For the most part, trying to determine the unofficial list of the best submissions of 2012 comes down to individual preferences. Do you like technical wizardry, pulling off a move with a high degree of difficulty, tapping out a highly-regarded foe, or just finishing a fight in dramatic fashion? Well, hopefully we covered all bases here.
10 – Rousimar Palhares-Mike Massenzio – UFC 142
All you really need to know about Rousimar Palhares’ submission game is the look of panic on the face of his opponents when he gets his hands on a leg. Like the old Green Bay Packers’ sweep, you know it’s coming, but it’s executed so well that you can’t stop it. And despite his recent losses to Alan Belcher and Hector Lombard, a look back to his January win at UFC 142 over Mike Massenzio shows that when Palhares catches you, you’re not going anywhere. Add in the fact that Massenzio is a jiu-jitsu black belt, and it makes his submission win via heel hook even more impressive.
9 – Demian Maia-Rick Story – UFC 153
Demian Maia’s return to fight in Brazil for the first time in six years also marked a return to form submission wise, as he nabbed his first tap out victory since 2009 when he finished Rick Story with a neck crank that was not just solid technically, but power wise as well. It was a stark reminder that when a top ground fighter like Maia gets his mitts on you, it can lead to several painful moments before the eventual tap takes place.
8 – Martin Kampmann-Thiago Alves – UFC on FX 2
One of the welterweight division’s longtime stalwarts, Martin Kampmann hasn’t had the best of luck when it came to the judges’ scorecards. In March, “The Hitman” was on his way to another disappointing decision defeat against Thiago Alves when he took matters into his own hands, pouring it on and finally catching the Brazilian bomber in a fight ending guillotine choke that finished the bout with just 48 seconds left in the bout. Now that’s taking it out of the judges’ hands.
7 – Ivan Menjivar-John Albert – UFC on FUEL TV 1
Filled with more back and forth action in 3:45 than most three rounders, Canadian veteran Ivan Menjivar got the last word in his battle with up and comer John Albert when he finished off the fight with a rear naked choke that proved that when you’re dealing with a guy who has been around long enough to have been the first pro opponent of Georges St-Pierre, you’re never safe in the Octagon.
6 – Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira-Dave Herman – UFC 153
On a night when Demian Maia, Sergio Moraes, and Phil Davis secured tap out wins, it was the still dangerous “Minotauro” Nogueira who took home Submission of the Night honors as he finished off Dave Herman via armbar in the second round. That would be satisfying enough, but when you consider that pre-fight talk from Herman declared that jiu-jitsu doesn’t work, it was even sweeter for the Brazilian to show Herman and the world that yeah, it does work, especially in the hands of a master like Nogueira.
5 – TJ Waldburger-Nick Catone – TUF 16 Finale
One of the most underrated up and comers in the sport, soft-spoken Texan TJ Waldburger doesn’t make a lot of noise, but his ground attack speaks loud and clear on fight night. Facing off against powerhouse wrestler Nick Catone at the TUF 16 finale in December, Waldburger was on top of his game as he picked up his second Submission of the Night award, putting Catone to sleep with a triangle choke early in the second round.
4 – Nate Diaz-Jim Miller – UFC on FOX 3
Nate and Nick Diaz have received plenty of attention for their standup games, but at heart, both are devoted jiu-jitsu players. Awarded his black belt from Cesar Gracie in April, Nate spoke of the role of the gentle art in his fight game before his May fight with Jim Miller: “Jiu-Jitsu’s a big part of my game, and it’s a big part of everybody’s game because if you don’t know it, you’re gonna sink in this,” said Diaz. “You’ve got to cover every angle as much as you can, so it’s definitely a big part. I do jiu-jitsu every day and as soon as the fight gets a little closer, I don’t put on my gi as much, but as soon as the fight’s over, I’m usually right back in my gi. I gotta learn the best I can and be the best martial artist I can be.” In the main event of UFC on FOX 3, Diaz proved his worth on the mat by tapping out fellow black belt Miller with a guillotine choke in the second round. Jiu-Jitsu a big part of his game? Oh yeah.
3 – Charles Oliveira-Eric Wisely – UFC on FOX 2
When I spoke to Eric Wisely after his January 2012 loss to Charles Oliveira, he said of the aftermath of the calf slicer submission that finished the bout, “Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember it hurting.” It sure looked like it hurt during the fight though, to the point where you cringed and begged for Wisely to tap out. He eventually did, and in the process, Oliveira pulled off the first calf slicer submission win in UFC history at UFC on FOX in Chicago. Last year it was Chan Sung Jung’s Twister, and now it’s Oliveira’s calf slicer, showing that the sport still holds some surprises.
2 – Matt Wiman-Paul Sass – UFC on FUEL TV 5
A fighter willing and able to compete anywhere a bout may take him, Matt Wiman has pulled off submissions, knockouts, and Fight of the Night decision wins in the Octagon over the years, but perhaps no win was as satisfying as the one he scored in Nottingham, England in September, as he not only pinned the first loss on rising star Paul Sass’ record, but he did it by submitting the submission specialist, finishing the bout via armbar at 3:48 of the first round.
1 – Chan Sung Jung-Dustin Poirier – UFC on FUEL TV 3
In 2011, we were celebrating Chan Sung Jung for his Twister submission win against Leonard Garcia. This year, “The Korean Zombie” didn’t finish off an opponent in historic fashion, but the excitement level was just as high, if not higher, as he and Dustin Poirier waged war for over three rounds in their May bout. But just when it looked like Poirier had turned the tables on the fast-starting Jung, the South Korean roared back, and caught the Louisiana native in a fight ending D’arce choke 1:07 into the fourth round. It was a spectacular ending to a spectacular fight.
Honorable Mention - Struve-Johnson, V.Magalhaes-Pokrajac, G.Nelson-Johnson, Sass-Volkmann, Poirier-Brookins, Jorgensen-Albert, Lauzon-Varner, Menjivar-Gashimov,
2011 - Mir-Nogueira II
2010 - Silva-Sonnen I
2009 - Etim-Buchholz
2008 - Hazelett-Burkman
2007 - Griffin-Rua
2006 - Neer-Guillard
2005 - Hughes-Trigg II