Ranking the Top 5 Submission Artists in Each UFC Division
The submission aspect of fighting is one that does not often get the respect of the striking aspect, likely because many combat sports fans grew up watching boxing or taking karate at the local YMCA (Daniel-son).
However, hardcore fans and bred grapplers will agree that the submission aspect of the game is immensely important. Once the fight hits the mat, you need to know how to grapple and potentially tap out your foe.
Here are the top five submission artists from each UFC division.
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- Ronda Rousey
- Alexis Davis
- Miesha Tate
- Cat Zingano
- Sara McMann
The top submission artist in the women's bantamweight division has won every fight by one weapon: the armbar.
Ronda Rousey's judo and grappling acumen has been unstoppable in her reign of terror. The only time it has been tested was against Liz Carmouche, whom she still tapped with an armbar to keep her title.
Alexis Davis is a black belt in both Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has tapped some respectable submission players. She owns submissions of submission specialist Shayna Baszler, Japanese star Hitomi Akano and two subs of Tonya Evinger.
Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano, who recently fought, both use a smothering top game to fish for submissions. Tate uses her wrestling background, harnessing it to armbar Julie Kedzie and Zoila Gurgel, while choking out grappling specialist Marloes Coenen. Zingano is a jiu-jitsu fighter who has been using ground-and-pound more recently, but she is very dangerous with her submissions.
Rounding off the top five is Olympic wrestler Sara McMann. She has transitioned nicely from wrestling to MMA grappling, as showcased in her last submission win which saw her tap Raquel Pa'aluhi with a keylock.
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- Jussier da Silva
- Joseph Benavidez
- Demetrious Johnson
- Darren Uyenoyama
- Darrell Montague
The flyweight division has some good tapout artists, but Jussier da Silva leads the bunch.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist who rolls with Nova Uniao has seven submission wins, including tapouts of Michael Costa and UFC veteran Jose Maria Tome.
Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson might not come right to mind, but the Team Alpha Male and AMC Pankration reps are criminally underrated. Benavidez claims most of his win by submission, including subs of black belt Wagnney Fabiano and tough-as-nails Miguel Torres. Johnson's most recent win came by armbar of John Moraga, also has a guillotine of Damacio Page as one of his seven career submissions.
Darren Uyenoyama's style combines wrestling and jiu-jitsu. From there, he is able to smother opponents and find an opportunity to get the finish. This has been seen in taps of Phil Harris and Anthony Figueroa.
Lastly, Darrell Montague gets the nod despite having a submission loss to Ian McCall. Montague uses his submission grappling more frequently, which has seen him gain sub wins in five of his 13 wins.
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- Urijah Faber
- Renan Barao
- Raphael Assuncao
- Bryan Caraway
- Ivan Menjivar
Urijah Faber comes traditionally from a wrestling background, but he has become the best submission artist at 135. Agree or not, Faber has won 16 times via tapout, with victims like Scott Jorgensen, Brian Bowles, Dominick Cruz and fellow list members Raphael Assuncao and Ivan Menjivar.
Speaking of Assuncao and Menjivar, they also make the list with their top-notch submission ability. Assuncao is a BJJ black belt with nine tapouts, his latest being against Vaughan Lee. Menjivar, true to his Tristar representation, has 10 career finishes. They have come over the likes of Joe Lauzon, Azamat Gashimov and John Albert.
The current interim champ Renan Barao is among the best in the world on the ground in MMA. Under the Zuffa umbrella, Barao has finished four opponents on the ground, including Michael McDonald, Brad Pickett, Chris Cariaso and Anthony Leone.
In what could be controversial fashion, Bryan Caraway makes the list with his 16 career submissions. The catch wrestler has failed to win by tap in just two fights, but has gained wins over Johnny Bedford, Mitch Gagnon and Dustin Neace.
