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Ultimate Submissions: UFC champions showcase their jiu-jitsu skills

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The art of submissions has been part of the foundation that supports the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) since the earliest of competition. All one has to do is watch the very first UFC or the early Pride FC events for evidence. In fact, it was the legendary Gracie family that left the biggest mark on the sport in its infancy, introducing the the rarely before seen submission aspect of combat fighting.

With that being said, it should come as no surprise that in today’s world of MMA that submissions still often prevail as one of the more dominant ways to win a fight. There are very few methods more dominant than to cause your opponent to (almost) lose consciousness or tap out because of a painful submission hold.

With jiu-jitsu serving as the primary art used to showcase the submission game, the Brazilian lineage still makes its impact everyday, most notably in the mainstream with teachers like Renzo and Cesar Gracie still carrying on the winning tradition of their ancestors through the fighters they train in their respective gyms.

In this sport, becoming champion in the UFC represents the pinnacle of success. And with seven major weight classes, the seven champions of the UFC have all demonstrated at one point or another in their careers that it takes well rounded skills to remain atop the ladders in their respected divisions.

Four of those champions, in particular, have very notable and highly respected submission highlights in their careers. Let's learns more about them right now ... follow me after the jump:

Before we start, let me first give a thank you to Zombie Prophet for the .gifs. Check out his site (IronForgesIron.com) -- he has .gifs and videos of fights up faster than anyone else on the Internet. 

Jon Jones is the UFC light heavyweight champion. He is only 23 years old and has already reached the top of the division with a convincing win in March of this year against Pride FC veteran and MMA legend, Mauricio Rua. The victory was very impressive, with "Bones" battering and dominating "Shogun" from start to finish.

And the path he used to get to that point was blazed from a simple, yet highly effective, submission.

It was Feb. 5, 2011, and young up and coming 205-pound fighters Jon Jones and Ryan Bader had been paired up to determine quite possibly the next contender to the division's crown, which was held up by a fight scheduled between champion Rua and Rashad Evans.

The fight itself was a one sided beat down that led to an unexpected reward.

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You will see immediately that Jones is atop Bader already clutching to a no-arm in guillotine choke (If you want to read up on that choke click here). In the previous round -- and entirety of the second -- Jones had already established himself as the better striker and the better wrestler despite Bader’s wrestling credentials. Jones put Bader on his back, which is often the most weak and vulnerable position in which wrestler can find themselves in this sport.

Clutching the choke with a tight Gable Grip, Jones is postured up inside a very loose half guard. Using a lot of arch on his posture gives him the ability to produce tremendous force, while cranking the choke. Pulling up the way he is makes the torque on the throat very uncomfortable and also very difficult to escape because it leaves little to no room to gain any sort of leverage. That angle also makes it easier for Jones to finish without spending too much energy in his upper body, while using a lot of force the angle of the choke and the body increases the speed in which the choke takes effect.

Little risk, high reward for Jones.

With Bader unbalanced on his back, Jones remains centered in his base, preventing an explosion from Bader to scramble and escape. Bader succumbs to the choke and taps out, giving Jones an impressive finish over and undefeated and top 10 opponent, but more importantly, awarding Jones a title shot a month later when an unexpected injury to Evans paved the way for a new challenger.

In March, Jones would capture the title and become the UFC light heavyweight champion. And he can thank an impressive submission for opening the door for the opportunity.

Continuing with another young champion, the UFC lightweight champion is New Jersey native Frankie Edgar. "The Answer" is a crafty and agile champion who has built his reputation by consistently beating bigger opponents and constantly being named the underdog. With notable wins over former champions B.J. Penn (twice) and Sean Sherk, former title challenger Hermes Franca and perennial contenders Tyson Griffin and Jim Miller, the 29-year old champion has made a statement since he hit the scene in 2007.

With two consecutive wins over Sherk and Franca, the now more noticeable contender was in need of a big win and impressive showing when Edgar would headline The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Finale, which was the conclusion of one of the most watched Ultimate Fighters in history. It was plain and simple -- this was Edgar’s chance to shine.

Standing in his way was fast rising undefeated (10-0) prospect, Matt Veach.  

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Midway through the fight Edgar would capitalize on his superior grappling when Veach would give up his back. The Renzo Gracie student would not let this opportunity slip away.

Edgar, on top of Veach, would latch his hooks in and use his body’s leverage and momentum to swing and roll to be on the bottom of Veach as he would begin to attack with the choke. Quickly, Edgar would snake his right arm underneath the chin and clasp on the throat, bringing his left arm to latch on to a tight grip.

From there it was simple technique.

Edgar uses his hooks and lower body to extend the torso of Veach, while simultaneously pulling up with his upper body and increasing tension on the choke. Edgar would earn the tapout and an opportunity to leapfrog Gray Maynard for a shot at the UFC crown against legendary B.J. Penn.

A fight he would claim victory in becoming the champion at 155 pounds.

What is important to mention is that both Edgar and Maynard were being considered as future opponents for Penn, with fights only a month apart Edgar finished Veach, while Maynard -- who held a win over Edgar -- edged Nate Diaz in a split decision in a fight that raised eyebrows as to whether Maynard was in fact ready for a title shot.

