Top 20 Submissions in UFC history
The evolving submission game first started in the UFC in 1993 and have come up with some of the most exciting and exhilarating finishes the sport has ever known. Whether it's been a hail Mary lock that saves a fighter from execution or a perfectly timed choke that ends a fight, the art of submission is just as awe inspiring as the greatest knockout and over the last 20 years we've been privy to witness some of the best finishes in the history of the entire sport. Now we count down the 20 greatest submissions of all time in the UFC.
#20: Jason Von Flue's Von Flue choke to finish Alex Karalexis
Many submission holds are named after the people that created them. The kimura is named after famed Japanese judoka Masahiko Kimura. The D'Arce choke named after Joe D'Arce (although he didn't technically invent the move). Add Jason Von Flue to this list with his rare maneuver called The Von Flue choke. He showed it off when he met former Ultimate Fighter season 1 competitor Alex Karalexis at UFC Fight Night 3 back in 2006. Setting it up from side control, Von Flue dug his shoulder into Karalexis' throat, putting pressure on the arteries and cutting off blood flow. A few seconds later, Von Flue let go before the referee even knew what happened because Karalexis was unconscious. It remains a rare submission in MMA competition, but Von Flue pulled it off thus earning his namesake for the hold.
#19: CB Dollaway with the rare Peruvian necktie submission to finish Jesse Taylor
CB Dollaway was a decorated wrestler from Arizona State when he came to the UFC by way of the Ultimate Fighter, but he also had a very special submission that he utilized that had rarely ever been seen inside the Octagon. Dollaway decided to use this move called the Peruvian necktie to choke out former housemate Jesse Taylor when the two met at UFC Fight Night: Silva vs. Irvin. It's such an odd submission to catch, but when Dollaway locks it up his opponent rarely has time to react before the fight is already over. That was the case with Taylor as Dollaway go the win and the Submission of the Night bonus to boot.
#18: Jeremy Horn submits Chuck Liddell with head and arm choke from the bottom
The head and arm choke or arm triangle choke is a common submission in the UFC these days, but when Jeremy Horn met Chuck Liddell at UFC 19 the move was applied in a rather interesting manner to pull off the submission. Horn actually caught Liddell with the hold and then rolled over to his back, locking up the choke and his guard keeping his opponent trapped. The final horn sounded and it appeared the fighters would go to an overtime period except there was a small problem — Liddell was out cold. The fight was stopped and Horn gave the future UFC legend a very rude welcome in his Octagon debut.
#17: Mark Coleman uses a neck crank to finish Dan Severn
While Royce Gracie made submissions famous in the early days of the UFC, wrestlers like Mark Coleman and Dan Severn helped introduce wrestling to the masses when they entered the Octagon a few years later. The two powerhouses finally met with the first ever heavyweight title on the line at UFC 12, and it was Coleman who got the win with a unique submission at the time. Coleman got Severn to the ground and ended up in what we now know as side control when he grabbed a hold of his opponent's head and arm, and wrenched up with pure strength to pull his neck like he was trying to pop his head off his shoulders. Severn tried to fight out but the pressure was too much and he was forced to tap out, making Mark Coleman the first ever UFC heavyweight champion.
#16: Pablo Garza hits a flying triangle to finish Yves Jabouin
There are definitely points for style when it comes to the submission game and Pablo Garza racked up a bunch of them when he hit a rare flying triangle choke to submit Yves Jabouin in their fight from UFC 129. At 6'1", Garza already holds a considerable height advantage over most fighters he would face at 145 pounds and he used that to his benefit when he saw an opening against a striker in Jabouin to jump up, lock his legs and look for a triangle choke. The risk of jumping up and trying to pull someone into a submission isn't easy, but Garza pulled it off and now lands as one of the greatest finishes in UFC history.
#15: Matt Hughes employs a 'Dave Schultz choke' to finish Ricardo Almeida
There's an age old debate in MMA about the grappling used in the sport and which is superior — wrestling or jiu-jitsu? Well, Matt Hughes did his part to win the argument for wrestling in his fight against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Ricardo Almeida when they met in the UFC. Almeida was a submission specialist trained under famed instructor Renzo Gracie, but he found himself caught on the wrong end of a front choke from Hughes during their fight that he had no answer for and eventually went to sleep. Hughes actually employed an old wrestling head lock to get the submission and it worked to perfection as he finished Almeida within seconds.
#14: Carlos Newton uses a bulldog choke to finish Pat Miletich
Pat Miletich was known for years as one of the greatest mixed martial artists on the planet. He was the perfect blend of power, technique, striking and wrestling and as UFC welterweight champion Miletich defended the belt proudly on numerous occasions. That's when he ran into a submission fighter from Canada named Carlos Newton, who was an aspiring medical student who also dabbled in the fight trade. Newton wasn't supposed to give Miletich much trouble in their fight, but he had other ideas. Newton locked up a headlock and began to squeeze and pull on Miletich's head. As the blood vessels tightened and his face turned red, Miletich had no other choice but to tap out.
