With another action-packed year of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie takes a look at the best submissions from January to December 2021.
As voted on by our entire staff, here are the top 10 and winner of MMA Junkie’s Submission of the Year.
Islam Makhachev def. Drew Dober
The grappling advantage of Makhachev was sizable from the early stages of the bout and led to an arm-triangle choke victory Makhachev showed a different level of skill on the mat, and Dober was unable to find an answer before he was in too deep.
Randy Brown def. Alex Oliveira
After a previous matchup was canceled, Randy Brown (14-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) finally got his hands on welterweight veteran Alex Oliveira (22-11-1 MMA, 11-9 UFC) at UFC 261 on April 24, and he made the most of it.
A unique one-armed rear-naked choke closed the show for Brown. When he got the back of his opponent early in the first, he didn’t lock in the choke in traditional fashion. Instead, he wrapped one arm under the throat and showed a ridiculous squeeze to make his opponent give up.
HE ONLY NEEDED ONE ARM 😤 @TouchNgo_
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 25, 2021
Vicente Luque def. Tyron Woodley
Vicente Luque (21-7-1 MMA, 14-3 UFC) added the name of a former UFC champion to his resume for the first time when he submitted ex-welterweight titleholder Tyron Woodley (19-7-1 MMA, 9-6-1 UFC) in the first round of their short but wild fight at UFC 260 on March 27.
Luque scored the win with a D’Arce choke less than four minutes into the first round after Woodley came out of the gates firing. Luque got hurt with a big shot but kept his composure and hurt Woodley right back. They continued to exchange, and when Woodley went for the takedown, he quickly found himself trapped and forced to tap for the first time in his career.
Islam Makhachev def. Dan Hooker
Makhachev (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) stepped up on the biggest stage of his career at UFC 267 on Oct. 27 and proved he’s a legitimate lightweight title threat by beating Dan Hooker (21-11 MMA, 11-7 UFC) with ease for his second Submission of the Year nomination in 2021.
Makhachev extended his winning streak to nine consecutive fights with a first-round submission victory over Hooker. He got the fight to the ground early, isolated Hooker’s arm with a kimura, and wrenched the technique until he elicited the tap from his opponent.
Julianna Peña def. Amanda Nunes
Julianna Pena (11-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC) pulled off one of the great title-fight upsets of all time when she dethroned Amanda Nunes (21-5 MMA, 14-2 UFC) of the women’s bantamweight belt at UFC 269 on Dec. 11.
Pena vowed to do the unthinkable and take Nunes’ belt prior to them stepping in the octagon, and she delivered with a second-round submission courtesy of a rear-naked choke. Peña surprised Nunes with her striking, got a key takedown, and then took the back for the shocking finish.
Brandon Moreno def. Deiveson Figueiredo
There was no draw this time: Brandon Moreno (19-5-2 MMA, 7-2-2 UFC) left zero doubt in claiming the UFC flyweight title from Deiveson Figueiredo (20-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) in their rematch at UFC 263 on June 12.
After no winner was decided in their initial meeting, Moreno made good on his second chance at the belt with a third-round rear-naked choke. He was the first to stop Figueiredo in MMA and became the first Mexico-born titleholder in UFC history.
🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽 VIVA MEXICO 🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽
— UFC (@ufc) June 13, 2021
A.J. McKee def. Patricio Freire
A.J. McKee’s (18-0 MMA, 18-0 BMMA) journey to the top reached its apex when he claimed the Bellator featherweight title from Patricio Freire (32-5 MMA, 20-5 BMMA) in the finals of the promotion’s grand prix at Bellator 263 on July 31.
McKee’s run from inexperienced Bellator debutant to undefeated champion was completed courtesy of a nasty head kick that set up a standing guillotine choke for the finish in less than two minutes. Not only did McKee claim the 145-pound belt with his performance, but he also won the promotion’s 16-man grand prix and received a $1 million prize.
Anthony Hernandez def. Rodolfo Vieira
Anthony Hernandez (8-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) pulled off one of the more unexpected results of the year when he tapped out former Abu Dhabi Combat Club champion Rodolfo Vieira (8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at UFC 258 on Feb. 13.
Hernandez was winning the middleweight bout with Vieira on the feet, landing some big shots to badly hurt his Brazilian foe. Vieira was out of steam and faded badly, opening the door for Hernandez to secure an arm-in guillotine. Vieira tapped out, and viewers were collectively left with their jaws dropped.
After surviving the first round, @Ilovebamf just submitted multiple-time BJJ world champion Rodolfo Viera 🤯
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 14, 2021
Vicente Luque def. Michael Chiesa
Vicente Luque (21-7-1 MMA, 14-3 UFC) showed once again why he’s one of the most dangerous welterweights of all time when he beat Michael Chiesa (17-6 MMA, 11-6 UFC) in the spot where he’s best at UFC 265 on Aug. 7.
After looking like he was on serious trouble in the ground early in the first round, Luque turned the tables on Chiesa. He locked in his signature D’Arce choke – which he has the most finishes with of any fighter in UFC history – and Chiesa was left with no choice but to tap or get put unconscious.
Andre Muniz def. Ronaldo Souza
In the featured preliminary-card bout at middleweight, Muniz (22-4 MMA, 4-0 UFC) submitted Souza (26-10 MMA, 9-7 UFC) via a modified armbar at 3:59 of Round 1. The stoppage came after Souza’s arm audibly snapped.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 16, 2021
The fight was contested on the feet until Muniz shot for a double-leg. Souza briefly held Muniz off, but the younger Brazilian kept his grip on “Jacare.” Muniz worked his way to the back, and as “Jacare” elevated in an attempt to shake his opponent off, Muniz grabbed hold of an arm. As he slid off Souza, Muniz secured a nasty torque on the arm. From there, he squeezed, and the snap occurred.
As Souza stood up, he appeared to be in good spirits, but his arm was dangling. With the cage-side doctor holding it in place, Souza was escorted into the dressing room before the official decision was read. It was the last time he would exit the octagon as a competitor because Souza announced his retirement from MMA in August.