The submission. It’s not only a way to attack in the Octagon, it can also be the great savior, the combat sports version of a walkoff home run. And when done perfectly, it’s a thing of beauty. Here are ten of the best from 2016 that capture just what the ground game means in the UFC.
It may look like a guillotine choke to the rest of us, but Ben Rothwell describes his go-to submission as a gogo choke, and he secured it to perfection against Josh Barnett in January, finishing a former UFC heavyweight champion whose only previous submission losses were due to strikes and injury against Mirko Cro Cop.
2. Miesha Tate–Holly Holm
As you can tell by this list, 2016 may end up being the “Year of the Rear Naked Choke” and for a good example, look no further than UFC 196, when Miesha Tate salvaged what was going to be a lopsided points loss to Holly Holm with a RNC finish that earned her the UFC women’s bantamweight title.
3. Brian Ortega–Diego Brandao
Brian Ortega’s ground game has already garnered rave reviews, but in his UFC 195 win over Diego Brandao, “T-City” may have decided to just show off a bit, as he moved from anaconda to guillotine to his trademark triangle choke in the space of seconds. Call it an introduction to the Art of the Choke.
4. Chas Skelly–Maximo Blanco
Venezuela’s Maximo Blanco is known for fast starts that take place without a touch of the gloves, and September’s match with Chas Skelly was no different. Only this time, Skelly came out just as fast, and his kick to the body landed first, putting Blanco on the deck. As Blanco rose, Skelly pounced, and his anaconda choke ended Blanco’s night in a hurry. Total time – 19 seconds.
5. Teemu Packalen–Thibault Gouti
Call it as close as you can get in mixed martial arts to a flawless victory. Finland’s Teemu Packalen landed a couple strikes on Thibault Gouti, dropped him, took his back and choked him out. All in 24 seconds that gave Packalen his first UFC victory. And as many wins as he secures from here on out, he’ll never forget that one.
6. Keita Nakamura–Kyle Noke
Entering his July bout with Kyle Noke, Keita Nakamura had ended 14 of his 15 submission wins via rear naked choke. At 4:59 of the second round in Sioux Falls, “K-Taro” made it 15 of 16. It’s not the flashiest maneuver, but it’s effective and Nakamura has taken it has his signature move, making it clear that if he gets your back, more often than not, it’s lights out.
7. Demian Maia-Matt Brown
Demian Maia’s rear naked choke of Matt Brown at UFC 198 wasn’t the Brazilian contender’s most impressive submission, and it didn’t come against a fellow jiu-jitsu black belt, but there’s something to be said for watching a master at work, and when it comes to the ground game, Maia is a modern-day submission wizard.
8. Michael McDonald–Masanori Kanehara
Masanori Kanehara was putting it on Michael McDonald in their January bout, and it appeared that the Japanese standout was seconds away from a win thanks to an arm triangle choke. But just as soon as writers began penning their ledes for the Kanehara victory, McDonald escaped, scrambled and locked in a rear naked choke. Tap out. Game over. McDonald wins.
9. Eric Spicely–Thiago Santos
This is my personal favorite for 2016, mainly because of the story behind it. Eric Spicely comes off The Ultimate Fighter 23, gets submitted by Sam Alvey, and basically his first stint in the UFC is over. But then he gets a call to fight Brazilian banger Thiago Santos in Brazil. He takes the fight and not only wins, but submits Santos in the first round via rear naked choke after showing off all the ground skills he didn’t get to display against Alvey. Now he has a new lease on his career. That’s a feel good story.
10. Francis Ngannou–Anthony Hamilton
Call this one a testament to the art of surprise. In his first three UFC fights, Francis Ngannou won each by knockout, and if he was going to beat Anthony Hamilton earlier this month, striking was probably going to be his method of attack. SURPRISE. Instead, “The Predator” locked in a kimura that caught everyone napping and gave Ngannou his fourth UFC win (and finish), and a Performance of the Night bonus.