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- Rani Yahya
- Hatsu Hioki
- Charles Oliveira
- Cole Miller
- Chan Sung Jung
The featherweight division is jam-packed with submission fighters. The cream of the crop may surprise you.
Rani Yahya is the best jiu-jitsu fighter at 145 and has proven it time and time again. From his north-south choke of Josh Grispi to his rear-naked choke of Eddie Wineland, the 15-time winner by submission is a guy you need to keep upright to win.
Hatsu Hioki has not shown it in the UFC yet, but the Japanese grappling ace is elite. Almost half of his wins have come by tap, including wins over Donald Sanchez, Ronnie Mann and Mark Hominick.
Charles Oliveira and Cole Miller prove that being tall, lanky and skilled on the ground are all great combinations. They have combined to tap 23 opponents.
Oliveira owns a calf slicer of Eric Wisely, anaconda choke of Jonathan Brookins and armbar of Darren Elkins, while Miller has choked out black belt Jorge Gurgel, used a modified kimura of Dan Lauzon and recently tapped Bart Palaszewski.
Chan Sung Jung may be the most popular submission fighter, even though it isn't his best skill. In addition to a beautiful D'arce choke of Dustin Poirier, Jung has a submission of the year twister against Leonard Garcia and six other sub wins.
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- Joe Lauzon
- Nate Diaz
- Jim Miller
- Donald Cerrone
- George Sotiropoulos
Despite Joe Lauzon's recent hiccup in Boston against Michael Johnson, he is the best submission fighter at 155 in the UFC.
Of Lauzon's 22 wins, 18 have been tapouts, including UFC wins over Jamie Varner, Melvin Guillard, Jeremy Stephens, Gabe Ruediger and Curt Warburton.
Nate Diaz and Jim Miller have history, as Diaz has tapped his foe with a guillotine in the past. The guillotine is Diaz's go-to move in the UFC, winning with the technique against Miller, Marcus Davis and Melvin Guillard, as well as a nasty armbar against Takanori Gomi.
Miller has also tapped Guillard, as well as Duane Ludwig and jiu-jitsu ace Charles Oliveira.
Donald Cerrone is a Muay Thai artist, but is definitely one of the best submission fighters. He holds 13 wins by tapout, with some of his victims including Dennis Siver, James Krause, Danny Castillo and Anthony Njokuani.
George Sotiropoulos makes the list, despite the fact you need to get the fight to the ground in order to be successful. When he is able to take opponents down, submissions have highlighted most of his fights. He utilized a kimura to beat Lauzon and George Roop, an armbar to beat Jason Dent and a rear-naked choke of Billy Miles while in the UFC.
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- Demian Maia
- Rousimar Palhares
- Sergio Moraes
- Gunnar Nelson
- TJ Waldburger
Since moving from middleweight to welterweight, Demian Maia has looked amazing. His submission skills have looked even more sharp in his new home, and he has UFC taps of Rick Story, Chael Sonnen, Ed Herman and Nate Quarry.
Both Sergio Moraes and Gunnar Nelson both brought BJJ world championships to the cage with them and have seen great success.
Moraes (seven subs) has tapped Renee Forte and Neil Magny in the Octagon, while Nelson (seven subs) tapped DaMarques Johnson in his debut, as well as notable Eugene Fadiora.
Rousimar Palhares has proven time and time again that nobody is safe on the ground.
The leg lock specialist has kneebarred Dave Branch and heel hooked Mike Massenzio, Daniel Acacio, Lucio Linhares and Tomasz Drwal.
Finally, dark-horse TJ Waldburger waltzed on the list with his great UFC outings. Of 16 career wins, 13 have been subs including a triangle choke of Nick Catone, armbar of Jake Hecht, triangle choke of Pete Spratt and armbar of Brian Foster. Those wins alone should get him more respect.