The impressive showing and fight finish gave the extra push needed to award Edgar the shot.

In what could be considered a true comeback story a young, hungry but defeated fighter named Georges St. Pierre had the whole world in the palm of his hand when he defeated Matt Hughes in a rematch, earning him the UFC’s welterweight title. Only five months later, St. Pierre would lose that title in a crushing and shocking defeat at the hands of Matt Serra.

St. Pierre would take his short-lived title reign as a source of motivation to improve his game. He would go onto defeat Josh Koscheck with an onslaught of wrestling that surprised many as Koscheck, on paper, owned a much more superior wrestling skills.

With the win he would get another chance at UFC gold when he would be paired with Matt Hughes in a highly anticipated rubber match at UFC 79 in Dec. 2007.

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For any doubters of the skill set held by St. Pierre in submissions, this clip -- despite it being years previous -- shows the innovative and craftiness in his grappling game. While a simple armbar shouldn’t be the indicator of a good jiu-jitsu practitioner, a series of chain submission attempts should be.

As St. Pierre sits in side control, he stays busy, elbowing and smothering Hughes, which frustrates the bottom fighter and keeps from getting some sort of plan of action to escape the bad position.

St. Pierre throws the right leg over and around the head/neck of Hughes, which isolates the left arm. The position St. Pierre now sits in has put Hughes in danger of an inverted triangle submission. St. Pierre locks his ankles to tighten his position and Hughes clasps his hands to also avoid the attacks being presented to him.

Instead of attempting to finish the difficult submission, St. Pierre recognizes the arms in front of him and without a chance for Hughes to escape -- as St. Pierre has basically sat his weight atop Hughes -- he reaches down to attack with a kimura.

With the left arm trapped, Hughes has little hope of defending against the kimura (For the in depth kimura post click here). St. Pierre yanks on the arm and immediately tucks it behind Hughes in an attempt to finish the fight. As he does this, Hughes does a last hope, Hail Mary maneuver to escape. He bucks upward with his legs and attempts to shake St. Pierre with his upper body.

It doesn’t work fully, while escaping the kimura he scrambles right into an armbar attempt.

St. Pierre throws the legs over the chest and shoulder area of Hughes and pulls back on the armbar. While the submission isn’t the most technically sound, the scramble leads into Hughes on his stomach with St. Pierre clutching on the arm (For the armbar breakdown click here).

Hughes verbally submits, giving St. Pierre the title again, the newly crowned champion defeats the legend with the same method of submission that he lost to when the pair first met. The loss would also be the last. which is still ongoing, a three-year, nine-fight win streak all started by an impressive showing of jiu-jitsu against Matt Hughes.

And finally we come to the UFC’s middleweight champion and top fighters in the history of the sport Anderson Silva.

Currently riding a five-year, 13-fight win streak inside the Octagon, it is hard to argue the greatness of the champion. However, despite impressive knockout finishes of Chris Leben, Rich Franklin (twice) and Nate Marquardt, it wasn’t until March of 2008 that Anderson Silva would cement his place atop the division.

Silva would be matched up to defend his middleweight title against Pride FC Welterweight (also 185 pounds) Champion Dan Henderson in a title unification bout. The fight would match up the two top fighters at 185 pounds to truly determine the division’s king. Silva would be protecting a six-fight win streak with two of those being title defenses and Henderson would come in winning four of his last five as a Pride FC welterweight.

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Silva was quickly becoming one of the most feared and dominant fighters in the sport and an impressive showing against Henderson would further cement that. In Henderson’s career he had only been finished twice both by submission, coincidentally both of those to the Nogueira brothers who happen to be Silva’s coaches and teammates. 

Immediately, Silva has the body triangle locked in around the lower torso of Henderson. The body triangle really restricts the breathing of an opponent as well as creates incredible discomfort. While trapping the opponent and taking away any sort of mobility it is ideal to start attacking with a rear naked choke (For that breakdown click here).

Henderson, a veteran of the sport was aware of the bad position he was in and would work to keep his neck from being captured. Anderson Silva would use punches and elbows to open the defenses and cause Henderson to defend the strikes. In a compromising situation Henderson rolls and allows Anderson to gain top control with the body lock.

Silva would continue his onslaught of strikes until he is able to slip his arm in and clasp it around the chin of Henderson. At this point the submission is based on pain and not the threat of losing consciousness. Silva slips the left arm, crushing the chin underneath and on the throat and uses his Gable Grip to attack. All the while the body triangle has been latched on eventually Henderson succumbs to the submission awarding Silva another victory in an already successful and legendary career.

Silva would go on to use the Jiu Jitsu against Chael Sonnen in a fight that saw Anderson losing four rounds only to pull off one of the greatest come from behinds victories in MMA history, pulling off a desperation triangle choke with moments left in the fight.

While wrestling has become the most apparent base to build a MMA career off of as seen by the rapid increase of wrestlers entering the sport and the already successful crop of wrestling-based champions, the art of submissions and grappling should not be forgotten.

It remains to be a dangerous weapon in any fighters arsenal.

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