UFC 118: Demian Maia and the Top 10 Submission Artists in MMA
In MMA, submission wins are as common as KO wins.
If a fan learns to appreciate what he is watching, a good old fashioned submission win can be just as satisfying as watching some big dude get put on his ass multiple times.
Many fighters come into MMA with outstanding grappling resumés. Josh Koscheck was a four-time All-American wrestler. George Sotiropoulos, a UFC lightweight, entered MMA with a BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) Black Belt.
Fighters who are more skilled in grappling are generally more prone to end a fight on the canvas.
A fighter who specializes in BJJ is usually going to look for a submission opportunity to finish their opponent. But some fighters are better suited for submissions.
With that being said, I give you my top 10 MMA submission artists. Enjoy.
Honorable Mention: George Sotiropoulos
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Geroge Sotiropoulos is a great grappler. He has the size and strength (and technique) to take any fighter down.
When on the canvas, he utilizes slick transitions and top control to get a good position, and when he is finally done maneuvering, he locks in a submission.
George also has great submissions. If an opponent is defending one really well, George transitions to another very quickly, and in doing so will usually end the fight.
The only reason he isn't higher on the list? He only has 7 submission wins. Of those, he doesn't have any submission wins over anyone with any outstanding grappling credentials.
If George goes out and submits Kenny Florian or BJ Penn, he'll move up this list.
Until then, he stays here.
Honorable Mention: Joe Doerksen
Joe Doerksen. He's the man. Admit it.
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Joe Doerksen is a rare breed of fighter who can rack up insane amounts of submission wins, all while not being proven completely one dimensional.
Although his number of KO wins (6) pales in comparison, he has shown that he can take a beating (Tom Lawlor, UFC 113) and still come back to win the fight decisively.
His number of submission wins are second only to one other person on this list.
Although he hasn't dominated any really good fighters, he can hang with the best of them, and if he strings together a long UFC win streak, could even challenge for the title someday.
His next fight is going to be against UFC veteran CB Dolloway at UFC 119.
10. Miguel Torres
Former WEC Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres is one of the true submission specialists in MMA.
In addition to a crisp stand-up game, he possesses some mean grappling, and he has used it to defeat 22 of his opponents.
Though he has fallen off in recent losses to Brian Bowles and Joseph Benavidez, he is still one of the best in the business.
He could see himself fighting for a title shot soon if he wins consecutive fights decisively, starting with Charlie Valencia at WEC 51.
9. Renato "Babalu" Sobral
Look, whether you love him or hate him, Renato "Babalu" Sobral is still a great fighter, and regardless of his actions at UFC 74, he is still one of the best grapplers in my opinion.
Despite having absolutely no striking game, he was a Brazilian wrestling National Champion, and he has a black belt in BJJ.
Although many fighters have a BJJ black belt, overall technical ability still differs, and Babalu is near the top of the heap in both submission ability and grappling technique.
That's enough to earn a spot on my list, despite the whole UFC 74 controversy.
8. Nate Diaz
Although he could possibly be more famous for taking part in the famous post-Strikeforce: Nashville brawl this past April, Nate Diaz is also famous for possessing one of the more well rounded skill-sets in MMA.
However, this fighter prefers to grapple, and what a grappler he is. Although he is only a brown-belt in BJJ, he has already managed to submit many higher ranked opponents.
He had Kurt Pellegrino, a BJJ black-belt, in such a well placed choke that Diaz even had time to show off for the crowd before finishing it.
After KO'ing Rory Markham, Diaz has been given a fight with Marcus Davis, and there is a very good chance he can win by submission.
7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
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Antonio Nogueira, MMA legend and UFC Heavyweight, possesses one of the biggest fighting hearts anyone has ever seen.
How many times have we seen this man getting brutalized, bloodided up, and beaten to a pulp, all before he transitions into some sick submission that forces his opponent to tap?
Despite having fairly good boxing, Big Nog (as we affectionately call him) is an absolute beast on the ground.
One of his most notable submission wins was over Tim Sylvia at UFC 81, where he took a severe beating for two and a half rounds, but then came back to lock Sylvia in a tight guillotine choke.
Although some people are ready for Big Nog to call it a career, especially after two recent KO losses, this quote by Bas Rutten should best sum up Big Nog: "You can kill him, but he'll come back from the dead and submit you."
6. Jeremy Horn
His record is 86-10-5. He has 55 wins by submission, and he still hasn't broken 40. Ladies and gents, I give you... Jeremy Horn. Yes, Jeremy Horn.
Surprised that he made this list? Not me. Of course, I created it.
But how can an MMA submission artist list NOT have Jeremy Horn on it? This dude practically invented submission holds. While that fact may be disputable by the Gracie clan, I beg to differ.
