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rear naked choke mma history

Top 15 rear-naked-choke artists in MMA history

Over the course of MMA history, there have been fighters that became experts at a singular move during their fights, becoming a kryptonite for many of their opponents, such as specific submissions, that left hand (straight left of Conor McGregor), left hooks (Alex Pereira & Paul Daley), leg kicks (Edson Barboza, Melvin Manhoef, Jose Aldo, Justin Gaethje), and many more.

In this list, we’ll mention the top 15 mixed martial arts fighters in the world, from past and present, that made the rear-naked-choke their signature move.

Continue reading to see the top 15 rear-naked-choke artists in MMA history:

15. Alexandre Pantoja (25-5)

  • 10 submission wins (7 rear naked choke, 1 neck crank, 1 triangle choke, 1 armbar)
  • 2-1 on The Ultimate Fighter (1 rear naked choke submission win)
  • Never submitted in MMA competition (never finished)
  • BJJ black belt
  • 28% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 70% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Former RFA flyweight champion, and former AXS TV flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja is perhaps one of the best fighters in the sport right now to not hold a belt.

Coming to the UFC in January of 2017 with a record of 16-2, he’s since gone 9-3, and he currently rides a three-fight win streak, all three wins coming over former champions in other organizations.

As you see, of his 10 submission wins, seven come via rear naked choke, eight if you count the neck crank in his most recent victory.

Pantoja’s most notable rear naked choke finishes come over the likes of former UFC flyweight champion and current interim champion Brandon Moreno, someone he’s 2-0 against, Ulka Sasaki, fellow BJJ black belt Brandon Royval, and former title challenger Alex Perez.

The current no. 2 ranked Brazilian contender is the only man to ever finish Brandon Moreno, and he’s the only man to ever submit Brandon Royval.

14. Brian Caraway (22-9)

  • 16 submission wins (11 rear naked chokes, 3 triangle chokes, 1 armbar, 1 guillotine choke)
  • 2-1 on The Ultimate Fighter (1 rear naked choke submission win)
  • Submitted two times in MMA competition
  • BJJ purple belt
  • 50% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 69% of submission wins via rear naked choke

NCAA Division II wrestling talent Bryan Caraway has got to be one of the best fighters this sport has seen when it comes to taking the back.

At his best, he was 4-1 inside the octagon with all four wins coming via submission (three rear naked chokes, one guillotine choke), his only defeat coming to longtime top contender Takeya Mizugaki via split decision.

Following this five-fight span, Caraway would lose to another longtime top contender in Raphael Assuncao via unanimous decision, before defeating former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland and current UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling.

Caraway was the first man to ever defeat Sterling. He’d next lose a very controversial split decision to Cody Stamann, someone he would have submitted more than once had those rounds had ten more seconds, before being stopped (TKO) by Pedro Munhoz in his final UFC bout.

Caraway was submitted just twice throughout his 31-fight career, both defeats coming via armbar.

13. Jesse Taylor (33-16)

  • 18 submission wins (14 rear naked chokes, 4 guillotine chokes)
  • 7-0 on The Ultimate Fighter with four submissions (3 rear naked chokes, 1 guillotine choke)
  • Submitted 15 times in MMA competition
  • BJJ black belt
  • 42% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 78% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Jesse Taylor is an interesting mention to put on this list; though he only ever had two fights in the UFC, going 1-1, he has more rear naked choke submission victories than anyone else on this list.

But he’s lost more fights than anyone on this list, and he’s also been submitted more than anyone else on this list, by a long shot.

Only one defeat of his career did not come via submission, where he was defeated by Jay Hieron via unanimous decision under the Strikeforce banner back in 2009.

Taylor went 4-0 on The Ultimate Fighter 7, two wins coming via rear naked choke, and he went 3-0 on The Ultimate Fighter 25 with two submissions (one rear naked choke, one guillotine choke) en route to winning the season via rear naked choke over Dhiego Lima.

His guillotine choke win on the show came over fellow BJJ black belt James Krause, which is a very impressive name to add to his resume. With his TUF record, Taylor is 40-16 in MMA overall.

It just makes you wonder, with a submission game this good, how has he been submitted so many times?

Most of those losses, much like Chael Sonnen, came in fights he was dominating in top position, until he got caught.

The only rear naked choke defeat of his career came to former Strikeforce and UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. His other submission defeats include four guillotine chokes, two triangle chokes, four armbars, one D’Arce choke, one heel hook, one kneebar, and one Peruvian necktie.

12. Mickey Gall (7-5)

  • 6 submission wins (6 rear naked chokes)
  • 3-0 amateur record with two submissions (1 rear naked choke, 1 armbar)
  • Never submitted in MMA competition
  • BJJ black belt
  • 86% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 86% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Mickey Gall is one of the younger mentions on this list, but we cannot deny his potency once he’s taken his opponents back. All but one time, it’s ended via rear naked choke.

Gall, as we all know, was called up to the big show at just 1-0, and after defeating the likes of Mike Jackson (0-0) and CM Punk (0-0), he was now 3-0 heading into a fight with kickboxing and karate expert Sage Northcutt.

