The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brings together a range of fighting styles for the entertainment of millions of fans across the world. But what some fans do not realize is how much of the sport is based on groundwork rather than straight-up standing fighting.
A Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) bout in the UFC is usually ended by a knockout or a submission. A KO is pretty self-explanatory, but a submission requires a bit more investigation.
A submission is the application of a painful grapple move that will force an opponent to quit.
In MMA this is based on Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a style famous for its reliance on groundwork and painful holds.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is a skilled practitioner of groundwork and is always among the favorites in the UFC betting. A key part of Nurmagomedov’s fighting style is the ability to take opponents down to the ground and force a submission.
He mixes this with a wrestling style, but it is his submissions that help to make him one of the most successful UFC fighters ever. Over a third of his career wins have come from submissions.
Key moment: Nurmagomedov’s finesse at overpowering opponents on the ground was showcased with his win via submission against Conor McGregor in 2018. The winning move was a powerfully delivered rear naked choke hold, a painful grapple hold applied from behind Macgregor’s back.
The skilled Brazilian lightweight fighter Charles Oliveira impresses with his mastery of the finish. Adding to his overall fast and nimble athleticism, the knowledge of when and where to use a hold is impressive.
Oliveira is renowned in the UFC for having the most submissions in the history of the sport. Currently numbered at 14, the fighter is feared for his prowess at bringing the most painful holds to force a submission.
Key moment: In 2020, Olivera secured a UFC win against Kevin Lee with a guillotine choke hold in the third round. Despite Lee protesting that he never submitted, video footage shows that he tapped out after 28 seconds of the hold.
Coleman had a famous grappling wresting style that provided plenty of opportunity for expert holds. As well as a devastating power that suits an old-fashioned punch-out, Coleman is also a specialist on the groundwork.
Key moment: Coleman deployed a neck crank submission move to defeat Dan Severn at UFC 12. The victory in 1997 made him the UFC’s first heavyweight champion.
No list of submission fighters would be complete without a mention the Gracie family. The fighters in the family are devoted to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Royce Gracie was the winner of the very first UFC tournament.
Royce and other members of the family have enjoyed successful fighting careers in part thanks to the powerful use of jiu-jitsu holds.
Key moment: Royce Gracie forces a submission from Gerard Gordeau with a rear naked choke.
The name of Anderson Silva is more than familiar with UFC fans for showing how matches can turn in a moment. The former UFC middleweight champion is a master across all forms of fighting.
The fighter nicknamed ‘the spider’, employed a range of fighting styles in his career. Muay Thai, taekwondo and boxing were all part of the Silva portfolio.
He is also well known for an ability to apply the most devastating holds to win a bout via submission.
Key moment: After taking a beating for much of the match against Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 in 2010, Silva managed to snatch victory with a triangle arm bar. The intensely painful move forced Sonnen to tap out and allowed reigning champion Silva to hold onto his title.
Frank Mir is a heavyweight fighter feared for his skill at putting the pressure on in a variety of ways. An expert in the submission finish, the fighter has a record of nine out of sixteen wins by submission.
Those submissions came from using a wide variety of different holds, that show off what a versatile fighter he is.
Key moment: Mir used the devastating Brazilian Kimura double joint armlock move on Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera. The notorious result was a broken arm for Noguiera, who could have tapped out earlier to save himself a lot of discomfort.
Johnson is highly regarded by many experts as one of the best UFC fighters of all time. His fight against Ray Borg in UFC 216 was a fine example of how well the so-called ‘Mighty Mouse’ can deliver a devastating finish.
Key moment: Johnson lifted Borg from a back hold and then applied a strong armbar lock while off the ground. Borg was left with no alternative but to tap out as soon as the returned to the mat.
A strong reason why UFC is so popular is the fact that a match can completely change in a few seconds. The submission hold is a key part of that. As we have seen, a fighter could be completely out of the picture, and then deliver a painful hold to win back the match.
It is also testament to how well different fighting styles complement each other in the UFC, with boxing, wrestling, Jiu jitsu and many others sharing space in the fighting arena.
Any fighter looking for success in the UFC will always pay submission moves the respect they deserve.
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Last modified: April 9, 2021