From Oliveira to Rousey, experts pick the UFC’s all-time best submission artists by division


The artwork of the submission is rooted in a fighter’s means to grab a gap. A possibility. A mistake. An motion resulting in a response. Shut-quarters fight turns into an ongoing battle for positioning and leverage. All of it performs on a relentless loop till there’s an escape. Or an ending.

The perfect on the earth construct their total combating type round this means to make somebody faucet. They’re the marathoners of MMA, with a gas tank crammed as much as go for much longer than the utmost of 5 rounds. They have interaction in psychological warfare with their opponent, by the use of brute drive or fixed deception. From the armbar to the anaconda choke, from the kneebar to the kimura, these fighters have a well-stocked toolbox that they are prepared and prepared to make use of when the second arises. Need to struggle standing up? In all probability a good suggestion, as a result of taking it to the bottom with them normally ends with one tapping to finish the struggle.

However who’re the best to ever to do it? ESPN curated an knowledgeable panel and requested every of them to pick out the UFC’s all-time finest submission artists in every division. As a bonus, we additionally requested them to determine the pound-for-pound all-time finest. Listed here are the outcomes.

Editor’s word: Our consultants voted on all 12 lively divisions within the UFC and likewise recognized their alternative for pound-for-pound finest. The panel contains Reed Kuhn, Carlos Contreras Legaspi, Eddie Maisonet, Sean O’Connell, Brett Okamoto, Ian Parker, Marc Raimondi, Din Thomas and Jeff Wagenheim.

On June 26, 2010, Werdum submitted the good Fedor Emelianenko in simply 69 seconds in San Jose, California — and the gang did not initially react. That is how surprising the end result was and the way shortly Werdum utilized the submission that ended The Final Emperor’s historic win streak. It took just a few moments even to understand it. Werdum is taken into account the most effective heavyweight grappler of all time, and he’s considered top-of-the-line grapplers within the sport’s historical past.

If you happen to shut your eyes, you’ll be able to envision Werdum mendacity on his again in the course of a struggle in opposition to Alistair Overeem and beckoning, pleading with him to observe him to the bottom — and Overeem naturally declining the provide. Werdum’s guard was one of many final locations a heavyweight needed to be over the previous twenty years. He did properly rounding out his expertise as his profession progressed, which helped him turn out to be a UFC champion, however Werdum’s legacy will at all times be tied most to his expertise on the ground. — Okamoto

For all of his accomplishments within the sport, it appears Teixeira will get credit score primarily for his sturdiness and longevity. That is not improper. He received the UFC mild heavyweight title final 12 months — greater than seven years after his first title problem in opposition to Jon Jones in 2014. The Brazilian has been completed solely twice since his 2002 professional debut, a span of 39 fights. However not solely does Teixeira not often get completed, however he additionally does loads of ending of his personal. And his nostril for locating submissions has been wonderful of late.

Teixeira has 4 submission victories throughout this six-fight successful streak. He took out Thiago Santos with a third-round rear-naked choke end to earn the sunshine heavyweight title shot. Then, Teixeira beat Jan Blachowicz to win the belt with the identical approach within the second spherical at UFC 267 final October. Teixeira’s submission means is totally different than others. He’ll put on you out — in some instances, get you drained from attempting to break him as a result of he is so robust — then take you down and make you faucet. However the numbers do not lie, Teixeira’s seven submissions within the UFC are essentially the most in UFC mild heavyweight historical past, making him one of many all-time bests within the division. — Raimondi

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza burst onto the U.S. MMA scene with a submission victory over the seasoned veteran Matt Lindland in Strikeforce. The MMA world knew that the submission specialist we had all heard of had lastly arrived on that night time. After going 7-1 in Strikeforce with three wins by the use of submission, Jacare made his method to the UFC.

