Top MMA Submissions of 2011
The one component that sets mixed martial arts apart from the other major combat sports is the arsenal of slick submissions these fighters possess.
In 2011, this cornerstone of MMA finishes was on display across the promotions, as fighters such as Shinya Aoki, Frank Mir, Jon Jones and so many more showed just how dangerous they can be when going to the ground.
Last year featured a plethora of arm snapping, ankle breaking and neck-twisting action, making for some of the most exciting submission victories in years.
Here are the top tap outs of 2011.
With so many fantastic submissions pulled off in 2011, not all of them could fit on the list. Here are some of the top honorable mentions from this past year.
- Donald Cerrone vs. Dennis Siver, UFC 137
- Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader, UFC 126
- Marloes Coenen vs. Liz Carmouche, Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson
- Valentijn Overeem vs. Ray Sefo,Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva
- Kyle Noke vs. Chris Camozzi, UFC 127
- Toby Imada vs. Josh Shockley, Bellator 36
- Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi, UFC 135
- Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson, UFC 135
- Yves Edwards vs. Cody McKenzie, UFC Fight Night 23
25. Stefan Struve vs. Pat Barry, UFC on Versus 6
Taking on kickboxing ace Pat Barry at UFC on Versus 6, the towering, 6'11" Stefan Struve knew that he would have to use his reach advantage to keep his heavy-handed opponent at bay.
After exchanging on their feet in the first round, Struve attempted a standing D'Arce choke in the second round that failed, forcing him to drop back for a guillotine-choke attempt. Barry ended up on top in Struve's half guard, where his weakness to submissions was showcased once again.
Struve was easily able to secure a triangle choke that Barry just couldn't escape. Barry power bombed Struve, an unwise move, as the "Skyscraper" kept his wits and sunk the choke in tighter.
This win earned Struve his second Submission of the Night, coincidentally again via triangle.
24. Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez, Bellator 58
A contender for Fight of the Year that was overshadowed by the Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson fight, the Bellator 58 headliners put on a show that ended in surprising fashion.
Undefeated Michael Chandler was on a roll going into this championship fight against Eddie Alvarez, winning the lightweight tournament after defeating the highly-touted Patricky Freire. A relatively unknown contender going into this fight, Chandler emphatically proved the doubters wrong.
For four rounds, Chandler went toe-to-toe with Alvarez, getting the better of the champ throughout most of the fight. But in the fourth round, Chandler hurt Alvarez with a straight punch, dropping the champion before Chandler swooped in to secure the back and sink in the rear-naked choke.
This amazing submission earned Chandler the lightweight crown, dethroning one of the top 155ers in the world in one of the best fights in Bellator's history.
23. Shinya Aoki vs. Lyle Beerbohm, Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley
It wouldn't be a top submissions list without Japanese grappling wizard Shinya Aoki. The Dream Lightweight champion won each of his four fights in 2011, three via neck-crank submissions.
Aoki kicked off his year in style, taking on fellow Strikeforce lightweight Lyle Beerbohm in April. Tōbikan Jūdan wasted no time getting the fight to the ground, easily transitioning to Beerbohm's back before sinking in a neck crank for the finish.
The win was not only a technically savvy submission, but also marked Aoki's first win in the United States.
22. Daniel Roberts vs. Greg Soto, UFC 125
An avid grappler with a decorated wrestling base, Daniel Roberts showed that he should not be underestimated on the ground at UFC 125. Facing Brazilian Ju-Jitsu brown belt Greg Soto, this match was set to be a grappling affair.
Going back and forth on the ground throughout the first round, Roberts was able to secure Soto's arm-and-lock in a very tight kimura. This was Robert's second straight submission victory.
Soto injured his shoulder because of the lock and, to make matters worse, was given a pink slip by the UFC after posting a 1-2 record with the promotion.
21. Ronaldo Souza vs. Robbie Lawler, Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg
Defending his Strikeforce middleweight title for the first time, Ronaldo "Jacaré" Souza took on Robbie Lawler last January in a very exciting championship match.
