2011 MMA Wrap-Up: Top 10 Submissions of the Year
As fighters continue to evolve in this sport, you see less and less submission wins at the elite level of MMA. Everyone knows how to defend the classic submissions we have grown accustomed to witnessing over the years; avoiding them has become the standard.
It seems like when a fighter is forced to tap to a submission, he receives more criticism for letting it happen than his opponent receives praise for applying the technique.
While the submissions may be less frequent in this knowledgeable new age of MMA, when they do happen, they are spectacular.
For me, submitting an opponent when they are rocked is one thing. Submitting your foe solely with craft and patience is another. When it happens, it can be mesmerizing.
Here are the top 10 submissions that stick out in my mind from 2011.
10. Shinya Aoki vs. Lyle Beerbohm
Not only is Lyle Beerbohm known for his extravagant shorts, he is known for having a scrappy grappling game that has given many opponents fits on the ground. Those opponents, however, were not submission great Shinya Aoki.
Aoki is without a doubt the greatest submission practitioner in the sport today, possibly of all time. It took him just one and a half minutes to gain Beerbohm's back and latch on a fight-ending neck crank to remind the American fans who he was in his Strikeforce return.
If that wasn't enough of a reminder, Aoki has used the exact same submission to win all three of his fights in 2011, the other two being against Rich Clementi and Rob McCullough.
9. Pat Curran vs. Luis Palomino
In the last two years, Pat Curran has proven himself to be one of the most underrated and well-rounded young fighters in the game today.
After winning Bellator's 2010 lightweight tournament but falling short in his title shot against Eddie Alvarez, Curran dropped down in weight to enter Bellator's 2011 featherweight bracket.
In his opening bout at 145 pounds, Curran showed there was more to his game than just his refined stand-up, by submitting Luis Palomino in the first round via Peruvian necktie—a submission rarely seen in the sport.
Curran went on to win the tournament and will now get a title shot against Joe Warren in 2012.
8. Chris Lytle vs. Dan Hardy
The day before his main event bout against Dan Hardy at UFC Live, veteran welterweight Chris Lytle handed UFC president Dana White a letter, telling him no matter the outcome of the bout, this would be the final fight of his career.
Lytle, a long-time fan favorite known for his back-and-forth slugfests in the cage, would add one more electric show to his resume before going out.
Lytle and Hardy engaged in a standup battle for nearly three rounds, each taking turns rocking the other fighter and swelling their face. In the final minute of the final round, Hardy shot for a surprising takedown. Lytle quickly latched on a tight guillotine choke, forcing Hardy to tap with just 45 seconds remaining in the bout.
It was a perfect ending to a tremendous career for Lytle. One that will not be forgotten.
7. Marloes Coenen vs Liz Carmouche
At Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson, women's bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen was supposed to defend her title against top contender Meisha Tate. When Tate was forced off the card due to an injury, Liz Carmouche took the fight on a short notice.
For over three rounds, an upset seemed to be brewing, as Carmouche controlled Coenen on the ground, seemingly winning every round. But, early in the fourth round, Coenen showed her poise by latching on a triangle choke from the bottom and forcing her challenger to tap. It was one of the more memorable comebacks of 2011.
Coenen would go on to lose her title at the hands of Meisha Tate by arm triangle. And with Ronda Rousey making noise in the women's MMA scene with her grappling prowess, the female submission experts are shining brightly.
Coenen was released from her Strikeforce contract after her loss to Tate. Hopefully, they reconsider that decision, as she is one of the best female fighters on the planet.
6. Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann
In the 12 or so months following Chael Sonnen's near title-winning performance against Anderson Silva, fans began to forget about what the top middleweight contender was capable of inside the ring, focusing more on his headline-making antics outside of it.
After a positive drug test, a money laundering conviction, temporary exile from the sport, and numerous comical interviews seemingly straying from reality, Chael Sonnen the fighter was somewhat of an afterthought.
That is, until after his return this past October when he met Brian Stann at UFC 136.
