Everyone loves a good slug-fest when it comes to a fight. Two fighters looking to take each other’s head off with strikes will almost always be the way to a casual fan’s heart.
But submissions can sometimes be just as brutal and creative. I took a look back through the archives and decided on my Top 10 most creative submissions in MMA history.
#10 Aleksei Oleinik – Ezequiel Choke from the bottom
Aleksei Oleinik has made this choke more known now, but when he pulled it off from the bototm nobody knew what had just happened. ‘The Boa Constricter’ looked like he was in trouble when his opponent Viktor Pesta was ground and pounding him from a half mount position. The veteran had already pulled the choke off in his 12 times career, but when he slid one arm under the neck and then tightened down his grip it was the first time a fight was ended with the choke in UFC history. Pesta went from punching to tapping in a matter of seconds and Oleinik got the historic win.
#9 Ben Saunders – Omoplata
A relatively popular submission for its rarity in being able to actually successfully pull it off, Ben Saunders grabbed the first Omoplata submission victory in UFC history. During his fight with Chris Heatherly in 2014, Saunders found himself in a promising position and decided to proceed despite the difficulty of the task. He got his leg over the shoulder of his opponent before cranking on the joint, bringing Heatherly to near tears due to the excruciating pain. He got the tap and to this day it remains one of only two Omoplata victories in UFC history.
#8 Korean Zombie – Twister
Back in 2011, Chan Sung Jung was an up and coming Featherweight looking to make a name for himself. ‘Korean Zombie’ put himself into the history books that night by securing the first ever Twister submission victory in the UFC. Similarly to the Omoplata, the submission is notorious for it’s difficulty to pull off, with so many factors at play. Sung Jung didn’t care though, as he took the back of Leonard Garcia before switching his hooks to controlling just one leg, putting his opponents arm behind his own head and then cranking the head to completely contort the spine for the tap. A submission befitting of its name.
#7 Chris Lytle – Triangle Choke & Americana Combo
There aren’t many things worse than finding yourself caught in a reverse triangle choke. Imagine that but then the man applying the choke grabs your arm for an Americana too. That’s what happened when Chris Lytle fought Jason Gilliam back in 2007. ‘Lights Out’ found himself in top position with a triangle applied to his opponent and despite Gilliam turning bright red, he was surviving. So Lytle decided to take a limb too and grabbed Gilliam’s right arm and proceeded to apply an intense Americana, forcing his opponent to tap-out to two submissions at the same time.
#6 Luke Rockhold – Kimura & Inverted Triangle Choke Combo
We’ll never know if this was inspired by the previous entry but I’m going to suggest that it was. When Luke Rockhold fought Tim Boetsch back at UFC 172, he was the favourite having just knocked out Costas Philippou 3 months earlier. But nobody expected the level of dominance that came. In the first round, Rockhold had got the fight to the ground and got himself into a dominant position. With a triangle choke applied to Boetsch, Rockhold then decided to turn the pressure up further and locked in a kimura. Boetsch tried to defend it but was left helpless and forced to tap out.
#5 Charles Oliveira – Reverse Calf Slicer
Charles Oliveira is one of the most creative fighters in the UFC, with over 25 fights in the organisation to date. With a record of 29-8-1, nobody will be surprised to see him make this list with one of his 19 submission wins. It’s his submission of relative nobody Eric Wisely that stands out the most of all though. In the first round, Oliveira had the back of Wisely before locking a leg and dragging his opponent over his head. He controlled the upper body with pure strength while forcing the leg of Wisely back under himself and squeezing with his own two legs. A phenomenal submission and one we haven’t seen since in MMA.
# 4 Pat Curran – Peruvian Neck Tie
The Peruvian necktie submission is one of the tightest chokes in the game. A d’arce choke wasn’t enough for Bellator’s Pat Curran in 2011 as he squared off with Luis Palomino. When ‘Baboon’ managed to partially escape, Curran decided to explode and leap over his opponents heads placing both legs on his back and sinking in the Peruvian necktie submission against his Peruvian opponent.
#3 Nick Pace – The Pace Choke
During his fight with Will Campuzano in 2010, Nick Pace wrote himself into MMA folklore with his very own submission. While on his back, it looked like he was looking for a triangle choke submission. However he never quite locked it in, but his opponent tapped. Joe Rogan was astonished and once the replay was shown, it came to light that Pace had thrown his right arm under the neck of Campuzano and his leg over the neck. He then pulled down on his foot for extra leverage before finally securing a gable grip and forcing the tap. During his post-fight Octagon interview, he revealed he made it up on the spot and when pressed for a name for his new move Nick named it after himself and thus, the Pace Choke was born.
#2 Zabit Magomedsharipov – Suloev Stretch
A man more known for his spinning strikes and creativity on the feet, Zabit Magomedsharipov stunned everyone when he pulled out this submission win back in 2018. Fighting Brandon Davis, Zabit used a swift leg sweep to take the fight to the ground before locking in both hooks and taking the back. After attempting a rear-naked choke, Zabit switched his attack and rolled through while keeping the leg locked in place. He forced Davis to essentially do the splits while laying with Zabit underneath him and forcing his leg toward his head. A phenomenal display of adaptability from Zabit and an all-time great submission.
#1 Demetrious Johnson – Flying Armbar
For me, the greatest submission victory in UFC history belongs to Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson during his World title fight against Ray Borg in 2017. After completely dominating his opponent during his record-setting eleventh title defence, Mighty Mouse shocked the world when he pulled this submission out of nowhere. While having the back of Borg, DJ threw a knee to the thigh before suplexing the ‘Tazmexican Devil’ over his head. But as Borg went for a ride, Johnson adjusted in mid-air and stepped to the side while grabbing an arm and locking in a deep armbar all in one swift motion. Borg held out for a few seconds but as the grip was adjusted and torqued, he had no option but to tap and Johnson retained his belt while winning Performance of the Night for the stylistic win.