Jacaré immediately established his dominant ground game, taking Lawler down in the first round and passing his guard with relative ease. Lawler was able to battle back to his feet and even rocked the now former champion, but was unable to capitalize on the moment.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace continued to put on a grappling clinic throughout the second round, nearly finishing him with an inverted armbar. By the third round, Lawler was all but out of gas and just couldn't continue defending Jacaré's submission attempts, finally succumbing to the rear-naked choke two minutes into the final round.
This win further confirmed his dominance as a jiu-jitsu fighter, proving that it's never a good idea to go to the ground with Jacaré.
20. Donald Cerrone vs. Paul Kelly, UFC 126
Donald Cerrone quickly made a name for himself in 2011 with four straight wins to start off his UFC career. But coming over from the now-defunct WEC, Cerrone knew he had to make an impression in his debut at UFC 126.
Facing Paul Kelly last February, these two lightweight warriors took Fight of the Night in their nearly two-round war.
After exchanging in a back-and-forth striking battle for most of the first round, Cerrone was able to secure the take down in the final minute, raining down elbows from half guard to cut Kelly open to end out the round.
In the second round, Cerrone showcased his kickboxing skills with his vicious leg kicks before taking the fight to the ground again. Kelly, attempting to avoid the ground-and-pound onslaught, gave up his back. Cerrone quickly sunk in the body triangle and then the rear-naked choke to take the victory in his UFC debut.
19. Meisha Tate vs. Marloes Coenen, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson
A war between two of the best female bantamweights in the world, this four-round affair ended with the crowning of an unexpected new champion.
Meisha Tate, known for her powerful wrestling, was the underdog against the more well-rounded Marloes Coenen.
But when the Team Alpha Male product got the fight to the mat in the fourth round, she pounced at the opportunity to prove detractors wrong. submitting the champion with an arm triangle choke.
This finish was an amazing title win for this feisty female warrior.
18. Rousimar Palhares vs. Dave Branch, UFC on Versus 3
A leg attack master, Rousimar Palhares will almost assuredly take your leg with him if you give him the chance.
Dave Branch had to find out the hard way at UFC on Versus 3, getting caught in a deep kneebar in the second round.
The finish was Palhares' sixth career leg submission victory and his third while in the UFC.
17. Brian Bowles vs. Damacio Page, UFC on Versus 3
In 2008, Brian Bowles submitted Damacio Page via guillotine choke at 3:30 in the first round. The win earned Bowles Submission of the Night at WEC 35.
Last March, Bowles again submitted Page via guillotine choke at 3:30 in the first round, taking Submission of the Night as well.
Eerie, but not a bad way to win a rematch in your UFC debut.
16. Clay Guida vs. Takanori Gomi, UFC 125
Wildman Clay Guida used his frenetic pace and frantic footwork to confuse Pride legend Takanori Gomi at UFC 125.
Over exaggerating his slips and level changes, Guida left Gomi unable to find his rhythm, as the Japanese superstar just could not land any strikes.
After going to the ground, Guida locked in the guillotine to finish his foe in one of the biggest wins of his career.
15. Nick Diaz vs. Evangelista Santos, Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg
Say what you will about Nick Diaz, but this loudmouth welterweight knows how to keep things exciting.
Defending his Strikeforce title against Evangelista Santos, Diaz was getting hammered with leg kicks throughout the fight as Santos looked to dethrone the Stockton bred bad boy.
But Cyborg's excitement got the better of him as he lost focus when the fight went to the ground.
Leaving his arm wide open, Diaz quickly locked in the armbar to turn the fight around and retain his welterweight title.
14. Joe Lauzon vs. Melvin Guillard, UFC 136
Since 2009, Joe Lauzon has not gone a fight without winning some type of bonus in the process. Coming off a Submission of the Night win over Curt Warburton, Lauzon looked to keep this streak going and rise the ranks when he took on Melvin Guillard at UFC 136.
Not wanting to waste any time, Guillard looked to rush Lauzon, whose level head allowed him to tag the veteran lightweight, rocking Guillard in the process.
Seeing his opponent in dire straits, Lauzon jumped on the chance to take Guillard's back before sinking in the rear-naked choke just 47 seconds into the fight.
