2015 was a somewhat resurgent year for submissions in MMA, with a number of highly interesting holds bringing ends to fights, and a few classics coming back in a big way with improved technique making them more viable options for fighters. As for the “Submission of the Year” for 2015, well, that was pretty much locked up by the end of February, and though there were a handful that made their case from there, there’s one clear winner for this award. Read on, with thoughts on the “Best of the Rest” along with further honorable mentions below, and check out the awards articles for “Fight of the Year” and “Knockout of the Year” as well.
2015 “Submission of the Year” – Ronda Rousey’s inverted armbar over Cat Zingano – UFC 184 – Feb. 28
There just wasn’t anything else this year that came close to besting this move, a spur of the moment armlock that Rousey herself claimed she’d never once practiced. The position came to her in the moment after Zingano erred in rushing at her with a fight opening flying knee. Rousey threw her immediately, Zingano tried to roll through, but wound up with Rousey snaking under her arm to overextend it with a full grip under her own armpit, with Zingano’s head and body locked up by Rousey’s legs. It’s a move we’re not likely to see repeated often, if ever, and it was a fascinating highlight finish for Rousey to kick off one hell of a roller-coaster year.
The Best of the Rest (In Chronological Order)
Godofredo Pepey sets up flying triangle over Andre Fili – UFC Fight Night 62: Pepey launched into the flying triangle attempt early on in the first round of this one, and though it took a bit of fighting to complete it and force the tap, this was another standout for Pepey. Fili tried his best to get out of it, but he was completely caught off guard by the application of the hold in the first place, and he just couldn’t get himself free.
Aljamain Sterling’s arm-triangle from the bottom over Takeya Mizugaki – UFC on Fox 15: This is another of those never-seen type submissions that will always belong on a list like this. Sterling was on his way to beating Mizugaki by decision, but after getting taken down in the third round, he locked on an arm triangle from the bottom and forced Mizugaki tap. It’s just not something you see pulled off at this level, and was just the first of two significant submission highlights for Sterling in 2015.
Demetrious Johnson’s last second armbar over Kyoji Horiguchi – UFC 186: For 24:50 of this Championship fight, Demetrious Johnson just completely out-classed the challenger. Then he decided, “Ok, that’s enough, let’s finish this now.” Scoring the very latest submission possible in a UFC fight, establishing an unbeatable record in the process, Johnson forced Horiguchi to tap from an armbar just before the horn. It was an excellent finish following a dominant performance from one of the best fighters in the world.
Arnold Allen’s third round ninja choke over Alan Omer – UFC Fight Night 69: At the tail end of an already impressive short notice performance in Germany, 21-year-old Englishman Allen caught Omer in one hell of a slick choke as Omer was trying for a takedown. By the time Omer reacted it was already too late, and he was stuck in the scramble and forced to tap out.
Aljamain Sterling’s standing guillotine choke over Johnny Eduardo – UFC Fight Night 80: Sterling deserves every piece of recognition that can be given at this point, and this is up there with any other slickly set up finish. Catching Eduardo with the standing guillotine choke in the second round of their fight, the undefeated bantamweight further established himself as an elite competitor, and the hope into 2016 will be that the UFC keeps him on the roster to continue bringing him along as a potential future title challenger.
Tony Ferguson’s D’Arce choke over Edson Barboza – TUF 22 Finale: One of the best finishes of the year in one of the best fights of the year. Hard to beat that. This was already an insanely fun fight for the first round and a half, but Ferguson’s fantastic transition to the D’Arce choke in the second was a thing of beauty, and though Barboza briefly tried to fight out of the hold, Ferguson wasn’t letting him out of it, scoring the tap and just maybe a shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship.
-Ben Henderson’s fourth round RNC over Brandon Thatch – UFC Fight Night 60
-Marion Reneau’s upset triangle choke over Jessica Andrade – UFC Fight Night 61
-Roan Carneiro chokes out Mark Munoz with RNC in the first round – UFC 184
-Jake Ellenberger’s north-south choke over Josh Koscheck – UFC 184
-Gilbert Burns’ come from behind third round armbar over Alex Oliveira – UFC Fight Night 62
-Marcos Galvao’s kneebar over Joe Warren – Bellator 135
-Maryna Moroz upsets Joanne Calderwood with first round armbar – UFC Fight Night 64
-Max Holloway’s mounted guillotine over Cub Swanson – UFC on Fox 15
-Alexis Davis’ mounted triangle to bottom armbar over Sarah Kaufman – UFC 186
-Alex Chambers catches Kailin Curran in third round armbar for come from behind win – UFC Fight Night 65
-Rony Jason’s triangle choke sweep over Damon Jackson – UFC Fight Night 67
-Charles Oliveira’s mounted guillotine over Nik Lentz – UFC Fight Night 67
-Joe Proctor chokes out Justin Edwards with quick third round guillotine – UFC Fight Night 68
-Patrick Williams/Efrain Escudero score back to back standing guillotine choke wins – UFC 188
-Felipe Arantes sweep to armbar over Sam Stout – UFC Fight Night 74
-Phil Davis’ kimura over Emmanuel Newton – Bellator Dynamite 1
-Liam McGeary’s inverted triangle over Tito Ortiz – Bellator Dynamite 1
-Raquel Pennington’s last second 2nd round RNC over Jessica Andrade – UFC 191
-Neil Seery’s transitional guillotine choke over Jon Delos Reyes – UFC Fight Night 76
-Thiago Tavares’ first round guillotine choke over Clay Guida – UFC Fight Night 77
-Tamdan McCrory’s triangle choke submission over Josh Samman – UFC on Fox 17
-Charles Oliveira’s jump-guard guillotine over Myles Jury – UFC on Fox 17