Advanced submissions are becoming more and more infrequent in mixed martial arts. Judging criteria skewing more towards damage over position, as well as the sport’s evolution towards well-rounded fighters are likely to blame. Nowadays, nearly every high level fighter possesses at least a rear naked choke in their repertoire, a maneuver that continues to be a simplistic, yet highly effective way to end a fight.
While the quantity of advanced submission artists in promotions such as the UFC, Bellator and ONE Championship is dwindling, the style of fighting is not yet extinct. In fact, there continue to be submission specialists who draw the attention of websites such as captaingambling.com for method-of-victory promotions. It is also no coincidence that each of these fighters also happen to be fan-favorites in their respective weight divisions.
Here are five fighters who possess the most insane submissions.
Though his time atop the UFC lightweight division may have been brief, Charles Oliveira has an argument for being one of the most accomplished submission artists in UFC history. “Do Bronx,” who recently celebrated 13 years in the UFC, has long had exceptional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to fall back on, has also employed his skills on the ground in a more forward-thinking manner during his recent run to the title.
As long as the fight is on the ground, Oliveira is always a submission threat, no matter whether from the top or bottom. Recent rear-naked choke submissions over Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje came only after Oliveira proved himself to be the stronger standing up. He also put his jiu-jitsu and improved wrestling on display in fights against Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson. He submitted Lee with a guillotine choke from the standing position, but while he did not submit Ferguson, he dominated “El Cucuy” and ended the opening round with a fully-extended armbar locked on. Oliveira has also favored the anaconda choke at different points in his career, and also owns a triangle choke and calf slicer on his record.
There is no denying Scotland’s Paul Craig, one of the light heavyweight division’s most savvy specialists, favors one submission in particular: the triangle choke. No matter how many times “Bearjew” is able to lock one on his opponent, he always seems to be a threat to land one, no matter the opponent. UFC light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill even once fell victim to Craig’s triangle armbar (though the fight was technically ruled a TKO win for Craig).
While Craig may come off as one dimensional, his submissions are insane for the context of the fight in which it usually happens.Opponents are usually willing to stand and trade with Craig, but if the fight hits the ground and Craig is on bottom, he is capable of competing massive comebacks within a matter of seconds. There may not be a better example of this than Craig’s buzzer-beater triangle choke win over light heavyweight contender Magomed Ankalaev. Craig snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a submission that came with just one second remaining in the third round. Had Craig not secured the hold, he would have dropped his third-consecutive fight, fallen to 1-3 in the UFC and found himself potentially on the chopping block. Instead, he has provided some of the division’s biggest in-fight highlights in recent years and compiled a 7-4-1 record.
Brian Ortega’s nickname, “T-City” is short for “triangle [choke] city.” However, unlike the aforementioned Craig, Ortega has shown more versatility in the types of submissions he can land, many of which occur on the heels of Fight of the Night caliber action. Ortega led off his career with triangle choke victories in three of his first eight fights. He managed to live up to his nickname once in the UFC, a third-round victory over Diego Brandão.
Ortega is also the owner of one of the nastiest guillotine chokes to pass through the UFC since Uriah Faber’s. Physically, Ortega is a good match for the submission, as he is able to use leverage from his lanky build to add additional pressure. He has notably won fights by way of guillotine, capping off back-and-forth battles against Renato Moicano, and most recently Cub Swanson. Ortega’s guillotine choke also nearly won him a UFC championship. After falling behind on the scorecards to UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, Ortega won a scramble and latched on a mounted guillotine that nearly submitted the featherweight champion and completed what would have been an all-time great comeback.
Garry Tonon’s grappling credentials know few equals in MMA. Tonon is a member of the Danaher Death Squad, the most dominant grappling team in No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu, and is a 2019 ADCC bronze medalist. He might be capable of some of the flashiest submissions ever seen in the sport, but at 7-1, he does not quite have the sample size of his contemporaries. However, he has shown an ability to finish the fight on the ground in a number of exciting ways.
Tonon’s most recent win came at One Fight Night 6 this past January by way of first-round kimura , a move that is becoming increasingly infrequent in MMA. Prior to this, Tonon has shown off his slickness on the mats in traditional ways with a guillotine choke and rear-naked choke, fight fans also got to witness Tonon use one of his patented leglocks, a speciality of the Danaher Death Squad. Tonon’s heel hook came in the first round against Yoshiki Nakahara back in 2019.
Aleksi Olenik has successfully combined skill with longevity and put together a resume as one of the spots’ all-time great submission artists. Despite joining the UFC shortly after celebrating his 37th birthday, Olenik continues to compete for the promotion at the age of 45. He holds an eye-popping 60-17-1 record in MMA, and while the UFC quietly let his contract expire in October 2022, “The Boa Constrictor” is also yet to announce his retirement from the sport, meaning he might have one more insane submission up his sleeve.
Olenik introduced western fight fans to a maneuver known as the “Ezekiel choke” Olenik used the submission to perfection and showed it can be a viable way to submit opponents in disadvantageous mounted positions. Both Viktor Pešta and Junior Albini fell victim to the “Ezekiel,” and like other fighters on this list, Olenik is not one to shy away from taking damage on the feet if it means being able to lock up a submission later in the fight. If, however, Olenik has fought his last fight, his most recent submission will be one to remember. Olenik defeated Jared Vanderaa with a scarf hold after lulling the fellow heavyweight into grappling exchanges with him. The win gave Olenik his 4th-career submission, supporting it as the most common outcome in his fights.