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Top 20 Submission Moves In MMA

By Robert Rousseau,
The major thing that separates MMA from boxing is the ground game. And the most exciting part of the ground game are the moves that end fights, the ones we call submissions.

Along with this, the sport of mixed martial arts has come a long way since Royce Gracie first started causing everyone under the sun to tap; back then, hardly anyone knew what the heck was going on. Nowadays, hardcore MMA fans crave submissions nearly as much as knockouts.

Even so, many newer fans really don't understand how the submissions they see on television work. Therefore, for a rudimentary explanation of twenty submissions you could see on any given day in MMA, read on.


Anaconda Choke (from the gator roll position) - This is a submission that has been gaining in popularity. It tends to begin with a sprawl.

The sprawling person then catches their opponent in a headlock. Next, they dip their other arm below the neck and behind their opponent's arm, eventually locking it up with their other arm (the old "fung gu" sign). Then the performer dips their right shoulder and rolls both combatants over.

In the end, the performer turns toward his opponent and squeezes the back of their head into his or her own body.

The Anaconda choke isn't used very often in MMA. To see it in action, check out Nogueira's victory over Hirotaka Yokoi (on 4/25/04).

Arm Triangle Choke (from the side, often termed a side choke) - From the side of an opponent, the performer uses his or her forearm along with their opponent's own outstretched arm/ shoulder to cut off the air/ blood to an opponent. The performer actually squeezes a forearm into their opponent's neck to accomplish this.

Guillotine Choke (front) - A favorite for jiu-jitsu fighters taking on wrestlers with limited MMA experience as the guillotine choke punishes those who might try a takedown with their head down.

In short, a guillotine choke often happens after a sprawl that ends with an opponent's head in the performer's armpit. The performer then reaches around the opponent's chin without going around their arm and grasps the hand of the first arm with the second. From there they lift up, cutting off their opponent's air.

This move can be applied from a standing position (see Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic versus Kevin Randleman II). However, oftentimes performers choose to fall back into their guard for leverage. It is a popular MMA move.

Neck Crank - This submission can be applied when a person is in a dominant position (mount or side mount). It involves pulling or twisting the head farther than it should go with two arms. Not really a choke, but better suited here than anywhere else.

North-South Choke - The performer must be on top in the north- south position to apply this hold. From there the performer cuts off the flow of blood to the neck with his or her bicep. This hasn't been extremely effective in mixed martial arts, primarily because few mixed martial artists end up in the north - south position and it's a slow working submission.

Thus it gives fighters too much time to get out.

Rear Naked Choke - The performer must have access to their opponent's back to pull this off. From there they curl one arm around the their neck, bicep against one side of the neck, forearm against the other. Then the performer tugs it close and place the hand of the choking arm on the bicep of their other arm as that arm comes up behind the opponent's head and touches their hair. Last, the applier tucks their head, expands their chest, and squeezes.

Oftentimes MMA fighters use their legs as 'hooks' for leverage. To see a great example of this popular MMA move, check out Matt Hughes versus Frank Trigg I.

Triangle Choke - This move was made famous by Royce Gracie in an early MMA bout against Dan Severn. While in the guard, the performer traps an arm and extends their opposite side leg across their opponent's neck so that it lands on the other side of the combatant's body. Then their other leg crosses over that leg to tighten the hold.

In effect, this choke traps an opponent's neck in a triangle utilizing the perfomer's leg and their opponent's own arm.

Arm Locks

Americana - A lateral keylock (see keylock below).

Arm Bar (from guard) - Perhaps the most utilized of all mixed martial arts submission holds. The performer traps an arm with one hand and uses their other hand to hold that opponent close (oftentimes by grabbing the shoulder or neck). Next they open their guard, pivot or crunch in the direction opposite of the arm they've isolated, and climb the leg opposite the trapped arm up their opponent's back. At the same time, they make a small loop around their opponent's neck with their other leg. With both hands on the isolated arm, the performer lifts their hips and pulls the caught arm in while pressing out with their legs.

To see an example of this, one need only look to Fedor Emelianenko's recent victory over Mark Coleman in PRIDE's first American contest.

Armbar (from the mount) - The performer isolates an arm with their own opposite side arm. As they do this, they may choose to put pressure on their opponent's neck with their free arm. Then the performer grabs the isolated arm with both hands, comes up to a squat, and pivots around clockwise (if isolating their opponent's right arm) or counterclockwise (left arm), eventually ending up perpendicular to their opponent.

Finally, the performer's legs pinch the isolated arm and they fall back into an armbar.

Keylock - Generally, one needs side mount to pull this submission off. Once side mount is achieved, the performer grabs their opponent's wrist with their near hand and reaches under that arm with their free hand, grabbing their own forearm. The performer then forces the elbow upwards.

Kimura (from the guard) - The performer grips their opponent's hand, opens their guard, pushes off the hips of their opponent, and sits up. Then with their free hand they reach over and through the arm they've isolated to grab their own wrist. Finally, keeping that arm away from their opponent's body, the performer attempts to touch the back of the trapped hand to their opponent's head.

Omoplata - From the guard, the performer places one leg under the opponent's armpit and turns toward that leg, thereby catching their opponent's arm. By pushing the arm away from the back, terrible pressure is put on the shoulder. Sometimes, depending on the emphasis put on the leg, an elbow can also be harmed.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters love this submission.

Wristlock - A joint lock that affects the wrist. It can be applied in a variety of ways, although it is rarely used in MMA. Still, a wristlock did end a fight for Royce Gracie relatively recently (against Chad Rowan).


Ankle Lock (standard) - Often occurs straight out of an opponent's guard. Once the guard is broken, the fighter on top secures the foot inside an armpit. Then the performer falls back with the leg held by both arms (and trapped within their own two legs). The lock works by using the forearm opposite the one that caught the leg as a fulcrum for leverage, thereby pushing the toes down and placing pressure on the joint where the foot meets the leg (on top) and the Achilles (the back portion of the ankle).

Flying Scissor Heel Hook - See below for a heel hook. As for the flying part, best way to see that is to check out UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva's last real loss to Ryo Chonan. It was one of the most impressive submissions ever!

Heel Hook - The performer places both legs around the leg of an opponent while holding the foot attached to that leg in their armpit. Then the applier twists the ankle while holding the heel with the forearm. The twist is what separates it from a standard ankle lock.

Inside Heel Hoo - The performer holds their opponent's leg in the opposite armpit noted with a standard heel hook. Then they twist the heel laterally.

Knee Bar - Often occurs straight out of an opponent's guard. Once the guard is broken, the fighter on top steps through the guard (turning his or her back to the opponent), and grabs a leg. Then, using leverage, the performer falls back with the leg in both hands and secures it like an arm bar by pulling the toes in (the performer must also wrap their legs around the isolated leg to add leverage).

Toe Hold (figure four) - Appliers simply use their hands (in figure four fashion) to hyperextend the ankle. This move can only be applied when the opponent's leg is controlled.

Though this submission hasn't been terribly effective in mixed martial arts, an example of it can be found in Frank Mir's submission victory over Tank Abbott.

In sum, always remember that to read about something isn't to know it. This article only offers a general summary of the aforementioned. The best way to truly understand the various submissions out there is to find a mixed martial arts establishment and practice them yourself!

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