Of all the ways to finish a fight in the UFC, submissions are considered to be a fan favorite, second only to the knockout, and for good reason. They can come out of nowhere, and are perhaps one of the only ways to know you have truly “won” a fight, as your opponent literally gives up.
Whether you like the beauty of a well-executed technical submission or the violence of a bone breaking hold, this list of the top 10 submissions in UFC history will include some that appeal to all preferences.
10. Dustin Hazelett vs. Josh Burkman
Dustin Hazelett is still one of the most technical and crafty submission artists to ever fight in the UFC, it’s just a shame that his stand-up game was never able to develop. This submission appears on this list simply because of the transition that led to it. The armbar Hazelett hit was fairly standard, but his judo throw and transition into it was absolutely gorgeous, making it a solid contender for a higher position on this list. The fact that his opponent, Josh Burkman, is known as being extremely tough and resilient just adds to the impressive nature of this performance by Hazelett.
9. Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera
This was a very highly anticipated matchup between two of the best submission artists in heavyweight MMA history. Fans everywhere were expecting and hoping for a submission victory from either party, and boy, did they get it. After being rocked on the feet and looking like he was about to lose, Frank Mir got the fight to the ground and that’s when the magic happened. Mir got Noguiera in a precarious position and actually broke his arm and forced the huge Brazilian to tap out for the first time in his career.
8. Charles Oliviera vs. Eric Wisely
This matchup had fans salivating, as it featured a young up and coming star in Charles Oliviera and a talented vet in Eric Wisely, who was making his UFC debut. From the very start of the match it was clear that Charles Oliviera was the more talented fighter, and that also rang true for the finish. Working on the back of Wisely, Oliviera locked a leg up and proceeded to hit a submission which many people had never seen. It turns out Oliviera did something called a “reverse calf slicer,” which is a compression hold that presses the calf into one of the bones in the leg, causing excruciating pain.
7. Nate Diaz vs. Kurt Pellegrino
Whenever either of the Diaz brothers enters the octagon for a fight, you know you are in for some antics, and this fight was no different. However, on top of the antics, Diaz also pulled off one of the nicest transitions to a triangle choke in history. In fact, his triangle was so tight and pristine that he didn’t even need to pull down on his opponent’s neck to make him tap. This left both of Diaz’s hands free for those antics we mentioned, which included him flipping double middle fingers and flexing during the submission.
6. Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida
Coming into this fight, Jon Jones was the young champion looking to go down as one of the best of all time, while Machida was looking to retain his former glory as a champion. Many people thought this would be Jones’ hardest challenge yet, with Machida favored to win the match. The actual fight was a fairly decent affair, but the end will go down as one of the most iconic finishes in history. Jones secured a standing guillotine on Machida, knocking him unconscious before dropping him to the floor like a rag doll (the maneuver rarely has this effect). Definitely one of the most ridiculous submissions on this list.
5. Chris Lytle vs. Jason Gilliam
This submission comes from a lesser-known match that featured one of the most exciting fighters to ever enter the octagon. Chris Lytle had a reputation for his “balls to the wall” style, which included going for the finish whenever possible. In fact, Lytle has gained numerous Fight of the Night awards throughout his career, and rightfully so, as he was never knocked out or submitted. In this fight with Gilliam, Lytle found himself in top position and used that to pull of one of the crispest submissions we have ever seen. Lytle somehow managed to get Gilliam in a modified triangle choke, which is a move usually reserved for a fighter in the bottom position, demonstrating just how talented of a fighter he was.
4. Yancy Medeiros vs. Damon Jackson
This was an extremely underrated submission, and its inclusion on this list will likely surprise many. At the time of this fight, Medeiros was an on-the-rise prospect looking to make a name for himself by racking up some wins, while Jackson took the fight on nine days’ notice in order to make his UFC debut. This was a recipe for disaster for Jackson, who found himself able to spin out of a traditional guillotine, only to have Medeiros grab hold of a reverse guillotine that turned out to be much tighter than the traditional variety, putting Jackson out cold quick.
3. Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano
Ronda Rousey is well-known as the biggest star in the UFC at present, and is considered to be the best female fighter on the planet. At the time of this fight, Cat Zingano was looking like Rousey’s biggest challenge to date and was extremely confident heading into the match. However, she took arguably the worst approach to fighting Rousey, running right to her after the opening bell, causing her to get locked up with the former Olympian. What followed was a huge takedown by Rousey, who quickly got Zingano into a beautiful modified armbar which made her tap. The entire fight lasted a grand total of 14 seconds.
2. Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia
This submission rightfully appears so high on this list due the rate of difficulty and the rarity of the hold. Going into the fight Chan Sung Jung and Leonard Garcia had already fought once before, a match which was voted fight of the year in 2010 for their brilliant back and forth slobber knockers. As a result of this history, most expected a similar fight between the two. But while there weren’t as many fireworks in the second fight, there was a much better finish. While in back control, Sung Jung managed to get Garcia in position to set up the twister, which is a sideways body bend and neck crank that involves forcing the head towards the shoulder while controlling the body, causing enormous pain in the spine. The move forced Garcia to tap, which made Sung Jung the first and only UFC fighter to pull off the twister during a fight.
1. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
And coming in at number one is not only the best submission of all time, but probably the best comeback of all time as well. Ahead of their title fight at UFC 117, there was a massive amount of trash talk between champion Anderson Silva and challenger Chael Sonnen; however, most people expected Silva to walk all over Sonnen. But much to the surprise of fans everywhere, Sonnen actually dominated the fight for the first four and a half rounds and looked to be well on his way to a win. But what happened in the closing minute of round five will never be forgotten. While Sonnen was in top position, as he was for the entire fight, Silva threw up a desperate triangle attempt and actually managed to secure it, forcing Sonnen to tap out.