or unwilling to continue, which is also scored as a knockdown.

In boxing, technical knockouts, or TKOs, are generally the same as in MMA. The referee stops the fight if he believes one fighter can no longer safely participate in it. TKOs can occur when a fighter beats the 10 count after being knocked down but is visibly unable to continue fighting.

Or when he is no longer defending intelligently, and a knockout appears inevitable, forcing the referee to intervene. Stoppages between rounds, as well as corner stoppages, also result in a technical knockout.

In some boxing matches and most kickboxing and Muay Thai matches, a technical knockout is declared if a fighter suffers three knockdowns in a single round.


Knockouts captivate both casual and lifelong fans of combat sports. After all, the goal of a fight is to hurt the opponent to the point where he cannot continue fighting. A knockout occurs when this happens suddenly, resulting in a fighter being helpless on the mat.

Technical knockouts also mean a fighter cannot continue. Still, the decision comes from the referee who spares the fighter any further damage, a doctor who states a debilitating injury, or from the fighter’s corner deciding he should not continue fighting.  


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