Ultimate Submissions: Creativity in the art of grappling and the evolution of the game


Not even twenty years ago was it that submission holds were exclusive to pro wrestling in the mainstream media. Before the UFC hit the scene, combat sports was striking based, with boxing dominating the combat world and kickboxing residing in its shadow. Punching your opponent was the ultimate physical expression of combat where knockouts and knockdowns proved to be the most desired outcomes.

But then Royce Gracie entered the scene in a "karate suit" when the first UFC tournament found its way to America for all combat fans to get a look at. Barbaric, no-holds-barred, action had to mean blood everywhere with two guys fighting to the death, right?


Royce Gracie showed us that striking your opponent was only one way to attack -- and be victorious -- in hand-to-hand combat, not the only way. But it has been a long time since those days and in the current mixed martial arts scene, we view Gracie jiu-jitsu as the "traditional" form of the art. With guys like Eddie Bravo and Greg Jackson blending other techniques with their own practices, we have now entered a combat world where a new wave is beginning to make a splash.

With that being said, it's no coincidence that submission specialists and dedicated mixed martial artists have begun to show the evolution in the art of submissions by displaying new and never before seen techniques -- and even existing techniques -- with a new flare to them.

We are all witnessing the evolution in submissions. Follow me after the jump to explore: 

It was not long ago when the "gogoplata" was deemed new age and revolutionary by mixed martial arts fans and analysts across the sporting world when Shinya Aoki demonstrated it on his helpless submission victims. But that was a blast from the past as we are seeing more and more creativity all the time.

Nick Pace is a former WEC fighter converted into UFC up-and-comer. He announced his arrival into the promotion with a jaw dropping submission victory over Will Campuzano in December 2010.


The submission (shown in the .gif above) begins when Campuzano dives into Pace’s guard and starts to pass through the guard. The first mistake Campuzano makes is that he leaves his arm and body ready to be triangled. Then, when he realizes his position, Campuzano starts to keep his arms in tight and passes Paces leg through to get to side control. What he doesn’t take into account is that Pace still has his right leg coming down with a lot of pressure on his neck; he completely disregards Pace’s right leg.

He actually has a lock down with that right leg; Pace pulls down his leg down tight over Campuzano as he tries to pass through his guard preventing the pass from being successful. Pace keeps his posture broken down and gets under the chin with his right arm as he grabs his right shin. He does this after he uses his left arm to tighten the leg down further. Pace finishes the submission by locking a gable grip over the top of his leg, pulling his leg down and his left arm in tight.

The choke is a windpipe choke that is a complete hybrid of a gogoplata, arm triangle and regular triangle. It takes different aspects of all three. The choke is new to MMA; in grappling there is a variation on a collar choke (in the gi) but using your own leg as the base of the choke. However, this choke is a first in major mixed martial arts.

It has come to be known as the "Pace Choke."

Phil Davis is a bright prospect in the sport and has already made a significant impact within the light heavyweight division, accentuated with a recent win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Add in the picture perfect Anaconda choke in his fight against Alexander Gustaffson and you have yourself a nice resume.

But the biggest indicator in the evolution of Phil Davis was his invention of the "Mr. Wonderful" submission in his win over Tim Boetsch at UFC 123.


Allow me to say first and foremost that dangerous, explosive and powerful wrestlers with submission skills are always going to find success in this sport. Phil Davis showed what technical skill in positioning, power in submissions and creativity can do for you in a fight.

Looking at the gif you can see Davis trapping the arm behind his opponent’s back. The hold is a variation of a hammerlock in wrestling. Davis has a few opportunities with this position including prime position for a kimura attempt. Instead, he chooses to keep that arm trapped while maintaining a dominant position in side control.

Davis at one point even looks to try and flip Boetsch over with the hold, possibly to take his opponents back. But he uses power and his awesome body control to remain attacking and aggressive in his pressuring of the position. He has the left arm trapped over the shoulder gripping the trapped arm and eventually works comfortably to secure his free arm to grab the trapped arm with both hands.

When doing that remember now that Phil Davis is using both hands to grip the trapped arm and awesome leverage to remain in the prime position to keep Boetsch pinned down. As soon as he is able to secure the arm, Davis simply pulls the arm up and the pain secures the tap out.

And so was the birth of the "Mr. Wonderful" submission.

The most recent submission to shock and awe the MMA community, came from fan favorite Chan Sung Jung, better known as the "Korean Zombie." Jung was part of the "Fight of the Year" candidate from 2010 with Leonard Garcia, one that saw Jung losing in a close -- and controversial -- split decision.

He would have his chance to redeem himself this past March when he was given a rematch with Garcia. He did not fail to impress, as he made Eddie Bravo disciples all over the world proud, when he pulled off the first "twister" in a major mixed martial arts organization.


Many are familiar with Eddie Bravo’s Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu system, and if you aren’t, it is easily explained as creative and innovative. Eddie Bravo has done a brilliant job at creating a system like no other. His favorite technique however, is the twister. A submission he had dreamed of pulling off in competition for years.

The twister is a neck crank submission that puts plenty of torque on the neck and spine of the unfortunate victim. Eddie brought the move into his system from wrestling where it’s often referenced as a guillotine.

In the .gif of Jung performing the hold notice how detailed the set up has to be in order to be effective. It also requires giving up dominant position of having hooks in on Garcia to achieve as well.

Jung removes his hooks in from back control of Garcia, he locks down the left leg of Garcia with a figure-four and begins to really establish control of that leg. He has a modified variation of the "lockdown" which is another key part in the tenth planet system. This takes away lots of mobility for Garcia and also allows Jung to set up the upper body with the lower now being controlled.

Jung chases an under hook on Garcia as he postures his body up to gain better leverage for the hold. It is a long set up for the hold but Jung does everything efficiently. Jung capitalizes on a free Garcia arm as he now has his head between his arm pit area similar to that of a basic headlock. He is now able to lock his hands together to put Garcia’s upper body/neck/head towards his own body.

Now that he has established upper body control he can focus back down to lower body control. He has his modified variation of Bravo’s lockdown still on that leg and is now able to torque his hips and lower body forward and away from the upper body’s direction.

So now that everything is set up you see Garcia’s body being twisted. The tap comes shortly thereafter.

So it is with the devastating submission known as "The Twister."

These three submissions are proof that the sport is still heavily moving forward through the hard work and dedication of the mixed martial artists participating in combat. Innovators like Eddie Bravo, Nick Pace and Phil Davis are only a few and only a start in what will come next in the progression of our sport.

Let me know what you think, Maniacs. Any other creative submissions you would like to share?

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