The 2016 UFC calendar year delivered 40 entertaining, action-packed fight cards, and with the 12 months of scraps now in our rear view, I’m going to take a moment to reflect on my top 10 submissions of the year. These are all my opinion, so feel free to voice your own in the comments below. 10) Sara McMann’s excellent second round arm triangle choke of Alexis Davis (TUF 24 Finale, Dec. 3) McMann looked great in this bout and surprised many by submitting Davis, who is a respected Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. The impressive victory put the former Olympic silver medalist on a two fight winning streak inside the Octagon. 9) Miesha Tate’s shocking come-from-behind rear naked choke of Holly Holm (UFC 196, 21, Mar. 5) Tate was down 3-1 headed into the fifth and final round of action and saw her dreams of owning a UFC title slipping away. Knowing she needed a finish, she entered the fifth frame planning to give it her all. She started with a powerful double leg and immediately took Holm’s back, where she sunk in a rear naked choke to put the Jackson-Wink trained fighter to sleep and earn the technical submission victory, becoming the new UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. She went on to lose the title to Amanda Nunes at UFC 200, and then lost to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205. She retired from the sport of mixed martial arts following the second consecutive defeat. 8) Demian Maia’s first round rear naked choke of Carlos Condit (UFC on FOX 21, Aug. 27) Maia made short work of Condit, taking him down at the start of the first round, where it was only a matter of time until he sunk in a rear naked choke to get the tap from the former UFC interim welterweight champion and get his hand raised. The win put Maia at six in a row at 170-pounds and he currently waits for his shot at the gold. 7) Zak Cumming’s brutal straight-armbar of Alexander Yakovlev (UFC Fight Night 99, Nov. 19) Truly brutal. Yakovlev is not an easy man to submit, and Cummings caught him in a straight-armbar in the second round of action that was so painful that the Russian had no choice but to tap. A hair short of breaking Yakovlev’s arm, Cummings scored the impressive victory and returned to the win column following a unanimous decision loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio earlier in the year. 6) Stefan Struve’s D’Arce choke of Daniel Omielanczuk (UFC 204, Oct. 8) Struve’s superior grappling made the difference in this heavyweight contest, as he dominated the fight on the mat until securing a D’Arche choke in the second round, forcing a tap from the Polish heavyweight and becoming the first fighter to defeat him inside the distance. The submission marked the second ever D’Arce choke submission in UFC heavyweight history. The first was Brendan Schaub’s against Matt Mitrione at UFC 165. 5) Michael McDonald’s come-from-behind rear naked choke submission of Masanori Kanehara (UFC 195, Jan. 2) Kanehara was a massive underdog heading into this contest and he dominated every second of the fight until making a costly mistake in the second round. The Japanese fighter had McDonald secured in an arm triangle choke on the mat, but the Californian managed to survive and fight out of it. He quickly got to his feet and capitalized on Kanehara having a mental slip up for half a second by locking in one of the fastest rear naked chokes I have ever seen. The squeeze was tight and it did not take long for Kanehara to tap, giving McDonald the victory in his long awaited return to the Octagon. 4) Nate Diaz’s come-from-behind rear naked choke upset of Conor McGregor (UFC 196, Mar. 5) It fight was all Conor McGregor in the first round and in the early going of the second, but the tides quickly began to turn as the young Irishman’s gas tank started to run low and Diaz started connecting with some good punches. Diaz hurt McGregor on the feet, and in fear of being knocked out, McGregor made a poor takedown attempt. Diaz defended, got on top of McGregor on the mat and let loose with some ground and pound, forcing McGregor to turn over and give up his neck. Diaz punched McGregor’s face right into his arm, and then he squeezed to earn the tap and second round submission victory in what will go down as one of the most memorable fights in UFC history. The two went on to have another classic later in the year at UFC 202. It was a closely contested bout which McGregor won by unanimous decision. Now 1-1, there’s potential of a rubbermatch this year. 3) Anthony Pettis’ guillotine choke of Charles Oliveira (UFC on FOX 21, Aug. 27) “Showtime” hurt Oliveira with a vicious body kick in the opening frame but failed to put him away with the following ground and pound. “Do Bronx” survived and came back to dominate Pettis in the second round. The tides seemed to be turning, and Pettis looked to be running out of gas, but he gave it his all heading into the third and final round of action, locking in a tight guillotine choke in the early going of the round to get the tap from respected Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Oliveira. This was Pettis first and only victory in the UFC’s featherweight division, as he missed weight for his next bout at 145-pounds, ended up losing via third round TKO against Max Holloway, and then announced his plans to move back up to the lightweight division, where he once held UFC gold. 2) Ricardo Lamas’ guillotine choke of Charles Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 98, April 23) Following his loss to Pettis, Oliveira took on Lamas and dominated the first round, but ended up getting caught in a beautiful guillotine choke by “The Bully” in the early going of the second. “Do Bronx” had no choice but to tap, suffering his second consecutive defeat inside the Octagon. Both came via guillotine choke in fights he was winning. It was an incredible come from behind victory by Lamas, who dedicated the win to his mother, who is battling cancer, and his MMA Masters team-mate Josh Samman, who passed away several weeks earlier during Lamas’ training camp for the bout. 1) Ben Rothwell’s go-go choke of Josh Barnett (UFC on FOX 18, Jan. 30) It was all the way back in January but this remains my favorite submission of the year. Barnett is not an easy fighter to submit, so it was a big deal to get him to tap, especially in such impressive fashion with a submission we have only seen from Rothwell inside the Octagon. It is a modified front choke his coach calls a ‘go-go choke’ and he has now defeated two opponents with it, the first being Matt Mitrione. Heavyweight submissions are generally impressive, but this one really stood out. I think this was the most memorable submission of the year, and it is my top pick.
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