Top 10 Submission Artists in MMA
The tapout is what separates MMA from almost any other major fighting sport. Fighters of ground fighting backgrounds use principles of leverage and simple physics to put opponents in inescapable positions.
Watching the technical displays on the ground is what brought me into MMA and I would like to take a look at who is the best at making the other guy tap.
This list is a look at the best ten submission fighters currently in MMA, not of all time, so no Royce Gracie on this list.
My criteria was a mix of percentage of wins by submission, number of submission wins, previous exploits in a submission art (such as a Jiu Jitsu World Championship) and impressive submission victories.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Florian
Bonus Fighter! Look at that you sign up for 10 fighters and you get eleven, I'm just nice like that.
Kenny Florian's recent progress as a kick boxer in MMA has many fans forgetting how excellent he is on the ground. A Gracie-Barra black belt, one of the only Americans to gain such an honor, Kenny was, and still is, one of the elite American BJJ fighters.
In MMA he has won seven matches by submission, accounting for 63.64% of his victories. Combine that with the 42 submission victories in his BJJ career and it becomes pretty clear that fighters might want to stay standing with Florian.
10. Roger Gracie
Roger Gracie is a new face to MMA with only two professional fights, but don't let that fool you, he not only belongs on this list this is likely the lowest he will ever be on a MMA grapplers list again.
Roger has won both of his first two MMA matches by submission and has a BJJ pedigree that only a man with the last name of Gracie could.
Roger is a Rolls Gracie black belt, an eight time world champion and in 2005 became the only man his history to win the BJJ World Championship in both his weightclass and the open weight with all victories coming via submission.
Roger is the lead instruction of the Gracie-Barra London school and is currently preparing to make his U.S. debut in Strikeforce.
9. Thales Leites
While the most recent image of Thales Leites in most fans heads is of him laying on his back while Anderson Silva passively stood over him him, it is best not to forget that the reason Anderson Silva was standing is because of Leites prowess on the ground.
Leites has won fights by submission at an impressive 64.29% clip and has a very impressive international grappling competition resume, including a bronze medal at the 2001 World Championships as a purple belt.
Leites is still a young fighter and at 14-2, he has a serious chance to be an excellent MMA fighter.
8. Jake Shields
Early in his career Jake Shields was a win-by-decision type fighter and actually had a stretch from 2001 to 2004 were he failed to finish off a fight with a submission or TKO.
But in the two years Shields has exploded to become one of the elite submission fighters in the sport, notching no less that six submission victories, bringing his total to ten.
Shields is an accomplished wrestler and is another Gracie product, training in and teaching BJJ at Cesar Gracie Fight Team.
Today facing Shields your best bet is to not allow him to lay a hand on you, because as soon as he has hold of you a tapout is sure to follow.
7. Dustin Hazelett
Hazelett is on alot of MMA lists: goofiest looking fighters, best nicknames ever and most feared submission aces.
Hazelett has trained in BJJ since the age of 16 and has set out to become the greatest submission fighter of all time.
Hazelett has the talent to do it, gaining nine submission wins in his very young career and some of the most memorable submissions of recent memory.
His flying armbar of Josh Burkman and his reverse armbar of Tamdan McCrory will live on in UFC highlight reels for all time.
6. Frank Mir
From the shoulder lock he put on Pete Williams from his guard, to the Toe Hold that fell David Abbott in just 46 secs, to the Lesnar kneebar, to famously snapping Tim Syliva's arm to earn his Ricardo Pires black belt after just five years of training it seems that every one of Frank Mir's seven submission victories in MMA have been memorable.
It is ironic to find that Mir was an avid karate fighter as a child and after watching Royce Gracie roll through UFC 1, declared he could defeat Brazlian Jiu Jitsu with his karate. He was convinced to take up wrestling in high school and quickly became state champ.
Mir then began training with Ricardo Pires in BJJ in the hopes of becoming a fighter, and that seems to have worked out well for him.
5. Matt Hughes
The dominating Matt Hughes has fallen on somewhat hard times as age and wear have taken their toll, but a man boasting 18 submission victories cannot be ignored.
Hughes is the first fighter on this list without a strong Brazilian Jiu Jitsu background, and is a submission wrestler by trade. His most memorable moments are his seeming unstoppable kimura's and the arm bar he slapped on Georges St-Pierre and the choke he put on Frank Trigg.
Hughes career in its twilight but never count him him out.
4. Demian Maia
Demian Maia could easily finish his career atop a list like this, and to say that ten fights in his career he is among the fighters on the top half of this list is a major accomplishment.
Maia has trained in just about every submission art there is, practicing Judo and Jiu Jitsu as a child and then taking up Submission Wrestling as he planned to become a professional fighter.
Maia is a black blet in BJJ at Team Brasa, one of the elite Brazilian schools for BJJ that doesn't have Gracie or Nogeruia in its name. Maia is also a Submission Wrestling World Champion.
Maia has won an amazing 80% of his MMA fights by submission and has show no signs of slowing down.
3. Shinya Aoki
Shinya Aoki is known for two things: for wearing full length pants into matches and for making guys cry uncle.
Aoki bears the standard for Japanese Jiu Jitsu fighters and he bears it well with 12 submission victories. Aoki is an absolute magician on the ground holding a black belt in both Jiu Jitsu and Judo.
He is best known for his Gogoplata from the top variation, dubbed the Aokiplata and his high flying submissions. Aoki earned the title of 'Tobikan Judan," meaning "master of flying submissions'.
2. Fedor Emelianenko
What more is there to say about Fedor?
The guy is a Sambo master, a Judo black belt, multiple time Sambo World Champion and likely the greatest heavyweight to ever fight in MMA.
The thing that really stands out about Fedor's ground game is the single mindedness with which he pursues submissions. And his tenacity has resulting in an amazing 16 submission victories.
1. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Now hold on because I can already hear a few of you screaming, "But Fedor and Frank Mir have beaten Nogueira!" and you are correct that Nogueira has lost to both those fighters, but this isn't a list of who is a better MMA fighter, this is a list of who is better at getting submissions in MMA.
There is a reason that Frank Mir chose to box with Nogueria and that Fedor was unable to finish their fight, because Nogeuria is the best ground fighter MMA currently has.
Nogueria has a stunning 20 submission victories the most of any fighter on this list, accounting for 64.52% of his victories. Nogueria isn't just a black belt in Jiu Jitsu and Judo, he awards black belts to other professional fighters.
He is one of three people on this planet to have submitted Dan Henderson, the only man to submit Mirko Cro Cop handing the hulking kickboxer his first loss and also defeated fellow world class BJJ fighter Fabricio Werdum.
Nogueria has set the standard for submission fighting in the modern MMA age that all other ground fighters will be measured by and will continue to amaze with his impressive skills.