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10 Best – Top UFC submissions of 2015

The submission. It’s not only a way to attack in the Octagon, it can also be the great savior, the combat sports version of a two-out, bottom of the ninth home run. When done perfectly, it’s a thing of beauty.

As we continue the highly unofficial awards season, here are 10 submissions from 2015 that capture just what the ground game is about in the UFC.

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10 – Aljamain Sterling-Takeya Mizugaki
As one of the toughest and craftiest veterans in the sport, Takeya Mizugaki is not a fighter who goes away quietly. Rising bantamweight star Aljamain Sterling, in the biggest fight of his career in April, dominated the Japanese contender throughout their bout. And though the New Yorker could have taken his foot off the gas and cruised to a decision win, he kept pressing for the finish and in a scramble, he locked in an arm triangle choke from his back and ended the fight in the third round.

9 – Gunnar Nelson-Brandon Thatch
The best part of this submission finish by Gunnar Nelson may have been what set it up, as the jiu-jitsu black belt from Iceland decided to stand with striking specialist Thatch and it actually worked, with “Gunni” dropping Thatch with a left-right, stunning the crowd in Vegas for UFC 189. From there, it was Nelson’s world, and once he took Thatch’s back, a rear naked choke ended matters at the 2:54 mark.
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8 – Keita Nakamura-Li Jingliang
By the third round of a bruising return to the Octagon, Japan’s Keita Nakamura looked to be slowing down under the steady pounding issued by China’s Li Jingliang. A telegraphed takedown that Li sprawled out of was just the latest way to add insult to injury for Nakamura. But as Li sprawled, Nakamura suddenly sprung into action and took his opponent’s back. Li stood, but Nakamura wasn’t going anywhere, and as he sunk in a rear naked choke, the Chinese prospect hit the deck face first, Nakamura getting the victory.
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7 – Joe Duffy- Ivan Jorge
As former pro boxer Joe Duffy began to get his striking rhythm in the first round of his July bout against Ivan Jorge, the Brazilian decided he was going to test the Irishman’s ground game. That didn’t work, as a takedown attempt went awry, putting Duffy on his back, but Jorge in the triangle choke that ended the bout and gave “Irish Joe” Performance of the Night honors.

6 - Alex Chambers-Kailin Curran
Australia’s Alex Chambers was having a rough night against Kailin Curran at UFC Fight Night in Adelaide, Australia in May. For two rounds, Hawaii’s Curran dominated the action, and while most fighters know that they’ll have to pull out all the stops to win in the third round, few do so the way Chambers did, as she was able to turn the tide on the mat in the final frame, catching Curran in an armbar that ended the bout with 1:45 left.

5 – Tony Ferguson-Edson Barboza
Like the top entry on the list, Tony Ferguson’s D’Arce choke finish of Edson Barboza earlier this month celebrates the art of staying cool in the midst of chaos and having the wherewithal to not only survive, but lock in your favorite submission to win. Fighting Barboza is never an easy thing, and when the Brazilian is in a rhythm and throwing bombs, the last thing anyone should be thinking about is getting close enough to get a submission. But when Barboza switched things up and looked for a takedown in the second round, Ferguson pounced, sunk in the choke, game over.

4 - Thales Leites-Tim Boetsch
As good as Jiu-Jitsu black belt Thales Leites is on the ground, it was almost shocking to know that the last time he submitted anyone in an MMA fight was in 2012. That all changed at UFC 183 in January, when he engaged in a spit and blood flying brawl with Tim Boetsch. Rightfully earning Fight of the Night honors, the two middleweight standouts traded bombs on the feet, but Boetsch had a little more firepower, bloodying his foe’s face and rocking him on occasion. Leites’ response was to go to Plan B, and it was his jiu-jitsu game that ended the bout via arm triangle choke, putting another bonus in his pocket – this one for Performance of the Night.
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3 - Gilbert Burns-Alex Oliveira
Gilbert Burns is one of the hottest prospects in MMA today. Alex Oliveira, though getting positive notices now, was an unknown late replacement when he stepped in for veteran Josh Thomson for a March bout in Brazil. But for two rounds, it was the newcomer putting it on Burns, who looked listless throughout. Burns gets the hype he does for a reason though, and with his unbeaten record on the line, he turned up the heat in round three and showed off his world-class ground game, throwing submission after submission at Oliveira until the gutsy debutant tapped out to an armbar with less than a minute to go in the fight.
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2 - Godofredo Pepey-Andre Fili
After some rough moments early in his UFC career, Brazil’s Godofredo Pepey has found a nice rhythm in the Octagon, winning three straight. The most recent victory came in Rio de Janeiro in March, and anytime the word “flying” is latched to a submission, it’s going to find a home on lists like this. So when Pepey jumped up and caught Andre Fili in a triangle choke in the first round, a) Fili had no choice but to tap, and b) Pepey found his way to number two on this list.
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1 - Ronda Rousey-Cat Zingano
Despite some knockouts mixed in over the last couple years, Ronda Rousey is still the submission queen of women’s MMA, and she struck again when she faced Cat Zingano in Los Angeles in February. And the scary thing about Rousey’s 14-second finish of the number one contender was that the transition she used to get the armbar that ended the bout was something she had never even used before. In other words, the former women’s bantamweight boss is so good that she can make things happen on the fly in the midst of chaos. That’s fighting genius right there.
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HONORABLE MENTION – Werdum-Velasquez, Oliveira-Lentz, Ellenberger-Koscheck, Johnson-Horiguchi, Henderson-Thatch

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