He has 55 wins by submission. And he isn't just submitting cans either. This dude has some wins over some outstanding fighters. Chael Sonnen? Check. Chuck Liddell? Check. David Loiseau? Check.
I'm not going to go through and list every man he's beat. That'll take too long. I'm just here to say that Jeremy Horn is an outstanding fighter, and an even better submission artist.
Don't believe me? Just ask one of the 55 guys he has submitted.
5. Fedor Emelianenko
How can I not include a guy who submitted Hong-Man Choi on this list?
While Hong-Man Choi isn't exactly known for being an MMA god, he has a slight size advantage.
By slight, I mean that he is 7"2' and he ways 320. But Fedor, unintimidated by size, submitted the bigger foe by armbar. And Hong-Man Choi is far from Fedor's only victim...
Fedor's legacy reaches from May 21, 2000, when he submitted Martin Lazarof, to July 19, 2008, when he submitted former UFC champ Tim Sylvia.
4. Shinya Aoki
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Shinya Aoki is one of those Asians that really hit it off with submission wrestling.
While Takanori Gomi and Yushin Okami are better known for outstriking their opponents, Shinya Aoki likes to take fights to the ground. And he is very good at what he does.
Shinya Aoki was one of the first to prove that in modern MMA, all you need are good takedowns and strong submissions to win.
He has 15 submission wins, including an impressive one over Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez.
Although his rankings have taken a tumble lately due to his one-sided loss to Gilbert Melendez, Aoki remains one of the best lightweights (and grapplers) in the world today.
3. Fabricio Werdum
It's a given. After submitting the best fighter in the world over the last ten years, Fabricio Werdum definitely earns a spot on my list.
Apart from beating Fedor Emelianenko (off of his back and within two minutes) he has also submitted seven other opponents, including Strikeforce Heavyweight Champ Alistair Overeem and Fedor's little brother, Aleksander Emelianenko.
After achieving arguably the biggest upset in MMA history, Fabricio Werdum has written his name on record books everywhere, along with the reminder that everyone is beatable on any given day.
2. BJ Penn
Don't let the rather chubby physique fool you. BJ Penn is not a guy to mess with. If he doesn't take you out standing, he'll use his ground game to beat you.
Laugh all you want, readers. BJ Penn possesses some of the best technical jiu-jitsu in the world.
BJ Penn having a dominant position ("on top") is likely the end of the fight for his opponent.
As far as the rear-naked choke goes, Penn is the master. Anderson Silva may have the triangle choke, and Joe Stevenson has the guillotine, but Penn's mastery of the RNC is a thing of beauty.
Never have we seen an opponent escape from the fight if Penn gets their back. And it's a pretty hefty list of RNC victims.
Takanori Gomi, Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Joe Stevenson, and Kenny Florian have all fallen via BJ's RNC. Of those fighters, two of them were highly ranked submission artists themselves.
And this is all just in MMA. In competitive BJJ, Penn is also a legend. On top of being the only non-Brazilian to ever win the black belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu championship, Penn is also thought to have earned the black-belt ranking in the fastest recorded time.
He has definitely shown that his belt is no fluke, and he may hope to use his outstanding grappling to earn his title back from Frankie Edgar at UFC 118.
1A: Ronaldo Souza
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in a BJJ gi.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were in so far over your head that you couldn't even focus on the task at hand? You just sat there, thinking, "How in the hell am I going to get out of this?"
Well than you know what it feels like to be on the canvas with Ronaldo Souza, the second-best submission artist in MMA.
Souza has the credentials (five-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion, including gold medals in the Openweight class in 2003, 2004 and 2005) along with being considered one of the greatest BJJ practitioners of all time.
He has shown us that he can submit anyone, and some of his notable submission victims include Matt Lindland, Alexander Shlemenko, and Zelg Galesic.
He is on the right path to being considered an MMA legend, and if he can add some solid striking onto his potent grappling, he will be tough to stop indeed.
1. Demian Maia
Apart from fellow Brazilian Ronaldo Souza, there are no other fighters in MMA who can come close to Maia's technical mastery of jiu-jitsu.
In his UFC career, Maia has five submission wins. Of those, four garnered Submission of the Night.
All of them took place consecutively, and by the end of that run, Maia was being heralded as the best pure grappler in MMA.
Many people say that had Nate Marquardt not landed the perfect punch, he would have inevitably lost to Demian Maia, which speaks volumes about his high level grappling.
Like Ronaldo Souza, if Demian Maia can add some servicable stand-up and better takedowns to his repertoire of skills, he will be an unstoppable force in MMA. You heard it here first.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with grappling, Ronaldo Souza actually has a win over Demian Maia in competitive BJJ.
However, I think that Maia has done a better job of transitioning his skills into MMA, and as such, he is in the No. 1 spot.