It’s been fascinating (and more than a little melancholic) to watch the mixed martial arts (MMA) grappling baseline climb ever higher, slowly chipping away at both the number and diversity of submissions as time goes by. Luckily, we still had more than our fair share of stunning mat work to appreciate this year. Let’s take a peek at 2021’s “Submissions of the Year.”
5. “Mercenary” Cashes In (Bellator 263)
Bellator’s next-generation, standard-bearer claimed first place on last year’s list with a one-of-a-kind neck crank, and though this year’s offering was more conventional, is was still enough to earn him his third consecutive spot in the Top 5.
“Mercenary’s” clash with promotional legend Patricio “Pitbull” Freire was supposed to be a nail-biter, but McKee quickly began the end with a vicious head kick and follow-up punches. Though he didn’t get the walk-off knockout he wanted, he made up for it by snatching Freire’s neck in an airtight guillotine, resulting in the first submission loss of the Brazilian’s 17-year professional career.
4. No ‘moplata (Open Fighting Championship 2)
If you stripped every finish on this list of context, this would be No. 1 by a country mile. It’s a submission so bizarre and unique that Tapology gave up and simply listed it as “Submission.”
Midway through a regional Russian card so devoid of world-level talent that even I only recognize one name, once-beaten Bantamweight Alexander Volodin caught visiting Brazilian Mateus Santos in a lovely omoplata. Santos responded by latching onto Volodin’s foot and basically using his head as a fulcrum to hyperextend his ankle in the weirdest straight ankle lock you’ll ever see.
In terms of creativity and execution, this was easily the best submission of 2021. That said, there’s more to this list than just that.
Still waiting for the expert breakdown of this absurd submission from Matheus Santos yesterday pic.twitter.com/DIjjmm81py— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) February 21, 2021
3. Queenmaker (UFC 269)
Creative? No. Technically perfect? No. Meaningful? Hell yes! Julianna Pena — a near 10-to-1 underdog — managed to turn Amanda Nunes back into the free-swinging maniac that struggled to find consistent success in either Strikeforce or UFC. Just like those times, Nunes’ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt soon failed her, allowing “Venezuelan Vixen” to jump on her back and force a historic tap.
2. Everyone’s a White Belt When They’re Tired (UFC 258/UFC Vegas 44)
Nothing dulls a technician’s skills like fatigue, Exhibits A and B.
I couldn’t decide between the two, both because of their overall similarity and the fact that each had its own merits. Anthony Hernandez finished the more decorated grappler, namely the legendary “Black Belt Hunter” Rodolfo Vieira, while Clay Guida had to survive a hell of a lot more punishment to put away Leonardo Santos.
So I took the easy way out and slapped them both on here. My list, my rules.
1. Gator Breaker (UFC 262)
In 2004, Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza survived a broken arm to defeat the impeccable Roger Gracie at the world jiu-jitsu championships. There would be no such happy ending 17 years later, as rising contender Andre Muniz smoothly transitioned from an unsuccessful back take to a vicious armbar that audibly wrecked something in the stricken limb.
What pushes this submission above the prior two is that Souza was in no way gassed — he and Muniz were in the midst of a competitive first round and each clearly had plenty left in the tank. There’s no asterisk you can slap onto Muniz’s accomplishment, and for that, he gets this year’s top honors.
What Was The Best UFC / MMA Submission Of 2021?
This poll is closed
A.J. McKee’s guillotine
Mateus Santos’ ankle lock
Julianna Pena’s RNC
Anthony Hernandez’s guillotine
Clay Guida’s RNC
Andre Muniz’s armbar
Other (Explain in comments section below)
- Magomed Magomedkerimov (Ezekiel choke) Curtis Millender
- Alonzo Menifield (Von Flue choke) Fabio Cherant
- Mateusz Gamrot (kimura) Jeremy Stephens,
- Vicente Luque (d’arce choke) Tyron Woodley
- Julian Erosa (d’arce choke) Charles Jourdain