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.