(Image: UFC / Zuffa LLC)
Since the inception of the UFC in 1993, the art of grappling has played a pivotal role in a martial artist’s arsenal. Before Royce Gracie’s victory in the first open tournament, the Gracie art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu had been a game changer.
The founder, Hélio Gracie, developed the style from Judo, a Japanese grappling style that was a modernised version of Jiu-Jitsu as utilized by the Samurai on the battlefield.
With other grappling arts to follow, including Judo and wrestling, the sport of MMA has a great deal of creative and vigorous showstoppers in the art of submission holds from pioneers like Royce Gracie, Frank Mir, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fedor Emilianenko.
If you think knockout punches and kicks are the only history-making highlights around, the sport of MMA has demonstrated far more variety than that in the biggest game-changing moments, time and time again over the last thirty years.
In 1999 Kazushi Sakuraba’s kimura lock slayed Royler during his Gracie hunts; In 2002 Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira’s armbar conquered “The Beast”, Bob Sapp; In 2010 Febricio Werdum’s shocking triangle choke ended Fedor Emilianenko’s 9-year winning streak – and that’s just covering three decades.
In the first half of 2022, we have seen some gripping submissions resulting from enthralling battles, making for some major career pushes and setting new records.
With all that said, let’s lock onto the Top 5 UFC Submission Finishes of 2022 so far…! (in descending order)
5. Kevin Holland vs. Tim Means – UFC on ESPN 37 (June 18)
2021 was a problematic point in Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland’s career, so after returning to welterweight at UFC 272 where he earned a TKO Performance of the Night win, he looked to continue his surge over UFC veteran, Tim Means.
Tim “The Dirty Bird” Means was coming off three straight wins in the last two years and was looking to extend his streak by halting Holland’s comeback.
Despite Holland’s 81” reach advantage over Means, “The Dirty Bird” managed to break the gap, scoring a few headshots in the first minute of round 1.
Means was also able to score a few takedowns, but once Holland got back to his feet, the “Trailblazer” brought the aggression through hefty combinations.
Throughout the remainder of round 2, Holland looked a lot more impressive, showcasing a deadly combination of lightning speed and awesome precision, allowing him to overwhelm Means.
“The Dirty Bird” tried to wrestle his way out, only to be caught in a D’arce choke. At 1:28 into round 2, “Trailblazer” not only earned his second ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus in a row, but also his first submission win in four years!
4. Tom Aspinall vs. Alexander Volkov – UFC Fight Night 204 (Mar. 19)
This PPV marked Aspinall’s first main event, but the no.6-ranked heavyweight, Alexander “Drago” Volkov, was standing in his way to greatness.
Connecting with a swift combination, Aspinall quickly established his superior speed in round 1. The British heavyweight was able to close the distance by changing his stance and taking Volkov down.
On the ground, Aspinall’s dominance was obvious, by bringing down the ground-and-pound, and attempting a kimura for the win.
With “Drago” backed against the cage, Aspinall kept up the pressure, scoring decisively in the striking department.
In an impressive feat that is rarely seen among heavyweights, Aspinall evaded Volkov’s head kick and a right cross, countering with a takedown.
At 3:45 into round 1, the 28 year-old ended the contest and the night via a straight armbar.
With this ‘Performance of the Night’ victory, Aspinall made the leap from no.11 to no.6 in the heavyweight rankings – securing his place among the big boys.
3. Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje – UFC 274 (May 7)
In the main event at UFC 274, Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira was originally set to defend the lightweight title against Justin Gaethje, but ended up being stripped of the belt due to missing weight. So, the title was still up for grabs, but Gaethje was the only one eligible to win the championship.
Beginning the first round, Oliveira absorbed Gaethje’s signature leg kick before connecting with a right hand to the head. It would be Gaethje’s uppercut, however, that would knock the former champion on his back.
On each of the three occasions that Oliveira was on his back, Gaethje waited for the former champion to return to his feet, well aware of “do Bronx’s” grappling prowess.
Despite scoring highly in the stand up and cutting Oliveira’s forehead, Gaethje was unable to capitalize on his approach. This gave the former champion a chance to withstand the American’s destructive blows, and knock him down in a shocking turn of events. He immediately caught Gaethje on his back, locking in the rear naked choke for a first round victory at 3:22.
2. Jéssica Andrade vs. Amanda Lemos – UFC Fight Night 205 (April 23)
After losing a chance at the Women’s Flyweight title, Jéssica “Bate Estaca” Andrade returned to Strawweight to face fellow Brazilian, Amanda Lemos, who was coming off five consecutive wins in the three years of her UFC career.
This was a match that both powerhouses needed to triumph over as a major push in their careers.
In round 1, Andrade and Lemos spent the first minutes trying to break the gap, each exchanging leg kicks. Andrade, however, demonstrated vast improvements to her game showcasing head movement and patience.
Despite this leap in progress, Lemos managed to land a right hand to the jaw of her opponent and a leg kick that stunned Andrade momentarily.
Lemos’ downfall would be her inability to capitalize on Andrade’s weakened state, and eventually, Andrade broke the gap to lock in an arm triangle choke. It wasn’t just any arm triangle choke though, as Andrade held on to the choke with both warriors on their feet whilst Lemo’s back was against the cage.
The referee stepped in after Lemos passed out during the struggle, and at 3:13 in round 1, “Bate Estaca” not only fought her back to the no.4 position in the strawweight division, but also became the first fighter in the UFC to win via a standing arm triangle choke – another stepping stone in her illustrious career!
1. Jiří Procházka vs. Glover Teixeira – UFC 275 (June 12)
At forty two years of age, Glover Teixeira had finally reached the peak of his career, becoming the second-oldest UFC Light-Heavyweight champion in history.
It would remain to be seen if the Brazilian champion could pull off another surprise victory against the twenty nine year-old Czech contender, Jiří “Denisa” Procházka.
From the start of round 1, Procházka made his 80” reach advantage known, yet Teixeira broke the gap, catching the challenger by the leg and taking him down.
Even with Procházka’s back exposed, the champion struggled to secure a rear-naked choke.
With both light heavyweights back on their feet, Teixeira was able to engage the Muay Thai specialist in the stand-up department, and even caught the leg yet again, straight into full mount to lay down the bombshells, but after a failed attempt at a submission, “Denisa” escaped and connected with some major ground-and-pound before round 1 ended.
Procházka became a lot more active in the stand up in round 2, but Teixeira’s chin absorbed many of the hard punches, eventually connecting a counter right hand, and knocking the challenger down.
While transitioning from back mount to full mount, the champion sought another choke hold, and punished Procházka with some ground-and-pound of his own. Round 2 ended with both warriors busted open.
Round 3 saw Procházka being more cautious towards the BJJ black belt, refusing to meet on the ground, yet it would be the champion to meet the challenger on the ground after taking him down again.
Yet, once back on his feet, “Denisa” proved to be a deadly adversary by targeting the body with punches and knees.
Despite getting tagged again in round 4, Teixeira showed tremendous resourcefulness with head movement and body shots as he moved in, scoring another takedown.
Both fighters ended the round with Procházka reversing a submission hold with ground-and-pound, while Teixeira regained the back mount.
In round 5, the challenger started to look winded, as Teixeira managed to tag him with significant blows during stand up.
Once on the ground, both warriors took part in one of the craziest back-and-forth battles on the ground, but it would be “Denisa” who got the job done with a rear naked choke, at 4:32 into round 5.
With this dramatic conclusion to a title fight, Procházka beat the BJJ black belt at his own game to become the Czech Republic’s first UFC world champion!