The sport of MMA has evolved rapidly in its short existence. The fighters have gotten more talented, and the sport has both implemented more sensible rules and soared in popularity. With that considered, the sport looks very different than it did in its infancy in the 1990s. Many things that were passable back then are certainly not in today’s sport. One of those things is submissions. While many are the same, there are a few that we will never see again for various reasons. Here are five MMA submissions that fit that bill.
Five MMA Submissions We’ll Never See Again
As has been well documented, the UFC originally began as a tournament between fighters of various martial arts backgrounds. Moreover, fighters from their respective backgrounds wanted to prove that their fighting style was superior. The fighters would not train other disciplines in preparation for the event.
With that backdrop, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu royalty Royce Gracie launched his Hall of Fame career against cruiserweight boxer Art Jimmerson in the opening round of UFC 1. In this fight, Gracie quickly got a takedown and passed into mount. Jimmerson, who famously fought in the event with a boxing glove only on his left hand, held on for dear life while Gracie cut through him like butter. Although Gracie never attempted a submission, Jimmerson tapped to the relentless pressure applied by Gracie’s grappling and his lack of training on the ground.
This fight is not the only time that someone submitted due to “position” in the UFC. In the UFC 8 finals, “The Predator” Don Frye defeated “Big Daddy” Gary Goodridge in a similar manner. In today’s MMA, however, no fighter would submit simply because they were in a disadvantageous position. Moreover, no gym would allow a fighter to fight professionally if they did not have the knowledge of how to get out of these positions on the ground.
Another staple of early MMA is that fighters of any size could be matched up with each other. One of the most famous occurrences of this was between the previously-mentioned Royce Gracie, who typically weighed around 175 pounds, and sumo wrestler Akebono, who weighed around a whopping 500 pounds. In most instances, history found that the smaller fighter in these matchups would be too fast and technical for the massive beasts they were fighting.
There were occurrences, however, where the big guy would be able to use their size to take out their smaller counterparts. One such example was the lone win of the late sumo wrestler and record-holder for heaviest athlete of all time, Emmanuel Yarbrough. At Shooto: Shoot the Shooto XX in 1998, the 6’7, 800-pound Yarbrough was matched up with the 5’8, 215-pound Japanese professional wrestler Tatsuo Nakano. In their fight, Yarbrough was able to immediately trap Nakano in a ring corner and get him to the ground. Yarbrough basically just laid on top of Nakano from there, leveraging his near 600-pound weight advantage to force a submission by what is now called a “smother”.
Similarly, former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez picked up a smother submission, although it was surprisingly over a larger opponent in Giant Ochiai. Both losing opponents, Ochiai and Nakano, were natural professional wrestlers with limited fighting experience. With this limited experience, both Yarbrough and Rodriguez were simply able to put their torso over their opponents’ face to restrict their breathing. Similar to the position submission, a fighter of any ability today would be able to alleviate the pressure of the smother. It should also be mentioned that the implementation of the Unified Rules of MMA would make the Yarbrough-Nakano fight impossible today because of weight classes.
3. Chin to the Eye
Speaking of the Unified Rules of MMA, this submission will not happen again because this submission is now deemed illegal. Fairly popular for a time, a fighter could simply dig their chin into their opponent’s eye to force a painful submission. “The Smashing Machine” Mark Kerr won the heavyweight tournament at UFC 14 with this submission over Dan Bobish in the finals.
The most impressive usage of this submission, however, comes from Australian MMA pioneer Chris Haseman. At Caged Combat 1 on March 22, 1997, Haseman picked up two wins by this submission in back-to-back fights to reach the tournament’s finals. Haseman lost in the finals, but winning two fights in one night with this submission is very interesting.
The Unified Rules of MMA has since declared this submission a form of “eye gouging”, therefore officially taking away a fairly effective submission for its time.
4. Lapel, Collar, Sleeve and other Gi-Related Chokes
Early MMA also allowed fighters to wear basically whatever they wanted into the fight. Most fighters from the more “formal” martial arts would wear their gi. These garments, however, can be used both for and against a fighter’s advantage in the fight. This is especially the case in grappling scenarios, where grabbing the gi can be used to gain extra grip on an opponent.
The Gracie family was especially proficient at using the gi to get choke submissions. Whether using their own gi or their opponent’s, Royce and his brother Renzo Gracie garnered a combined total of four gi-related submissions.
However, similarly to the chin-to-eye submission, rules were implemented to create uniformity across all fighters. Fighters can only wear fight shorts today, so any gi-related submissions are now an impossibility in MMA.
5. Forearm Choke
Much like the chin-to-eye submission, the forearm choke was one of the more popular MMA submissions early on. While this submission is not illegal now, it has certainly occurred much less over time. This submission basically uses the forearm to put heavy pressure on the windpipe to restrict breathing.
The previously-mentioned Goodridge had two wins by this submission. One of these wins was at K-1 Hero’s 1 against sumo wrestling standout Alan Karaev. Karaev was making his MMA debut against Goodridge, who already had accumulated a 20-14-1 record. Even with this difference in record, Karaev got the fight to the ground and was able to get some work done there. Goodridge eventually reversed position, however, and after a few punches committed to the submission. Karaev tapped soon after.
There are a couple of reasons why this submission will not happen ever again. First, like the position and smother submissions, fighters have gotten much better at defending this submission. However, this submission is also a topic of discussion in some parts of the grappling community. They consider it to be a “dirty”, non-technical move that can be damaging. Therefore, fighters will avoid this submission to avoid being frowned upon by their peers.
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