15 Amazing MMA Submissions You Have to See to Believe
While knockouts generally get most of the proverbial ink in the UFC, there is something to be said for a truly great submission. Grappling is not always flashy, and is a little more cerebral; it's like a back-and-forth chess match that can end with broken bones.
Here are 15 submissions that deserve to be seen by every single MMA fan. Some of these submissions are jaw-dropping, while others are displays of supreme technical ability, but they are all impressive.
There are plenty of other awe-inspiring submissions that were not included in this list, so please feel free to add your favorites in the comments section below. Enjoy.
Toby Imada vs. Jorge Masvidal (Bellator 5—2009)
The heavily-favored Masvidal was in complete control of this fight going into the final round. He battered Imada with punches and avoided his takedowns. Somehow, Imada found himself on Masvidal's back in north-south position. He then put him out with the unicorn of submissions: the inverted triangle choke.
Watch the inverted triangle choke here.
Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi (Pride 33—2007)
The fight started with an explosive exchange of punches. Diaz won the first round peppering "The Fireball Kid" with his patented jab. In the second, an exhausted Gomi shot for a takedown, but Diaz was able to lock in a Gogoplata at the 1:46 mark of the round. The victory was later ruled a no-contest after Diaz's post-fight drug test came back positive for marijuana metabolites.
Watch the Gogoplata here.
Charles Oliveria vs. Eric Wisely (UFC on Fox 2—2012)
Oliveria tripped Wisely down to the canvas. He then tried to lock up a heel hook. Wisely defended against the submission, so Oliveria transitioned to a calf slicer. A pained Wisely quickly tapped. The finish was named Submission of the Night.
Watch the calf slicer here.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Kevin Randleman (Pride Critical Countdown—2004)
Randleman, an NCAA All-American wrestler, suplexed Fedor on his head, but the slam failed to knock "The Last Emperor" out. Fedor was unfazed. He was able to reverse the position and sink in a kimura, forcing Randleman to tap.
Watch the kimura here.
Ryo Chonan vs. Anderson Silva (Pride Shockwave—2004)
This is one of the greatest submission victories in MMA history. Silva was working toward a decision victory when out of nowhere Chonan threw up a Hail Mary in the form of a flying scissor heel hook. He caught "The Spider," who tapped out almost immediately. Silva has not been finished in a fight since.
Watch the flying scissor heel hook here.
Fabricio Werdum (17-5-1)
Notable Submission Wins: Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, Alexander Emelianenko, Mike Kyle
Fabricio Werdum is a second-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He has a laundry list of accolades from submission/grappling tournaments including gold medals from the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) and the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC).
Werdum also holds black belts in Muay Thai and Judo. He is the No. 3 heavyweight according to the UFC's official rankings.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce—2010)
At the time of this bout, Fedor had not lost in close to a decade and amassed a 28-fight unbeaten streak. He was widely regarded as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Werdum was a substantial underdog going into the fight. The best method for him to pull off the upset was to utilize his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—and that's exactly what he did.
Werdum caught Fedor with a triangle armbar, forcing "The Last Emperor" to tap at 1:09 in the first round. The finish was recognized as not only the Submission of the Year but also the Upset of the Year.
What makes this more amazing is that Werdum also submitted Fedor's brother, Alexander Emelianenko, with an arm-triangle choke four years earlier. He remains the only fighter to hold wins over both Emelianenko brothers.
Watch the triangle armbar of Fedor here.
Ronda Rousey (7-0)
Notable Submission Wins: Miesha Tate, Liz Carmouche, Sarah Kaufman, Julia Budd, Sarah D'Alelio
Ronda Rousey is the face of WMMA and the sole reason there is a women's division in the UFC. "Rowdy" is not only the current UFC women's bantamweight champ, but was also an Olympic bronze medalist in judo at the 2008 Beijing games. She has won all seven of her professional bouts via first-round armbar.
Rousey is also considered the No. 1 pound-for-pound women's MMA fighter on the planet.
Ronda Rousey vs. Sarah Kaufman (Strikeforce—2012)
Rousey was the newly-crowned queen of the Strikeforce women's bantamweight division, having almost broken Miesha Tate's arm to win the belt.
The victory catapulted the relatively unknown Rousey to superstardom. In her first title defense, Rousey took on Canadian striker and former champ Sarah Kaufman.
Kaufman was adamant that she wouldn't fall victim to the armbar, but tough talk didn't keep Rousey from forcing her to tap less than a minute into the first round.
Watch the armbar here.
Royce Gracie (14-2-3)
Notable Submission Wins: Ken Shamrock, Kimo Leopoldo, Gerard Gordeau, Keith Hackney, Dan Severn
Royce Gracie has a sixth-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is hands down the most important figure in modern-day MMA.