Within the first spherical of his debut, he took Chris Camozzi down and locked in a fight-ending arm-triangle choke. Jacare continued his MMA dominance by successful 4 extra in a row with two extra submission victories. Jacare by no means received the UFC Middleweight belt, however he can be remembered for his thrilling fights and talent to vary a struggle along with his game-changing submissions. — Parker

Welterweight: Demian Maia

Maia was unanimously chosen as the most effective submission artist in welterweight historical past, which ought to shock nobody. All through his profession, he was thought of the gold commonplace of grappling at 170. You understand precisely what he needs to do, however you continue to cannot cease him from doing it. He signed with the UFC as a extremely adorned Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in 2007, and submitted his first 5 opponents contained in the Octagon.

Maia at all times appeared a BJJ fighter competing in an MMA world, which could sound like a backhanded praise. The remainder of his talent set was stable, however not overwhelmingly so. Actually not sturdy sufficient to succeed in a UFC title struggle in two totally different weight courses. However his immense expertise in grappling allowed him to do this, and be an elite fighter within the UFC for 14 years in opposition to a wide selection of kinds. You can not have a dialog about submissions in MMA historical past with out an early point out of the title Demian Maia. — Okamoto

Light-weight: Charles Oliveira

Few grapplers in MMA historical past have combined Oliveira’s creativity, dexterity and explosiveness on the bottom. He isn’t a grasp of 1 or two go-to submissions. Oliveira’s toolbox is full. Armbars? Chokes? Leg locks? Yeah, he is received these and extra. Earlier than he turned the UFC light-weight champion — a journey that took 27 fights, the longest out of any titleholder in UFC historical past — “Do Bronx” was identified solely for his submission acumen. These expertise have not let up as he has turn out to be a whole fighter within the sport. Ask Dustin Poirier, who knocked out Conor McGregor twice in the identical 12 months earlier than falling sufferer to Oliveira at UFC 269 in December.

Oliveira is tied with Jim Miller for essentially the most submissions in UFC light-weight historical past (9). Since transferring again to light-weight in 2017 from featherweight, Oliveira has picked up 4 rear-naked choke finishes, two guillotine choke submissions and an anaconda choke end. He began his UFC profession with two straight Submission of the Evening bonuses: an armbar submission over Darren Elkins in August 2010 and a rear-naked choke submission of Efrain Escudero a month later. The person is actually dominant when getting opponents to faucet. — Raimondi

Featherweight: Charles Oliveira

Oliveira joined the UFC in 2010 as a light-weight, however inside 18 months, following a brutal stretch during which he went winless in three fights — as soon as by submission, as soon as by TKO and fought to a no-contest — he moved to featherweight. He spent 5 years at 145 kilos — and struggled there, too. Earlier than leaping again to 155 kilos in 2017, Oliveira went 7-5 as a featherweight, and maybe essentially the most vital quantity connected to him from that point was 4. That was the variety of occasions he missed weight.

Alongside the best way, nevertheless, Oliveira additionally had six submissions, essentially the most ever by a UFC featherweight. No different 145-pounder has elicited greater than 4 tapouts. For Oliveira, getting six tapouts in seven wins set a regular as a floor menace that he has continued in his run to the highest of the light-weight division. — Wagenheim



One night time after successful the Uncooked Ladies’s Title at SummerSlam, Ronda Rousey forces Stephanie McMahon to faucet out after grabbing her by the arm.

Few fighters within the historical past of MMA have been the extent of a submission menace that Rousey was within the UFC ladies’s bantamweight division. If the struggle went to the ground, Rousey had an opportunity to complete issues from nearly any angle or place. The previous Olympic judo bronze medalist was so superior previous her friends in grappling that she at occasions made it look simple, together with a 14-second armbar end of Cat Zingano, which on the time was the quickest end in UFC title struggle historical past.

Rousey, the previous UFC ladies’s bantamweight champion, compiled an unbelievable 9 armbar finishes in her 14-fight professional profession — together with a stretch the place she stopped eight fights in a row with the approach. The armbar turned so computerized for Rousey that it was nearly like a real-life professional wrestling ending transfer, which is becoming as a result of “Rowdy” has since made the transition to performing in WWE. Not solely is Rousey one of many best feminine fighters ever and a pioneer for ladies in MMA, however she can also be one of many top-tier submission artists in UFC historical past, no matter gender. — Raimondi

Arguably, essentially the most ignored title on this checklist. Yahya has been wonderful all through an 11-year UFC profession (13-4-1) and was a reputation to look at within the WEC earlier than that. He is in a seven-way tie for seventh on the UFC’s all-time submission checklist — with names like Kenny Florian, Joe Lauzon and Glover Teixeira.

