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Hall-of-Fame submissions are back! I have already told you about my top five armbars, guillotines and triangles, but this time I'm bringing you my favorite kneebars.
Mastering leglocks is an art within an art.
Almost any professional fighter has the ability to submit their opponent, but there are a select few who have mastered the skill and attention to detail that it takes to finish with a leg lock. Here's my list of the top five kneebar finishes I have seen in the Octagon.
It uses your own hips to put pressure on the top half of your opponent's leg, forcing it away from your body while simultaneously pulling the lower half of the leg toward your body, putting tremendous amounts of pressure on the knee.
If it sounds painful, it is. Let's take a look at what it looks like when it all comes together inside the cage.
#5 Chris Lytle vs Brian Foster
This spot goes to the newly retired Chris Lytle. Lytle came into his fight with Brian Foster at 27-17 with 19 wins by submission. Lytle's original opponent Dong Hyun-Kim was forced to pull out of the bout due to injury which gave Foster the opportunity to step in as a late replacement.
The two men traded momentarily on the feet with Foster landing a spinning back kick and a a head kick early on that found their mark. But Lytle landed a left hook of his own that stunned Foster. Foster attempted to take Lytle down and had his back for a brief second before Lytle committed to the submission. As soon as Foster had the back, Lytle dove under, reaching between his legs and rolling into the kneebar. Foster attempted to fight it off for a moment but made a critical mistake when he tried to hop out of the submission. He created enough space for Lytle to extend the leg out and get it in tightly.
Foster was forced to tap just 1:41 into the first round due to a vicious kneebar. Foster needed help making his way back to the locker room after being caught by one of Lytle's nasty leglocks. Lytle would go on to win his second Submission of the Night bonus for this fight ending kneebar. Lytle won 10 total post-fight awards from the UFC during his tenure. The most in UFC history. He will be missed, especially when he has submissions skills like this.
#4 John Cholish vs Marc Stevens
Before 'Bigfoot' Silva gave Fedor Emelianenko his second straight loss in the main event of Strikeforce: Fedor vs Silva, John Cholish put a hurting on Marc Stevens. Marc Stevens was coming off of his stay at the Ultimate Fighter and was a heavy favorite in his debut bout in the Strikeforce promotion with Renzo Gracie student, John Cholish. This was also Cholish's debut in the Strikeforce promotion and he was not ready to have it spoiled by the former 'TUF' fighter.
The first round was a high paced affair with Cholish opening up a cut on Stevens with some ground and pound at the end of the first. The second round started with Stevens attempting a takedown but it was easily stuffed by Cholish, who ended up in top position. Cholish worked some more ground and pound until the ref decided to stand the fighters up.
Once back to the feet, Stevens shot in for another unsuccessful takedown, but Cholish gave up his back during the attempt. Stevens had Cholish's back for only a second before Cholish ducked under and reached through his legs, pulling Steven's leg in tight to his own body. Cholish has it it tight and Stevens screams in pain as he taps out to the kneebar at 3:57 of round 2.
Cholish made the transition from standing to kneebar so quickly that it caught everyone, including Marc Stevens, off guard. Luckily, Stevens was able to walk away from this one under his own power. The pure speed of Cholish to lock this in so quickly in the scramble puts this one at #4.
#3 Ken Shamrock vs Bas Rutten
Back before "The World's Most Dangerous Man" started looking for freakshow fights with guys like James Toney, he was one of the scariest men in the sport of MMA. For this fight, we're going to take you back to the days of Pancrase. Back before the bright lights of the UFC, the only place for mixed martial artists to test their skills and be paid a decent wage, was in Japan. The sport, at this time, was known more as 'hybrid wrestling' than mixed martial arts.
The first "King Of Pancrase" tournament was held back in 1994 in Tokyo, Japan. Shamrock defeated Alex Cook, Maurice Smith, Masakatsu Funaki, and finally, Manabu Yamada in the finals to become the very first "King Of Pancrase" champion. Shamrock would have to defend his belt in 1995 against one of the most respected MMA fighters of all time, Bas Rutten.
The two men were both very familiar with the ground game which was known as 'catch-wrestling' at this point due to the fact that the world had not yet been introduced to 'jiu jitsu' as we know it today. This one went to the ground early and Shamrock got on top. Once there, Shamrock spins himself into a knee bar. Rutten does little to defend but Shamrock pries the leg loose and sits back into it, torquing the knee and forcing Rutten to tap. It only took Shamrock 1:01 to finish the job and retain his title as the "King of Pancrase".