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- Ronaldo Souza
- Antonio Braga Neto
- Chris Weidman
- Anderson Silva
- Thales Leites
A world champion and feared jiu-jitsu artist, Ronaldo Souza has already proved in his UFC tenure to be a nasty submission grappler. Over half of his wins have come on the ground, earning taps of Chris Camozzi, Ed Herman, Robbie Lawler and Matt Lindland.
Two men that are set to rematch are Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva, who may be surprises on this list.
Both men have shown dangerous striking that overshadows their ground skills, but both have great submission ability. Silva's taps of Chael Sonnen and Travis Lutter, as well as Weidman's of Tom Lawlor and Jesse Bongfeldt, have shown that they have an ace in their back pocket when they fight.
Antonio Braga Neto is young in his MMA career, but he has shown to be top notch. Seven of his nine wins are subs, with impressive finishes coming over Anthony Smith, Brock Larson and Maiquel Falcao.
Lastly, newly re-minted UFC fighter Thales Leites is truly one of the best on the ground. A 13-time winner by tapout, the former title challenger, whose specialty is the arm-triangle choke, has put away Matt Horwich, Tor Troeng, Drew McFedries and Jose Landi-Jons.
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- Jon Jones
- Robert Drysdale
- Gegard Mousasi
- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
- Anthony Perosh
The light heavyweight division does not have many submission fighters, at least in terms of what welterweight and lightweight do, but some of the best are surprising.
Jon Jones is arguably the best because he has modified his wrestling to become proficient in the tapout game. His modified guillotine is revolutionary, having used it on Jake O'Brien, Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida. He also has a keylock of Vitor Belfort and rear-naked choke of Rampage Jackson.
Robert Drysdale awaits his UFC debut, but all six of his wins have come on the ground. The world champion owns three armbars, an arm-triangle choke, a guillotine choke and a rear-naked choke in his time.
Gegard Mousasi and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira are other guys who are not immediately thought of when submissions are talked, but they combine for 17 of them.
"The Dream Catcher" has tapped Mike Kyle, O'Brien, Mark Hunt, Melvin Manhoef and Denis Kang.
And Nogueira, though primarily a boxer, is a third-degree black belt that owns subs of Dion Staring, Dan Henderson and Kazuhiro Nakamura.
Lastly, Anthony Perosh is getting all sorts of buzz for his KO of Vinny Magalhaes, but don't be fooled; he's a jiu-jitsu guy. A majority of his wins are on the ground, including UFC taps of Tom Blackledge and Cyrille Diabate.
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- Frank Mir
- Fabricio Werdum
- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
- Josh Barnett
- Gabriel Gonzaga
The heavyweight division has some great submission fighters. Case and point, Frank Mir.
Look at his accomplishments: He snapped Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's arm with a kimura, kneebarred Brock Lesnar, broke Tim Sylvia's arm with an armbar and a creative shoulder lock of Pete Williams.
A decorated jiu-jitsu player, Fabricio Werdum is probably the most feared man on the ground. Most of his wins are taps, including an armbar of Nogueira, a triangle-armbar of Fedor Emelianenko, a kimura of Alistair Overeem and an arm-triangle choke of Aleksander Emelianenko.
Nogueira, though he has been tapped by the top two sub guys, is a legend.
He owns 21 submission wins over a who's-who, including Sylvia, Mirko "Cro Cop" and Mark Coleman. He takes scores of punishment, but still manages to keep his head clear to outmatch men on the ground.
A catch wrestler, Barnett has been terrorizing opponents on the ground for over 15 years. His takedowns are great, as are his ability to overwhelm opponents. Sergei Kharitonov, Brett Rogers, Hunt and Aleks Emelianenko can all attest to the skills of Barnett on the ground.
Lastly, jiu-jitsu player Gabriel Gonzaga often gets forgotten about in these discussions.
The nine-time winner by submission and fourth-degree black belt in BJJ is best known for his head kick of Cro Cop, but has tapped Ben Rothwell, Carmelo Marrero and Justin McCully, among others.