He has reached that checklist regardless of fewer fights than lots of his counterparts. This man has completed 75% of his skilled fights through submission. Seventy-five p.c! The third-degree BJJ black belt has received gold within the Abu Dhabi Fight Membership World Championships and has been submitted solely as soon as in MMA, by Gesias Cavalcante in 2006. — Okamoto

Robertson has not had it simple these previous few years as she has misplaced three of her previous 4 fights. However all through a 4½-year run within the UFC flyweight ranks, Robertson has received seven occasions, with 5 of these victories coming through submission. That complete is not only essentially the most amongst 125-pounders, it’s the most by a girl in any UFC weight class.

It has turn out to be clear that when combating Robertson, Plan A should be to maintain your toes, not your butt, planted on the canvas. Robertson is a terror in floor combating, and her outcomes present it. In UFC bouts during which she does not get a takedown, she is 0-2. When she does get an opponent to the bottom, she is 7-3, with all however one win coming by end. If you happen to do get taken down, don’t enable Robertson to grab again management. 4 of her 5 tapouts have come by rear-naked choke. — Wagenheim

Johnson isn’t your typical submission artist, he does not also have a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Johnson is a brown belt, which is nothing to sneeze at. He does have coaching underneath Matt Hume, who honed his grappling expertise in Japan within the early days of MMA underneath the Pancrase banner. Hume’s floor recreation is extra catch wrestling or submission wrestling than Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, who turned MMA’s greatest catch wrestling proponent, was a pupil of Hume. Then got here Johnson, completely dominant on the mat within the UFC flyweight division.

“Mighty Mouse,” top-of-the-line pound-for-pound fighters, nonetheless owns the file for many submission finishes in UFC flyweight historical past (5). He additionally has one of the absurd submission finishes ever pulled off. At UFC 216 in 2017, Johnson had Ray Borg‘s again in a standing place. He hoisted Borg up right into a modified German suplex and transitioned to Borg’s arm on the best way down. As soon as they hit the bottom, Johnson was already in place to torque the arm. Borg tapped. Johnson dubbed the pro-wrestling-like transfer “The Mighty Wizbar.” Johnson additionally submitted Kyoji Horiguchi with one second left in a five-round struggle, the newest submission in UFC historical past. — Raimondi

After successful each grappling award doable in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the world was prepared for Dern to crossover into MMA. The 2 questions on MMA followers’ minds had been: One, can she discover ways to strike? And two, can her BJJ accolades switch over to the world of MMA?

Dern answered each questions shortly when she received her first 5 skilled fights, with three wins by the use of submission. The UFC known as quickly after, and Dern has continued to search out success within the octagon. Now 7-2 within the UFC, with 4 wins by submission, Dern is one step nearer to getting her first title shot. Together with her putting coming alongside and a dominant submission arsenal, Dern’s means to make her opponent faucet within the strawweight division is unmatched. — Parker

For followers, a submission specialist will in all probability by no means invoke the identical type of concern and awe as a knockout artist. Nevertheless, should you ask the opponents of Oliveira, they’d possible let you know his submissions are simply as exhausting to take care of as any fighter’s knockout energy.

Within the historical past of combined martial arts, Oliveira stands on an island in terms of accomplishments on the ground. Going into UFC 274, Oliveira holds the UFC file for many submission wins at 15. That is 4 greater than Demian Maia, who has 4 extra UFC fights on his résumé than Oliveira. Oliveira is driving a nine-fight win streak that dates again to 2018, and he has recorded finishes in eight of these 9 — six by submission. And contemplating he’s the champ, nearly all of that nine-fight win streak has come in opposition to incredible competitors, together with three consecutive males who’ve held a title in a serious group: Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson. However even should you needed to dismiss all the information and numbers, it is easy to see why Oliveira is the most effective — the creativity, talent and velocity with which he submits his opponents bounce off the display screen. — Okamoto

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