#13: Nate Diaz gives Kurt Pellegrino the two finger salute before submitting him
No one can ever accuse the Diaz brothers of not being two of the most colorful fighters in UFC history, so leave it to them to submit an opponent while declaring victory with a double-middle finger salute along the way. Diaz was facing veteran Kurt Pellegrino when he was taken to the ground late in the fight, and he immediately transitioned to a triangle choke. The second he had it locked in, Diaz put his hands in the air in victory before throwing up the bird on both hands. A second later without Diaz doing anything else to lock in the hold, Pellegrino tapped out. Definitely one of the more confident submissions on the list.
#12: Frank Shamrock catches Jeremy Horn in a kneebar to win in overtime
Frank Shamrock still stands to this day as one of the greatest champions in UFC history, but early in his run in the promotion he ran into a fighter that refused to bow down to his prowess. Veteran competitor Jeremy Horn stepped in and gave Shamrock everything he could handle over the course of their fight, forcing the bout to go into an overtime period. It was there that Shamrock finally willed his way to victory when he caught Horn in a nasty kneebar submission to put a stop to the fight. Shamrock had plenty of tough fights in his career, but this was one matchup where he had to use everything in the arsenal to finally put Horn away.
#11: Dustin Hazelett slips from wizzer to armbar to finish Josh Burkman
It's one thing to grab a submission victory in the UFC, it's a whole other when you use a beautiful transition to set it up perfectly before finishing the fight. That's what retired UFC welterweight Dustin Hazelett did when he caught Josh Burkman with one of the slickest finishes to ever happen inside the Octagon. Clinched against the cage, Hazelett went for a wizzer to take Burkman to the mat, and almost as soon as they hit the floor the tall, lanky fighter kicked up his hips and jumped into an armbar. Burkman fell to the mat and a second later the fight was over. Hazelett will go down in history for not only one of the best submissions, but one of the greatest transitions ever to set it up.
#10: BJ Penn chokes out Matt Hughes to win the welterweight title
For his entire UFC career, BJ Penn had been a lightweight that was just never able to capture the 155 pound title, so when he moved to welterweight to take on reigning champion Matt Hughes he came into the fight as a huge underdog. No one bothered to tell Penn that he couldn't compete with Hughes, however, and he proceeded to put on a masterful performance eventually catching a rear naked choke early in the fight and forcing the champion the tap out. After it was over, Penn grabbed Hughes and gave him a big kiss on the cheek before celebrating his title victory.
#9: Murilo Bustamante submits Matt Lindland twice in one fight
Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Murilo Bustamante had to actually submit Matt Lindland twice in a single fight to win when these two met at UFC 37 in 2002. Bustamante had Lindland caught in a submission early in the fight and it appeared he tapped out, which caused referee John McCarthy to step in and stop the action. Lindland protested saying he never tapped, so the fight was restarted. Finally in round 3 Bustamante locked on a guillotine choke to put an end to the fight and stave off any further controversy.
#8: Frank Mir snaps Tim Sylvia's arm at UFC 48
The first time Frank Mir won the UFC heavyweight title it came with some controversy until a certain replay helped save the day. Just seconds into his bout against reigning champion Tim Sylvia, the fight hit the floor and immediately Mir kicked up his hips and grabbed for an armbar. Mir contorted Sylvia's arm and then out of nowhere, referee Herb Dean ran in and stopped the fight. The crowed in Las Vegas booed loudly and even commentator Joe Rogan noted that Dean made a mistake. That was until they aired the up close replay of the submission — as Mir pushed out his hips, Sylvia's forearm literally snapped in two like a twig, which prompted Dean to stop the fight and as it turns out help save Sylvia's career because an injury like that going unnoticed could have caused him irreparable harm.
#7: Korean Zombie hits a Twister on Leonard Garcia at Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Davis
Most UFC fans know the name Eddie Bravo — he's a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who used to do on-air scoring for the UFC as well as coach several notable fighters over the years and he was the inventor of a rather unique submission maneuver called 'the twister'. The contorting back and neck crank finisher is a devastating move when done correctly, but it's rarely been pulled off in MMA but 'The Korean Zombie' Chan Sung Jung made use of it in 2011 when he finished Leonard Garcia with the move. As time ran out in the round, Jung had his legs wrapped around Garcia's and when the opening came he trapped his opponent's arm and cranked on the neck, literally twisting his body into a pretzel. With only one second to go in the round, Garcia couldn't take any more and had to tap out giving Jung the win — the first ever of its kind by Twister in UFC history.
