The UFC boasts a bevy of fighters, each under intense pressure to perform on a consistent basis unless they want to stare down the barrel of relegation. Oh, you’re on a three-fight losing streak? Sorry, guy, enjoy the lesser fighting leagues. It’s a tough gig being a caged fighter, and winning bouts in boring fashion often isn’t enough to warrant headlining main events and raking in copious amounts of cash. This is entertainment, and the UFC expects its fighters to put on a show for the fans. That’s not to say observers should boo technical bouts–a common complaint casual fans seem to have–but there’s a level of explosiveness the league expects. It’s why fighters like Jon Jones, Connor McGregor, Ronda Rousey and others are such easy sells. They put butts in the seats with big personalities and explosive skill-sets.
Sometimes those skill-sets are one-dimensional, sometimes well-rounded. Submission specialists, for example, can lock in a signature move at any moment or will look to take the fight to the ground. Rousey has snapped through her fair share of bone and cartilage in this manner. Many of the fighters on this list, in fact, have made careers by forcing their opponents to tap out in spectacular fashion.
In celebration of submissions that make you wince in disgust at your television screen, or even watch in disbelief at a last ditch effort to win a fight, the following list will detail 10 submissions in the UFC that shocked fans and fighters alike.
10. Matt Hughes vs. Georges St-Pierre – UFC 50
This submission win for Matt Hughes had to be on the list simply for its shock value. Yes, one of the best fighters in UFC history in Georges St-Pierre was taken out via submission. Hughes dictated the battle on the ground and unleashed an onslaught on St-Pierre, who was scrambling in recovery mode. Hughes then reversed a submission attempt from his opponent and locked an arm bar to secure victory. It marked St-Pierre’s first defeat in the UFC, with GSP only losing one more time during his incredible career. With 18 submission finishes, accounting for 40 percent of his victories, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hughes was the only fighter to ever submit GSP.
9. Murilo Bustamante vs. Matt Lindland – UFC 37
Murilo Bustamante really put his stamp on this fight, adhering to the most important rule laid down in the film Zombieland, the “double tap.” The Brazilian jiu-jitsu veteran first locked in a submission on Matt Lindland and while it appeared he tapped out, causing the referee to stop the action, he protested the call before it was decided to restart the bout. It was nothing but a minor inconvenience for Bustamante, who finished the fight with a guillotine choke in the third round. If Lindland had a case for appealing the first submission finish, the second was an unequivocal finish.
8. Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche – UFC 157
You could almost dedicate an entire list to Ronda Rousey arm bar victims. She’s that deadly. And intimidating. And, well, badass. She’s the Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre of the women’s division, to put it in simple terms. Liz Carmouche experienced her patented arm bar late in the first round, but not before coming uncomfortably close to submitting the undefeated fighter herself. She had Rousey’s back and appeared to be seconds away from choking her out, even cracking a slight smile in the process, but Ronda managed to escape. The rest is history. These days it seems like a victory even coming close to defeating Rousey.
7. Chang Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia – UFC Fight Night 24
“The Korean Zombie,” or Chang Sung Jung, pulled off a remarkable feat against Leonard Garcia during a Fight Night in 2011. First, a little backstory: Eddie Bravo is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who had coached fighters in the past and is the inventor of the submission aptly named “the twister.” With time running out on the clock, Jung took drastic measure when he successfully secured the twister, twisting Garcia’s body like a pretzel by trapping his legs and arm and applying backward force on his head. It was the first time an opponent was finished by the submission in UFC history.
6. Forrest Griffin vs. Shogun Rua – UFC 76
When two-year veteran Forrest Griffin asked to take on Shogun Rua in his UFC debut, many thought the Ultimate Fighter took one too many to the noggin’. Rua, after all, was coming off a stint with PRIDE in which he was a Grand Prix champion and had taken down many notable fighters. That didn’t deter Griffin, however, who remained headstrong in the build-up to the fight. When he and Rua met in the octagon, they nearly went the distance in a close bout before Griffin pulled one final attack from his arsenal. With 15 seconds remaining, Griffin locked in a rear naked choke to earn the victory in front of a stunned crowd.
5. Frank Mir vs. Tim Sylvia – UFC 48
This one hurt. It also taught us to trust in veteran referee Herb Dean’s hawk eyes. When Frank Mir took the fight to the canvas he snatched Tim Sylvia’s arm and turned him in an awkward position. Dean stepped in immediately and put a stop to the fight, prompting the packed house in Las Vegas to boo the decision emphatically. Upon viewing the replay, however, the crowd’s jeers turned into a sickened gasp as it revealed that Mir snapped Sylvia’s forearm like a glow stick. The arm bar submission earned Mir the UFC heavyweight title and a pretty disgusting replay, too.
4. Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg – UFC 45
Chalk this one up to karma. Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg entered the octagon head-to-head for the second time, fueling a heated rivalry that would provide one of the UFC’s best highlights. It all started when Trigg hit Hughes with an illegal blow below the belt that went unnoticed by the referee. With his opponent in discomfort, Trigg tried to take advantage and took it to Hughes. In a last ditch effort, Hughes countered Trigg’s onslaught by picking him up off the mat, carrying him across the octagon and slamming him down. He finished off the comeback with a rear naked choke when Trigg gave up his back.
3. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen – UFC 117
This rivalry grew to be so heated it actually threw Anderson Silva off his mental game as he lost his composure over Chael Sonnen‘s chirps. It all started with the initial match at UFC 117, where Sonnen took it to Silva and convincingly manhandled him for over four rounds, using his wrestling to control the fight and bring “The Spider” to the ground. In the fifth and final round, Silva would mount an incredible comeback. As Sonnen brought the fight to the ground yet again, he mounted Silva and was mere minutes away from winning the title. That is, until Silva caught Sonnen with a triangle-armbar and had the contender grimacing in intense pain.
2. Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida – UFC 140
What makes Jon Jones the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC is his versatile and explosive style. Lyoto Machida had a first hand experience of this when he stepped in the octagon with Jones at UFC 140. With both fighters standing, Jones locked a guillotine choke on Machida, who desperately tried to escape his grasp. Once the camera shifted to an alternate angle it revealed an inert Machida with his arm dangling as Jones maintained the choke. Once he realized his opponent was out cold, he released the standing guillotine choke and walked away as Machida crumpled to the floor unconscious.
1. Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – UFC 140
When Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira initially faced each other inside the octagon, Mir made short work of the heavyweight with a second round finish. In 2011, the two took part in a rematch, which saw the two clash in an entertaining but brief bout. Nogueira held the lead for the bulk of the first round before the fight hit the mat. Mir then displayed his deadly submission prowess as he locked in his signature kimura. Nogueira scrambled wildly, rolling around to escape the submission, but Mir stayed with him and applied pressure. Nogueira refused to tap until Mir put the finishing touch by breaking his arm, forcing him to undergo emergency surgery the following day.