Taking Submission of the Night yet again, Lauzon jumped the lightweight ranks while keeping his award-winning streak still intact.
13. Ronda Rousey vs. Julia Budd, Strikeforce Challengers 20
After winning each of her six amateur and professional MMA bouts via armbar in the first round, you'd think that Julia Budd would have practiced her armbar defense a little more going into her fight with Ronda Rousey.
The Olympic judoka has never gone out of the first minute in each of her pro bouts, giving Budd no exception as she brutally broke her arm.
Set to take on champion Meisha Tate in March, it will be interesting to see if Rousey can keep this amazing streak going through 2012.
12. Nick Newell vs. Denis Hernandez, XFC 15
One of the most inspiring stories from 2011, one-armed XFC lightweight Nick Newell looked to not only extend his undefeated winning streak at XFC 15, but also to honor his late friend, Abi Mestre, who won a contract with XFC, but died in last April after a fatal motorcycle accident.
Taking on Denis Hernandez, Newell dominated the short fight, latching on for the heel hook finish less than two minutes into the first round.
This win not only further showed the fighting spirit Newell has, but also proves that he is a legitimate threat at 155.
11. Roger Gracie vs Trevor Prangley, Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg
You can't have a list of top submissions without at least one Gracie popping up.
Trevor Prangley had zero chance of taking out Roger Gracie when the two went to the mats earlier last year.
With less than a minute left in the first round, Gracie got a hold of Prangley's neck and sunk in the rear-naked choke for the win.
Suggested resolution for Prangley this year: Don't grapple with a Gracie!
10. Diego Brandao vs. Dennis Bermudez, TUF 14 Finale
There's a reason why the UFC brought in the smaller weight classes: These guys can fight.
In the featherweight finale of the 14th Ultimate Fighter season, the always-exciting Diego Brandao took on Dennis Bermudez in one of the most exciting rounds of 2011.
Brandao's trademark aggression put Bermudez on edge for most of the first round, but momentum quickly shifted after a big right hand put the heavy-handed Brazilian on his back.
Some how finding the strength to recover, Brandao locked in an armbar, brutally hyperextending Bermudez's arm to win Brandao the first ever featherweight TUF title.
9. Chris Lytle vs. Dan Hardy, UFC on Versus 5
Chris Lytle entered the bout with a wealth of UFC experience, going 10-10 with the promotion as he sought to end his career on a high note in his final fight against Dan Hardy.
Lytle controlled the action throughout the fight, beating the former top contender at his own game by getting the better of him while striking.
Hardy was getting pressed so hard, that, to the surprise of everyone, the British welterweight looked to take the fight to the mats. Hardy's inexperience grappling showed big time as he left his neck out for Lytle to take a hold of.
Rolling to mount, Lytle finished with a rear-naked choke, ending his long career with a big win made even sweeter with his family in attendance.
8. Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida, UFC 140
It seemed like Lyoto Machida had the solution to the Jon Jones problem.
In the first round, the former champion was actually outstriking Jones, putting the youngest champion in UFC under pressure for the first time in his career.
But Jones made the necessary adjustments in between rounds and quickly turned the tables. After catching Machida with a straight left square on his jaw, the former champion dropped to the floor.
Immediately, Jones got in position to sink the guillotine, keeping the choke as the stood next to the cage. Keeping the lock tight, it was good night for Machida, as the karate master went unconscious.
This win further showed Jones' dominance as the light-heavyweight king and was the cherry on top of a very impressive, championship-winning 2011.
7. Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader, UFC 132
For years, fans have been calling on former champion Tito Ortiz to finally retire from the sport.
Having gone winless for almost five years, there was little hope for the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" when he took on up-and-comer Ryan Bader at UFC 132.
Looking to keep his UFC career intact, Ortiz wasted no time bringing the fight to Bader, quickly rocking him with strikes. Leaving his neck out there for the taking, Ortiz sat back for a guillotine choke, ending the fight less than two minutes into the first round.
This submission was career defining for the former champion, who was able to fight back into relevancy while his back was against the wall.
