10 Best MMA Submissions Through First 4 Months of 2014

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2014

10 Best MMA Submissions Through First 4 Months of 2014

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    USA TODAY Sports

    MMA got off to a slow start in 2014. It has been the year of decisions. However, a handful of submissions have allowed MMA fans to whet their appetite for what remains in the final eight months of the year.

    What makes a submission great? It is hard to pin down precisely. It can be the rarity of a particular hold, or it can be the importance of the bout that the submission is applied in—the impact of the finish. 2014 has seen a bit of both.

    It makes ranking the finishes difficult, but more weight is given to those that happened in significant bouts.

    As 2014 heats up, more submission finishes will come, but for now, this is the hand we have been dealt.

    Here are the 10 best submissions thus far in 2014.

Russell Doane Triangles Leandro Issa

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    Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

    There were arguably better submissions than the one that occurred on January 4 between Russell Doane and Leandro Issa, but it shouldn't be forgotten.

    Doane got the triangle finish, but what made it noteworthy was the setup to it.

    He fought with Issa for position. He continually threatened with submissions, but Issa was doing a fine job of avoiding them. Regardless of the threat, Issa continued to battle with Doane on the mat. Until he was caught.

    The tap came at 4:59 of the second round. Issa just could not hang on for the final tick of the clock after Doane got the submission. The final minute of the bout is worth watching for all of you UFC Fight Pass subscribers.

Ilir Latifi Showcases Raw Strength

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    UFC.com

    Ilir Latifi retired Cyrille Diabate at UFC Fight Night 37 with a brutal choke.

    Officially, it is in the books as a guillotine, but it may be more accurate being retitled as the "Ilir Latifi Choke of Death."

    He is known for his strength, and the choke showed why. It was more than just a power guillotine. The finish was due to Latifi's pure grip strength. He was not letting go once he had the choke, and Diabate was unable to escape.

    This finish was a display of power.

Tatsuya Kawajiri Chokes Out Sean Soriano

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    Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

    Sean Soriano is a solid MMA prospect, and he showed why in the first round against Tatsuya Kawajiri.

    But Kawajiri quickly showed the youngster that he had a ways to go in the second round. He needed only 50 seconds to get the finish.

    "The Crusher" is an apt nickname for the powerful featherweight. He was able to get the rear-naked choke quickly, and a body triangle kept Soriano from getting to a better defensive position. Kawajiri clamped down and put Soriano out.

    Kawajiri returned in 2014, but he came up short against Clay Guida. At least he has this submission finish under his belt.

Alex Caceres Upends Sergio Pettis

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Sergio Pettis entered the UFC with much fanfare. His brother, UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, is a big reason why.

    Alex Caceres would be a good challenge for Pettis, but he was not thought to be a threat to finish the fight.

    This was a very fun fight at UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Thomson, and the UFC veteran welcomed the kid with a third-round finish.

    The Fight of the Night was finished when Caceres got the rear-naked choke late in the bout. Pettis was forced to tap out with just 21 seconds remaining. Caceres showed that he too is a growing prospect in the bantamweight division.

    "Bruce Leeroy" collected two bonus checks by earning the Submission of the Night as well.

Marcin Held Goes Old School

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    Bellator.com

    Marcin Held went old school in his win over Rodrigo Cavalheiro at Bellator 113.

    He brought the toe hold back on national television.

    Held would return just a few weeks later to beat Derek Anderson via submission (triangle choke), but the toe hold should hold a special place our hearts. It is a lost art for many of today's fighters. Perhaps now it will see a resurgence.

    Credit goes to Held for a vintage submission.

Ovince Saint Preux Brings the Von Flue Choke Back

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    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    Speaking of rare submissions, Ovince Saint Preux finished Nikita Krylov at UFC 171 with the Von Flue choke.

    Krylov went to sleep. The strength of OSP, and the rarity of the submission, did not allow the Ukrainian much time to tap. Unseen techniques can surprise opponents.

    OSP has been seen as a prospect in the light heavyweight division since his days in Strikeforce, and UFC 171 may have been his coming-out party in the UFC. He is a very good athlete who is beginning to hone his well-rounded skills.

    Jason Von Flue must have been very proud while watching the finish.

Donald Cerrone Capitalizes on Stunned Edson Barboza

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    Reinhold Matay/Associated Press

    Donald Cerrone vs. Edson Barboza was supposed to be the Fight of the Night at UFC on Fox 11, but Cerrone saw that it wouldn't happen.

    He started a bit slow, as per usual, but stunned Barboza with a straight punch. Instead of going in for the ground-and-pound, he went in for the submission.

    "Cowboy" has done this in the past, and it proved to be a smart decision in this bout. He is able to slap on the choke before his opponent recovers to know what is going on. Such was the case in Orlando, Florida. Cerrone got the rear-naked choke and tap.

    It was a key win that moved him right back into the thick of things at 155 pounds.

Joseph Benavidez Makes Tim Elliott Tap with His Feet

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    USA TODAY Sports

    UFC 172 was a good night for submissions, and Joseph Benavidez picked up a Performance of the Night for his guillotine of Tim Elliott.

    Elliott came out strong in the fight. He was taking it to Benavidez, but he got a bit too aggressive against the former title contender. Benavidez was able to capitalize and choke him out.

    What made the submission memorable was that Elliott was so tied up that his only form of tapping out was stomping his feet on the canvas. The comical tap was an instant favorite for 2014—although probably not for Elliott.

    Benavidez is a guillotine master, and he made Elliott his fifth victim of the finish.

Luke Rockhold Submits Tim Boetsch Easily

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Luke Rockhold also got a submission finish at UFC 172, but he did not earn a Performance of the Night bonus. However, it was a better overall submission than Benavidez's choke.

    Rockhold dominated Tim Boetsch in just two minutes, eight seconds.

    Boetsch was laced up in an inverted triangle, but Rockhold was not able to complete that submission. Instead, he began to work on a kimura. Boetsch had little in way of defense, and eventually Rockhold got the arm.

    The finish moved him back into title contention, but he oddly called out Michael Bisping in the post-fight interview. It will be very interesting to see where Rockhold goes in 2014 as he sits close to a title shot.

Pat Curran Takes Bellator Title in a Fantastic Bout

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    Pat Curran's rear-naked choke may be one of the standard finishes in MMA, but it is the totality of the fight that makes it the year's best to date.

    Curran and Daniel Straus were battling for the featherweight championship at Bellator 112. The fight may be the fight of the year through the first four months of the year. It was that good.

    The title changed hands in the waning moments when Curran got the choke. Straus tapped with 14 seconds left to go in the fight. More than 24 minutes of pure action ended when Straus could not survive the submission, and Curran regained the title he had lost back in November.

    There is little doubt we will see these two go at it one more time. We should savor the five-round battle they had March and hope the next installment offers even half of what we saw that night.