Of course, there are a lot of questionable circumstances around this fight. First and foremost, why are they dressed like the Village People? I'm glad to see that not only has the sport evolved, but so has our attire.
But seriously, many of these bouts have been questioned as to whether they were 'real' or not. I'm not here to make judgments on all of that, I'm just here to recognize a good kneebar when I see one. And this one was good enough to land it in the number 3 spot if you ask me.
#2 Mauricio Rua vs Kevin Randleman
This one makes my knee hurt watching it. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua may be best known for soccer kicking and stomping the stuffing out of his opponents, but at Pride 32, Rua put his submission skills on display. Kevin "The Monster" Randleman was an dominating wrestler with an iron frame when the two met up back in 2006.
Randleman used his wrestling and took the fight to the mat with a lightning quick takedown in the early parts of their bout. Rua ended up on his back but used his jiu jitsu acumen to sweep to top position. Once in top position, Rua transitioned and trapped the leg between his legs. Rua falls back into the submission but adds a little extra torque to it. Once he has the leg trapped, he puts Randleman's heel in his own armpit. This allows Rua to use the full force of his body to wrench the hold and applies more leverage to hyper extend the leg. Ouch.
Rua sits back into it and Randleman winces in pain as he taps at 2:35 of the first round. Rua records the first and only submission win in his 24 fight career. It's an impressive win for a man who was known more for his face smashing kicks than his sweeps. If you only have 1 submission win on your record, this is an impressive one to have. And it was good enough to land him in #2 on this list.
#1 Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir
This may have been the most watched kneebar in MMA history. For most 'hardcore' fans, this fight was viewed as the 'fake fighter' trying to make the transition to legitimate fighting and making a mockery of our sport along the way. WE WOULD NOT STAND FOR IT!. Those sentiments have cooled since we have learned that Lesnar was an actually talented fighter with a long list of wrestling credentials that made him well-suited for the sport. But before "The Next Big Thing" became recognized for his talent in this sport, many were clamoring for his head on a platter. Mir delivered us a knee instead.
The lead-up to the bout was epic. Mir using his cerebral pyscho-babble while Lesnar used trash talk that he had perfected during his stay in professional wrestling.
The bout itself was an interesting back and forth for the minute and a half it lasted. The bout started with Mir trying a kick that was caught by Lesnar and the fight going to the mat with Lesnar landing in half-guard. Mir is looking to sweep but Lesnar lands some punches to Mir for his efforts. Lesnar catches Mir in the back of the head with one of the punches and is instantly deducted a point. If we all didn't hate Lesnar so much at this point, we probably would have brought up that Lesnar was never warned before being deducted a point for a single strike to the back of the head.
Once back to the feet, Lesnar lands a solid right that puts Mir on his butt! NOOOO!!!! The reputation of our beloved sport is slipping out of our grasp......but luckily for us all, Mir is able to retain guard and keep fighting. Mir nearly catches an armbar but Lesnar escapes. Kind of. Lesnar tries to stand up and back out of the guard work of Mir, but he leaves his leg wide open for one of the best grapplers in the heavyweight division. Rookie mistake. Mir latches onto the exposed leg and holds on for the ride. Lesnar tries to hop away but he falls to the canvas with his knee caught deeply.
Mir pulls back on the knee and redeems us all. Lesnar is forced to tap just 1:30 into Round 1 due to submission. As I said, we would later come to find out that Lesnar is not just a wrestler looking to embarrass us all, he's a solid fighter with great wrestling and a big frame.
He did show his green-ness to the ground game by not defending the kneebar. His leg was there to try to push off Mir's butt and pull his leg out but once he was caught, he froze and was forced to tap. Despite my humor, I'm not a Brock hater. I would love to see him back in the cage. But it was pretty sweet to see jiu jitsu reign supreme that February night in 2008 at UFC 81. For the viewership, the pressure on him, and the technique, Mir lands himself in the number 1 spot.
Every time I do one of these, it's a near guarantee that I'm going to forget some good ones. I will admit my biased and say that I picked ones that I could find gifs for. It works better for the reading audience if you can see the submission as your reading about it.
So, what do you think? Is there a kneebar that isn't on this list that should be? Let's hear your top five in the comments section below and for more on BJJ in MMA click here.