If you compare it to the list of knockouts of the year, it was a bit of an underwhelming year for submissions. There weren’t many instances, where people were raving about a certain submission. Most of them became afterthoughts, which is why I had to go through every event to look through the submission of the nights.
I’m not going to ignore some of the top submissions from other organizations. There were three standouts that have to be mentioned on the list, so this isn’t all UFC based. The submissions were ranked on how impressive it was and the circumstances of the moment itself. Obviously the opponent you submit matters, nobody can deny that. I’ve just always favored how the submission was executed in a certain position over any other element.
The top ten submissions of the year
Of course, the opponent you submit has the potential to make it even more special. That played a big part in me picking submission of the year. What makes a submission capable of being submission of the year was how it was executed before anything else. Then you can add in all the information about their opponents.
My honorable mentions go to Ronda Rousey’s arm bar submitting Liz Carmouche and Urijah Faber’s guillotine choking out Michael McDonald. I know Rousey’s arm bar was monumental for women’s MMA, but it was mostly a routine arm bar for the most part.
10. UFC on Fuel TV 7: Bantamweight Title- Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonald
People tend to forget about this fight, since it was on Fuel and in England. It’s a shame because it was highly competitive and McDonald was getting the better of Barao in the first two rounds. Eventually Barao’s strength and leg kicks started to ware down McDonald. The fight turned into a grappling bout, which clearly favored Barao.
When McDonald went for a judo throw, he wasn’t strong enough to pull it off and he ended up giving his back. That led to him covering up his face and giving up his right arm up. Barao transitioned quickly into an arm triangle choke by securing the right arm. The transition was done so quickly and smoothly that McDonald didn’t have the opportunity to defend it. He capitalized on McDonald’s mistake of trying to out grapple him. It was the first time MacDonald had ever been submitted, which made it even more impressive.
9. UFC on Fox 8: Flyweight title- Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga
One element of Demetrious Johnson’s fighting style is how relentless he is. While he’s very intelligent, you’ll constantly see him push the pace. Then he ends up being fixated at beating his opponent in a certain way. He was on his way to soundly defeating John Moraga, after dominating the first four rounds for the most part. Similar to Junior Dos Santos’ situation against Mark Hunt, he wanted to make a statement rather than play it safe.
Johnson was looking for a kimura, after getting into side control. Moraga was defending it properly and seemed to be on his way to surviving. Instead Johnson transitioned into an arm bar so quickly that Moraga couldn’t react fast enough to defend it. Similar to how Barao submitted McDonald, it came down to one quick transition to get in the best position to finish the fight. Then you realize this happened in the fifth round, which makes it even more impressive from the 2013 fighter of the year.
8. UFC Fight Night 26: Michael McDonald vs. Brad Pickett
I’m not a fan of fights that turn into brawls, where two fighters are swinging without any reason. This was a brawl that actually made sense and it was very enjoyable. Michael McDonald has tremendous accuracy with his boxing, while Brad Pickett is known for his one punch power. McDonald had him rocked in the first round and was looking for the finish. It made all the sense in the world for him to throw wild punches before Pickett realized that he needed to slow the pace down.
Pickett had him in mount in the second round, where he tried to steal a round going into the third. McDonald was having none of it and caught him in a triangle choke. It seemed like Pickett was trying to catch his breath and wasn’t looking for any attack. You can’t do that against someone that skilled on the ground. McDonald setup the triangle choke brilliantly and finished him in a matter of seconds.
7. UFC 157: Urijah Faber vs. Ivan Menjivar
While previewing this fight, it seemed like this was actually a bad matchup for Urijah Faber. Ivan Menjivar is very well rounded, while being dangerous off his back. Faber is a tremendous wrestler and was going to take him down eventually. My question was if he was going to get caught being too aggressive. Menjivar has a history of making his opponents pay with an arm bar or triangle choke, when they get wild in top position.
Instead Faber controlled the fight on the feet and had Menjivar reeling for most of the bout. Everyone knows how Faber is one of the most creative fighters in MMA history. When he went for a standing rear naked choke on Menjivar’s back, it didn’t surprise anybody. Faber always takes chances and his career record speaks for itself that those chances usually pay off. Menjivar was submitted for only the second time in his career. It was the start of a tremendous year for “The California Kid”.
6. Invicta 5: Atomweight title- Michelle Waterson vs. Jessica Penne
The first of three non-UFC selections have been made. In any normal year, this would have been a top ten fight of the year choice. It was actually the first Invicta event that I’ve ever watched. It absolutely delivered, especially this incredible main event. It was so back and forth, where it seemed like Jessica Penne was bound to finish her eventually after a dominating third round.
Penne seemed to be more of the aggressor and continued to look for the takedown. Even when Michelle Waterson was taken down, she locked in an inverted guard to keep Penne from unloading more punches from her mount. You can tell that Penne was too aggressive and was anxious to finish the fight, after coming so close in the third. As Waterson was going for a kimura, she trapped Penne’s left arm to set up an arm bar. That’s where Penne couldn’t react fast enough to defend the arm bar and had no other choice than to tap out. Eddie Bravo is somewhere still raving about Waterson’s arm bar.