Stann was coming off of two career-best stoppages over Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago, but when he stepped in the cage with Sonnen, he was utterly outclassed. Sonnen took him down with ease, advancing position and pouring down punches at will.
In the second round, Sonnen slipped in a brilliant arm triangle, forcing Stann to tap. It was the first submission win in Sonnen's UFC career.
After the bout, Sonnen called for a rematch with Silva, but instead he will be facing Mark Munoz for the No. 1 contender spot in 2012.
5. Diego Brandao vs. Dennis Bermudez
After a very thrilling season of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego Brandao and Dennis Bermudez met in the finals to crown the first ever bantamweight TUF winner.
The first round saw both fighters trade punches before Brandao was knocked to the ground with a heavy punch. Bermudez followed it up with some heavy ground-and-pound, but Brandao reversed the position and sunk in a tight armbar that forced Bermudez to tap.
It was a quick and exciting fight, winning "Fight of the Night" honors for both fighters and "Submission of the Night" for Brandao.
It will be interesting to see how far Brandao can go in the division after looking so impressive on the show.
4. Richard Hale vs. Nik Fekete
After a few years of fighting in the Rage in the Cage promotion, Richard Hale was given a chance to fight in the first Bellator light heavyweight tournament.
In his debut, Hale met Nik Fekete in the quarterfinals. After some brief exchanges on the feet, Fekete took Hale down, but quickly became locked into an inverted triangle choke. Hale used the choke to bring Fekete back to the ground and began hammering him with body shots while the choke tightened up further.
Less than two minutes into the fight, Fekete was unconscious and the fight was called off.
Hale quickly became the talk of the town on the MMA scene for the unusual submission, but eventually lost by TKO in the tournament finals.
3. Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia
Their first fight was an all-action war for three rounds that saw both fighters take numerous hard shots while marching forward for more.
It was inevitable that Chan Sung Jung and Leonard Garcia would face each other again, especially given that most disagreed with Garcia getting the split-decision nod in the first fight, and at UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Davis, Sung Jung was out for revenge.
After trading blows for the first round, Sung Jung was able to take the bout to the mat in the second. Sung Jung took Garcia's back and locked in a twister, forcing the tap. It was the first time in UFC history that a twister was ever used to win a fight.
Following the bout, Sung Jung said he had learned the submission by watching Eddie Bravo videos on YouTube.
2. Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida
Is there anything Jon Jones can't do?
To cap off a year that saw Jones become the top contender at light heavyweight, win the championship, and defend it against a former champion, Jones was in a tough one against former champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 140.
Many argued that Machida would be the toughest style to date for Jones, and he may have been for a little over one round. But Jones took control of the bout in the second round and after forcing Machida against the fence, latched on a standing guillotine choke that put the challenger out and reduced him to a pile of rubble.
The site of the former untouchable champion unconscious on the mat as Jones walked away unscathed was powerful. Never before have we seen a force quite like this one in the sport.
His submission of Machida was another testament to that.
1. Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
In 2004, Frank Mir met Tim Sylvia for the vacant UFC heavyweight championship. And in the first round, with an armbar from the bottom, Mir snapped Sylvia's arm in one of the most graphic images of brutality the sport could present.
Seven years later, at UFC 140, Mir surpassed that feat by submitting the unsubmittable man Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, drawing cringes from all onlookers as he snapped Nogueira's arm when he refused to tap.
Early in the first round, Nogueira rocked Mir with a barrage of punches that dropped the former champion to the ground. Nogueira followed up his attack with punches to the nearly unconscious Mir.
With the referee near stopping the bout, Nogueira went for a guillotine submission to end the fight, but Mir showed life and reversed the position with a kimura. The two fighters rolled twice before Mir landed on top, still with his kimura locked in.
Nogueira had never been submitted before and did not seem to even consider tapping as Mir completely snapped his arm before the ref pulled him off. Nogueira tapped after the fact.
Mir is a strong and scary man when he gets a hold of your limbs.