#6: Brock Lesnar defeats Shane Carwin by head and arm choke at UFC 116
Following a long battle with diverticulitis that nearly ended his career, UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar finally returned to action at UFC 116 to face interim title holder Shane Carwin. No one was sure what to expect from Lesnar after such a long layoff and seconds into the first round the answer was given pretty emphatically. Carwin dusted Lesnar with strikes on the feet before plowing him on the ground with a barrage of heavy punches. Carwin's massive sledgehammer like hands came pounding down on Lesnar, but the champion persevered to live until the second round. The breather gave Lesnar new life and he came out blazing, quickly putting Carwin on the mat and transitioning to a head and arm choke. Lesnar tightened his grip and position and Carwin was left with no where to go and had to tap out. Lesnar snatched a submission win from the jaws of defeat and managed to give one of the most memorable performances of all time as well.
#5: Royce Gracie finishes Gerard Gordeau to win UFC 1
There's nothing better than the original and Royce Gracie certainly proved that during his run through the first ever UFC tournament back in 1993. It took the submission specialist less than five total minutes to blow through three opponents, the last of which was Gerard Gordeau. Gracie capped off his incredible run with a rear naked choke to finish Gordeau and be crowned the first ever Ultimate Fighting Champion.
#4: Matt Hughes defeats Frank Trigg by rear naked choke at UFC 52
There may not have been a more heated rivalry in welterweight history than Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg. Despite the fact that Hughes beat Trigg already, the pair were rematched at UFC 52 with the title on the line as well as a whole heap of bragging rights. Early in the fight, Trigg clipped Hughes with an illegal shot below the belt, but the referee didn't see it and so with his opponent obviously hurt, Trigg tried his best to capitalize. Trigg almost finished Hughes, but somehow, some way the champion recovered, picked up Trigg and walked him across the Octagon floor for a huge slam to the mat. Hughes tried to finish the fight from there by ground and pound, but instead Trigg gave up his back and a few seconds later the rear naked choke was locked in and the fight was over. It was one of the most miraculous sequences in UFC history, and remains one of the greatest highlights any time the UFC puts a package together of their best and brightest moments.
#3: Jon Jones finishes Lyoto Machida by standing guillotine choke at UFC 140
Sometimes a great submission is best remembered in the context of how it happened, and that's the case for the No. 3 on the list when Jon Jones finished Lyoto Machida by guillotine choke at UFC 140. Jones managed to catch Machida's head in a vice-like grip and wrench up on the hold, cutting off all circulation to his head. Jones released the submission when he realized that Machida was out cold, and as he flopped to the ground, the champion walked away victorious. The moment was later captured in a UFC commercial titled 'Believe Your Eyes' and it stands as one of the most stunning finishes in history. It was Jones' unlucky misfortune, however, that his fantastic finish came on the same exact card as our choice for the No. 2 greatest submission of all time.
#2: Frank Mir submits Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by kimura at UFC 140
For many years whenever the argument came up about the best submission fighter in the heavyweight division, the conversation started and stopped at two names — Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir. For the biggest part of their careers the two fighters were separated by promotions as Nogueira competed in Pride and Mir in the UFC. Finally in 2008 they met in the Octagon and Mir made quick work of Nogueira by knockout in the second round, but it still left fans clamoring to see the two grapplers hit the mat together. They got their wish in 2011 when Mir and Nogueira rematched, and this fight was almost the exact opposite of the original except for how it ended.
Nogueira managed to get the best of Mir on the feet this time when he blasted the former UFC champion, sending him to the mat where he looked for the finish. Nogueira blasted away trying to get the stoppage, but Mir scrambled and in the fray managed to end up on top looking for a submission while still trying to knock the cobwebs loose from almost being knocked out. Mir found an opening and grabbed a hold of Nogueira's arm and went for one of his signature moves — the kimura. Mir cranked the submission and when Nogueira refused to tap, he sunk it in even deeper until bone and cartilage snapped and the legendary fighter from Brazil had no choice but to give up or risk further damage to his arm. Mir accomplished the impossible at the time when he snapped Nogueira's arm proving once and for all who was the greatest submission fighter in UFC history.
#1: Anderson Silva submits Chael Sonnen via triangle choke at UFC 117
For seven years, Anderson Silva sat atop the iron throne as the ruler and king of the UFC by way of his brutal reign as the top middleweight in the world. Silva didn't just win fights, he throttled and embarrassed his opponents in a way that no other fighter had ever done in the UFC. But through four rounds of his 2010 fight against Chael Sonnen, Silva finally looked human. The Brazilian champion got clipped and caught on the feet, something most believed was next to impossible, and then time and again he found himself planted on his back a victim of Sonnen's superior wrestling and ground control.
So with time ticking down on his middleweight title reign in the fifth and final round, Silva threw up a triangle choke, hoping to catch his opponent napping. Sure enough, Silva locked up the hold and a few moments later Sonnen was tapping out. As amazing as Silva's previous wins were in the UFC, this became his defining performance. A true champion finds a way to win even on his worst day, and Silva submitting Sonnen was poetic proof that you can never count a good man out. In this case, Silva just happens to be the best of all time and this submission is proof positive of how to achieve greatness.