The first UFC tournaments were specifically designed as a vehicle to display the dominance of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Gracie won three of these tournaments, defeating all of his opponents via submission. He holds the record for most submission victories (11) in UFC history.
Gracie, along with Ken Shamrock, was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2003.
Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock I (UFC 1—1993)
Gracie and Shamrock may have been the two favorites in the inaugural UFC tournament, but their first meeting lasted less than a minute.
Gracie shot for a double-leg takedown. Shamrock defended, but the Brazilian black belt reversed the position and locked in a rear-naked choke. Shamrock tapped and Gracie was declared the winner.
These two titans of MMA battled one more time at UFC 5. The bout ended in a draw. however. At 36 minutes, it remains the longest fight in UFC history.
Watch the rear-naked choke here.
Kazushi Sakuraba (26-16-1, 2 NC)
Notable Submission Wins: Kevin Randleman, Renzo Gracie, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Royler Gracie, Zalg Galesic
Kazushi Sakuraba is a legend of Japanese mixed martial arts. He has competed for a number of MMA promotions including the UFC, Pride Fighting Championship, K-1 Hero's and Dream. Sakuraba is perhaps best known as the "Gracie Hunter" for his victories over several members of the "First Family of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu."
He defeated Royce Gracie via TKO (corner stoppage) at the Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals in an epic match that lasted for an hour-and-a-half.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Zelg Galesic (Dream 12—2009)
Sakuraba completed a takedown and moved for a leg lock. Galesic defended against the submission attempt, blasting Sakuraba in the face with hard fists.
While most would have let go of the leg, Sakuraba remained undeterred and continued to work for the finish. He ate more punches before transitioning to a kneebar and getting Galesic to tap. The submission perfectly exemplified Sakuraba's heart and warrior spirit. These are the characteristics that have endeared him to MMA fans the world over.
Sadly, this was the last time "The Gracie Hunter" would taste victory in his MMA career. He dropped his last four fights.
Watch the kneebar here.
Chan-Sung Jung (13-3)
Notable Submission Wins: Leonard Garcia, Dustin Poirier, Matt Jaggers, Hyung-Geol Lee, Dae-Han Choi
Chan-Sung Jung is a featherweight with a Chris Leben-like ability to take an immense amount of punishment and keep pushing forward. That very attribute is why he is known as "The Korean Zombie." Jung is undefeated in his UFC tenure, earning at least one post-fight bonus with each victory.
Jung is now set to challenge the reigning featherweight champ, Jose Aldo, at UFC 163.
Chan-Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia II (UFC Fight Night 24—2011)
Jung dropped a split decision to Leonard Garcia in their first meeting at WEC 48.
They duked it out for nearly two rounds in a closely contested back-and-forth. Jung landed an uppercut followed by a flying knee that put Garcia to the ground.
"The Korean Zombie" took Garcia's back with less than 30 seconds in the round. He transitioned to a twister and started torquing with all of his strength, forcing Garcia to tap right before the bell.
It was the first submission via twister in UFC history. The finish earned Jung Submission of the Night and Submission of the Year honors.
Watch the twister here.
BJ Penn (16-9-2)
Notable Submission Wins: Kenny Florian, Joe Stevenson, Jens Pulver, Matt Hughes, Takanori Gomi
BJ Penn is hands down one of the greatest BJJ fighters to ever compete in MMA. He is willing to throw down against any fighter regardless of weight disparity. "The Prodigy" even famously took on Lyoto Machida in an openweight fight at K-1: Hero's 1.
Penn is also only the second fighter to hold UFC titles in two different weight classes (lightweight and welterweight). He has never been submitted in his entire professional career.
BJ Penn vs. Joe Stevenson (UFC 80—2008)
This may not be the flashiest of Penn's six submission victories, but it is definitely the bloodiest.
"The Prodigy" took on TUF season two-winner Joe Stevenson for the vacant lightweight title. Shortly after the opening bell, Penn blasted Stevenson with a hard uppercut that put him to the canvas. This was followed up with a devastating elbow that opened a Marvin Eastman-sized gash along Stevenson's hairline. The cut bled uncontrollably.
In the second round, Penn further brutalized Stevenson before mercifully sinking in a rear-naked choke. The finish was named Submission of the Night, and the fight was recognized as Beatdown of the Year.
Watch the rear-naked choke here.
Jon Jones (18-1)
Notable Submission Wins: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Ryan Bader, Vitor Belfort, Jake O'Brien
Jon Jones is arguably the most dominant force in the UFC today and is the No. 2 pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world.
