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Submissions in the UFC: A Fond Look Back

Chan Sung Jung stepped into the cage at UFC Fight Night 24 this past weekend and tied opponent Leonard Garcia into knots, eventually tapping him with a move jiu-jitsu sage Eddie Bravo had dubbed the “Twister”.  It was the first time in the history of the organization that such a move had been used – and irrefutable proof that, even after 173 UFC events, these crazy kids are still coming up with cool ways to end fights.  So what, besides his sweet $55,000 “submission of the night” bonus, does the “Korean Zombie” get for making his mark on the UFC’s seventeen-year history?  He gets to join the ranks of the other grappling pioneers, a cadre of esteemed warriors brave enough to dream and bold enough to try when simply punching a foe unconscious would not do.  Jung, and his Twister, are now members of the “First Submission Club”.  Who else belongs in that sacred and revered group?

Scott Morris, Guillotine Choke, UFC 2 – You’d think a move as universal and common as a guillotine choke would’ve first been employed by a master jiu-jitsu technician.  But no, a real-life, honest-to-God ninja gets that honor.  At UFC 2, Scott Morris took out Sean Daugherty with a move that would be repeated for generations to come.  Then Morris was promptly bludgeoned into oblivion by kickboxer Pat Smith.

Royce Gracie, Armbar, UFC 2 – Amazingly, the legendary Royce Gracie went through the entire UFC 1 tournament without snapping anyone’s arm with an armbar.  But the young and feisty Brazilian could resist no longer by the time the second tournament rolled around, and so it was that one-time Gracie student Jason DeLucia – ensnared like a like a fly in a spider’s web – had his arm snapped.  Ouch.

Ken Shamrock, Heelhook, UFC 1 – He was muscle-bound and intense, but Ken Shamrock was still a comparative wealth of submission knowledge back in the day (emphasis on “comparative”, as no one knew what the words “guard” or “mount” even meant at the time).  Thus, when Shamrock took Smith down, isolated the kickboxer’s leg and twisted, it was as if we were witness to the ultimate in appendage destruction.  Nowadays, it’s just a run-of-the-mill heelhook.  It’s still pretty cool, though.

Jason DeLucia, Rear Naked Choke, UFC 1 – Gracie may have failed to secure the first rear naked choke in the Octagon, but he does get some credit, as it was his student DeLucia who was the first to apply it.  DeLucia slapped it on against Trent Jenkins in an alternate bout to elicit a tap, and the worlds of MMA and backyard wrestling haven’t been the same since.

Royce Gracie, Triangle Choke, UFC 4 – Sure, we see it all the time now, but in 1994, when Gracie was under the massive wrestler Dan Severn and getting pounded on, we thought the Brazilian was doomed.  He wasn’t.  Who knew you could choke someone out with just your legs?  Gracie, apparently.

Matt Serra, Omoplata, UFC 31 – The jiu-jitsu technique known as the “omoplata”, which a type of shoulder lock done with the legs, has never actually been used to tap someone out in the Octagon (according to Joe Silva – yes, I asked him).  However, it is a common submission in grappling, and the first UFC fighter to go for it was black belt Matt Serra.  The time: UFC 31.  The opponent: Shone Carter.  The outcome: Carter escaped, and went on to knock Serra out with a spinning backfist.  Oh well.  Years later, Serra would eventually TKO Georges St. Pierre to become champ, so it all evened out in the end.

Ivan Salaverry, Body Triangle, UFC 50 – Hey, did you know that when you take someone’s back, triangle your legs around their body and squeeze really hard, you can sometimes tap them out?  Tony Fryklund knows, thanks to Ivan Salaverry putting a hurting on him at UFC 50.

Nick Pace, the “Pace” Choke, TUF 12 Finale – Call it an “armless triangle”, call it a “one-legged gogoplata”, or just call it “What the hell, man?”  But Nick Pace pulled this unprecedented, funky move off on Will Campuzano at the TUF 12 Finale, and odds are Campuzano still isn’t sure what made him tap.  But hey, that’s what happens in a combat sport full of submissions.  You never know when the next evolution of grappling technique is going to shock and surprise you.

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