6. Pat Curran vs. Luis Palomino, Bellator 46
Before his insane head-kick knockout against Marlon Sandro at Bellator 48, Pat Curran started his meteoric rise at Bellator 46, taking on Luis Palomino in the opening round of the featherweight tournament..
After a feeling-out period, Curran got Palomino up against the cage and brought him down into half guard.
Attacking for the D'Arce choke, Palomino defended valiantly until the former lightweight tournament winner transition to a less common attack.
Throwing his legs up over his opponent's back while latched onto his neck, Curran pulled off the rare Peruvian Necktie, coincidentally, on Palomino, who happens to be Peruvian.
What an apropos way to finish a fight.
5. Vinicius Magalhaes vs. Viktor Nemkov, M-1 Challenge 25
After a dismal UFC career following his stint on The Ultimate Fighter, it appears that Vinicius Magalhaes has finally put everything together, posting a perfect 4-0 record in 2011.
One of the most exciting moments for Magalhaes last year was his insane submission of Viktor Nemkov and M-1 Challenge 25, winning him the light-heavyweight crown.
Early in the third round, Magalhaes mounted Nemkov and immediately applied a variation of the gogoplata, attacking the side of Nemkov's neck, with the fans dubbing it the "Maga-Plata".
This win showed off the newly-crowned champion's slick submission skills and his evolution into a force to be reckoned with at 205.
4. Pablo Garza vs. Yves Jabouin, UFC 129
Flying triangle? Yes, please!
After battling in the clinch for most of the first round of UFC 129, Pablo Garza saw his opportunity to pull of something spectacular as he was battling back against the dominant Yves Jabouin.
Garza threw his legs up for the flying triangle choke after a series of knees, nearly having it completely sunk. A little adjustment from the mount, and it was all over.
Jabouin was actually winning the round up until that point, having out struck Garza while in the clinch. Not only was this a great submission, but a fantastic comeback as well.
3. Richard Hale vs. Nik Fekete, Bellator 38
In this light-heavyweight tournament quarterfinal matchup, Richard Hale took on Nik Fekete at Bellator 38 in a battle of 205-lb. beasts.
After some minor striking, Fekete looked to shoot in on Hale to take the fight to the mats. Easily, Hale went down as Fekete landed in the top position in side control.
Attempting to escape, Hale lifted his legs and clinched them around Fekete's body, securing an inverted triangle a la Toby Imada.
Fekete stood up and tried to shake him off, but there was no escaping this choke, as he went out cold.
Now the second person to lock in an inverted triangle in Bellator, Hale definitely took the top submission out of last year's Bellator events.
2. Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, UFC 140
In a rematch of their UFC 92 bout, Minotauro did not want to lose to Frank Mir again, having been knocked out for the first time in his career during that match.
The heavyweight legend brought the fight to Mir and rocked him early on his feet. Looking to pounce on his injured foe, Minotauro threw some heavy ground-and-pound before attacking for an anaconda choke.
For some reason, nobody was giving Mir a chance in the grappling department despite also having a black belt in ju-jitsu. Recognizing his chance to strike, Mir escaped while Minotauro looked to take his back and immediately locked in a kimura.
In a moment of primal brutality, Mir broke his Brazilian foe's arm to end the match in the first round. This was the single most gruesome submission of the year and was a shocker to fans around the world.
1. Chan-Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia, UFC Fight Night 24
In this highly-anticipated rematch, fans were expecting another war between Chan-Sung Jung and Leonard Garcia, but "the Korean Zombie" had other plans in mind.
Jung, as well as many in the MMA community, thought he had won their first bout, so the featherweight phenom was prepared to finish the second time around.
After almost two rounds of back-and-forth action, Jung took the fight to the mats and took Garcia's back with just seconds left and employed the Twister for the tap out just before the end of the round.
"He's been watching Eddie Bravo's videos on youtube for a long time," Jung's translator told UFC commentator Joe Rogan."Hopefully he gets the Submission of the Night with that one."
Not only did he take the coveted bonus, but he also earned himself on the top of the list as the best submission of 2011.