He is the youngest champ in the promotion's history, knocking out Mauricio "Shogun" Rua to claim the light heavyweight strap. Jones has the longest winning streak in the division (nine) and is tied with Tito Ortiz for most consecutive light heavyweight title defenses (five).
His unique set of physical attributes make him a dangerous fighter while both standing up and on the ground. Jones currently has six submission victories in his professional career.
Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida (UFC 140—2011)
In his second title defense, Jon Jones took on former champ Lyoto Machida.
Jones opened up Machida with a hard elbow to the forehead midway through the second round. The cut sprayed blood like a broken faucet. Later, he dropped "The Dragon" with a straight left—the beginning of the end. In the scramble, Jones caught Machida with a tight standing guillotine.
The champ squeezed until Machida went unconscious. Jones then let go of the choke and dropped "The Dragon" to the canvas like a sack of dirty laundry.
Watch the standing guillotine choke here.
Matt Hughes (45-9)
Notable Submission Wins: Frank Trigg (twice), Ricardo Almeida, Georges St-Pierre, Joe Riggs
During his UFC career, Matt Hughes was considered the greatest welterweight of all time. He is currently tied with Georges St-Pierre for most wins (18) in the UFC. Hughes was an NCAA Division-I wrestler with 18 submission victories in his career.
Hughes retired after dropping back-to-back fights. He was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2010 and then became the Vice President of Athletic Development and Government Relations for the organization.
Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II (UFC 52—2005)
These two fighters downright loathed one another. Hughes and Trigg first tangled at UFC 45 for the welterweight title. Hughes won the fight submitting Trigg via standing rear-naked choke.
The second fight was even more spectacular than the first. Trigg kneed Hughes in the twig and berries. The referee didn't see the illegal blow and Trigg continued to fight. He dropped Hughes and started to lock in a rear-naked choke.
Somehow, Hughes escaped Trigg's grasp. He then picked Trigg up, ran across the cage and powerbombed him to the mat. The champ then softened Trigg up with a devastating ground-and-pound before securing a rear-naked choke of his own.
Trigg tapped out at 4:05 of the first round. Hughes hung onto the welterweight belt and earned himself a Submission of the Night bonus with the dramatic finish.
UFC President Dana White considers this the best fight in the history of MMA or boxing. Now that's saying a lot.
Watch the rear-naked choke here.
Frank Mir (16-7)
Notable Submission Wins: Pete Williams, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Tank Abbot, Brock Lesnar, Tim Sylvia
Frank Mir is a former two-time UFC heavyweight champ. Simply put, there is no fighter at 265 like him. Mir is a magician in the grappling department. He transitions effortlessly on the ground and has been known to lock in some truly vicious submissions (ask Tim Sylvia).
Mir holds the record for most wins (14) and most submissions (eight) in the history of the UFC's heavyweight division. He is such a proficient grappler that he even has a submission named after him: the Mir Lock.
Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira II (UFC 140—2011)
In their first fight at UFC 92, Mir knocked out Nogueira to win the interim heavyweight belt.
This led to Nogueira coming out particularly aggressive in their second bout. "Big Nog" landed a number of punches early that put Mir in serious danger. The fight went to the ground and turned into a grappling match.
Mir locked in a kimura and began cranking. Nogueira grimaced, but his pride apparently wouldn't allow him to tap. Instead, Mir was forced to break Big Nog's shoulder. This victory made him the only man to defeat Nogueira via knockout and submission.
The finish was named both Submission of the Night and Submission of the Year.
Watch the kimura here.
Shinya Aoki (33-6, 1 NC)
Notable Submission Wins: Eddie Alvarez, Mizuto Hirota, Kotetsu Boku, Katsuhiko Nagata, Joachim Hansen
Shinya Aoki is a Japanese mixed martial artist who is the current ONE FC lightweight champ. He also has held titles in Dream, WAMMA and Shooto.
Aoki is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with a number of submission accolades. His grappling abilities and supreme flexibility earned him the nickname "Grandmaster of Flying Submissions." Aoki has won 22 of his 33 professional fights via submission, but has never been forced to tap himself.
Shinya Aoki vs. Mizuto Hirota (Fields Dynamite!!—2009)
Aoki, the Dream lightweight champ, took on Sengoku lightweight champ Mizuto Hirota.
Aoki shot for a single leg, eventually dragging Hirota to the ground. The rest of the fight was all Aoki. He softened Hirota up with some ground-and-pound before going for a submission.
Aoki snatched an arm and began to wrench. Hirota refused to tap, so he continued to twist until something broke. To top it off, Aoki laughed devilishly while he gave Hirota the big middle finger.
The injury Hirota suffered was so severe that he actually had to vacate the Sengoku lightweight title.
Watch the hammerlock here.