5. Invicta 5: Rose Namajunas vs. Kathina Catron
Similar to Don Hyun Kim knocking out Erick Silva, this would be a great choice for the most “out of nowhere finish” of the year. Rose Namajunas was very aggressive from the start. She didn’t waste any time in trying to punish Kathina Catron. It seemed like she got ahead of herself, after Catron got her against the fence. All of a sudden, Namajunas attempts a flying arm bar and Catron had to tap out 12 seconds into the fight.
For Namajunas to go for a flying arm bar that early in the fight shows how confident she was. I’ve never seen a fighter try something that risky in the early moments of a fight. Along with her spectacular bout against Tecia Torres, this was the main reason why the UFC added her for the Ultimate Fighter season 20. Also have to give kudos to Mauro Ranallo for his great call, when Catron tapped. A successful flying arm bar will always make a top ten submissions of the year list and this was no exception.
4. UFC 157: Kenny Robertson vs. Brock Jardine
You know something is odd, when Joe Rogan is even flustered on commentary. Kenny Robertson was looking for the rear naked choke for about a minute. He was relentless in going for it by trying to punch Brock Jardine, so he would open up. Eventually Jardine had to get up to avoid taking clean punches to the face. He had to do this, while keeping his chin down to avoid the choke.
Robertson having both hooks in allowed him to stay on Jardine’s back. Jardine attempted to use the cage to free himself, but it was too late. Robertson pulled Jardine’s left ankle forward to hyper extend his hamstring to make him tap out. If Jardine didn’t tap, his hamstring would have been torn and the fight would have been over regardless. For the first time since Matt Hughes choked out Ricardo Almeida at UFC 117, I had no idea what the proper term was for that submission. The term for the submission was known as the Suloev stretch according to Bloody Elbow. It was one of the most unique submissions that had ever occurred in UFC history and deserved major recognition, even if it occurred during the Facebook portion of the event.
3. UFC on Fuel TV 10: Erick Silva vs. Jason High
Whenever you see a triangle choke or triangle arm bar, it usually happens when the fighter is on their back. That’s where they can get the most leverage in pulling their opponent’s arm or the best position to suffocate their opponent. What Erick Silva pulled off against Jason High was the exact opposite. While previewing the fight, I gave the strength and grappling advantage to High. That sentiment couldn’t have been more wrong. After catching High’s leg kick attempt, Silva defended the takedown and took his back a few seconds later.
Everyone expected Silva to go for the rear naked choke, but High was wise in keeping his legs up to avoid the choke. Silva still had both hooks in and had enough leverage to stay on the attack. Then he decides to let go of the hooks and go for a triangle choke. Somehow he wraps both legs around High’s neck, which was incredible in how he did so smoothly. It seemed like he was going for a triangle choke before you see him yanking on High’s left arm. Eventually High had to tap out after falling to the mat and it was officially ruled as an inverted triangle arm bar. This all occurred while Silva was on High’s back, which is absolutely insane. The fact that Silva did it so quickly without much resistance makes it even more special.
2. WSOF 3: Josh Burkman vs. Jon Fitch
One of the biggest upsets of the year turned out to be one of the top submissions of the year. Jon Fitch had only been submitted once in his career and that occurred in his first pro fight in 2002. Fitch was shockingly cut from the UFC and was expected to be one of WSOF’s top pound for pound fighters. Josh Burkman erased those expectations in a matter of 41 seconds.
After Burkman knocked him down with a flurry of punches, he got a hold of Fitch’s neck and never let go. He left Fitch unconscious, after Steve Mazzagatti had no idea that Fitch was out cold. Nobody picked Burkman to win and he silenced those critics in the most emphatic way possible. It was one of the nastiest guillotine chokes in recent memory. Sadly Mazzagatti’s blunder got more headlines than the actual fight itself. Don’t let an incompetent referee overshadow what was truly an outstanding finish by Burkman.
1. UFC 164: Lightweight title- Anthony Pettis vs. Benson Henderson
Whenever a black belt gets submitted, hardcore fans will look up to see what belt the winner had. Then you find out he was submitted by a purple belt that leads to you being stunned. Anthony Pettis has always been dangerous off his back and he knows how to utilize a tight guard to his advantage. You look at what he did in the WEC to Shane Roller and Alex Karalexis by finishing them with a triangle choke. Still those fighters don’t hold a candle to Benson Henderson’s ability in grappling and BJJ. If Pettis was going to beat Henderson, everyone expected it to be from his explosive striking.
He landed a few body kicks early, which did affect Henderson when you rematch the fight. After several-failed takedown attempts, Henderson capitalized on Pettis’s failed attempt at a capoeira kick and got on top. Pettis immediately grabbed his left wrist and then went for an arm bar as soon as Henderson stayed complacent. He locked in a tight guard and Henderson had no place to move. Once Henderson’s body was tilt, he was trapped and had to verbally submit. For Pettis to beat the champion, who is a black belt in BJJ was the difference maker in choosing his arm bar over Burkman’s guillotine choke. Henderson prided himself on never being submitted and was caught in the first round, when he was in top position to someone who beaten him already. The plot couldn’t have been more surreal.