Following a victory in this fight, many people were actually beginning to believe in Gall. Northcutt was a serious prospect with a lot of hype, and Gall even dropped him on the feet before taking the back and sinking in the choke.

Gall would lose his next fight, before submitting BJJ brown belt George Sullivan with a rear naked choke just 69 seconds into the contest.

However, since then, Gall has gone 2-4, bringing his record to 7-5.  The New Jersey native completed his contract with the UFC and hopes to resign with the promotion in the near future.

11. Michael Chiesa (18-6)

rear naked choke mma history

  • 11 submission wins (8 rear naked chokes, 1 triangle choke, 1 D’Arce choke, 1 kimura)
  • 8 of last 9 submission wins via rear naked choke
  • 4-0 TUF record (one submission via rear naked choke)
  • Submitted four times in MMA competition
  • BJJ purple belt
  • 44% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 73% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Michael Chiesa is another one of those guys you’d be surprised has been submitted as many times as he has.

Following his claim of The Ultimate Fighter 15 championship, then a win in his sophomore effort with the promotion, his last five official wins came via rear naked choke.

Chiesa’s most notable rear naked choke finishes come over Al Iaquinta, The Ultimate Fighter 16 winner Colton Smith, Jim Miller, and Beneil Dariush. In his most recent submission victory, Chiesa stopped fellow BJJ black belt, former WEC and interim UFC welterweight champion Carlos Condit with a kimura.

Both Miller and Dariush are high level black belts that have submitted a number of fellow black belts themselves.

Chiesa’s submission defeats come to Jorge Masvidal (D’Arce choke), Kevin Lee (rear naked choke), Anthony Pettis (triangle armbar), and Vicente Luque (D’Arce choke).

10. Kron Gracie (5-1)

rear naked choke mma history

  • 5 submission wins (3 rear naked chokes, 1 armbar, 1 triangle choke)
  • Never submitted in MMA competition (never finished)
  • 2nd-degree BJJ black belt
  • Multi-time BJJ world champion
  • Judo black belt
  • 60% of of wins via rear naked choke
  • 60% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Much like Mickey Gall, Kron Gracie is relatively inexperienced in MMA competition compared to others on this list, but his rear naked chokes, and his ability to take his opponents back once ahold of them is second to none.

All five of his MMA wins come via submission, the last three of which via rear naked choke.

The first of these came over Hideo Tokoro, a 63-fight veteran, before doing the same to 35-10-2 Tatsuya Kawajiri, and then Alex Caceres in his UFC debut.

Caceres went on to win his next five straight fights inside the octagon, two coming via rear naked choke himself.

Gracie also submitted multi-time BJJ world champion Garry Tonon with a rear naked choke back in 2013 in their grappling match at the ADCC world championships, a tournament Gracie would go on to win.

9. Goiti Yamauchi (28-5)

  • 21 submission wins (13 rear naked chokes, 6 armbars, 1 triangle choke, 1 unknown)
  • Never submitted in MMA competition (never finished)
  • BJJ black belt
  • 46% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 62% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Goiti Yamauchi has long been considered Bellator’s version of Charles Oliveira, and for a good reason.

The Japanese-born Brazilian talent has gone 14-4 inside the Bellator cage, nine of those victories coming via submission with three knockouts. His run has been quite underrated in a lot of ways.

But, following a move up to 170 lbs, Yamauchi is coming off back-to-back wins, the latter of which coming via KO over former title challenger Neiman Gracie, improving his win streak to three-straight.

Yamauchi is one of those fighters you can almost always count on to secure a finish. He’s also 5-0 in amateur boxing and 7-0 in kickboxing, giving him a combined combat sports record of 40-5.

8. Rodolfo Vieira (8-2)

  • 7 submission wins (4 rear naked chokes, 3 arm-triangle chokes)
  • Submitted one time in MMA competition
  • BJJ black belt
  • Multi-time BJJ world champion
  • 50% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 57% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Prior to Marcus Almeida making his MMA debut last year in ONE Championship, Rodolfo Vieira was the most decorated grappler to ever step foot inside a cage.

This 13-time world champion is 100-9-1 in BJJ competition, and he’s also submitted Almeida himself, more than once in fact.

Following back-to-back wins in his first two UFC bouts, both via arm-triangle choke, Vieira was upset by Anthony Hernandez, who to everyone’s surprise submitted him in round two of their affair.

Vieira was dominating the fight early on, but he got exhausted quickly, allowing Hernandez to lock up a guillotine choke in round two that the Brazilian was too tired to defend. Since then, Vieira has gone 1-1, picking up one rear naked choke finish, and losing a unanimous decision to Chris Curtis.

7. Kenny Florian (14-6)

  • 8 submission wins (7 rear naked chokes, 1 kimura)
  • Submitted one time in MMA competition
  • 4th-degree BJJ black belt
  • 50% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 88% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Kenny Florian is one of the most underrated fighters of all-time, to put it lightly.

Florian fought for The Ultimate Fighter 1 championship at 185 lbs in 2005 following a 1-0 run on the show, before fighting Sean Sherk and BJ Penn for the UFC lightweight titles in 2006 and 2009 respectively, and he also challenged Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight championship in 2011.

Florian was always at the top of the sport when he was competing.

Following defeat to Diego Sanchez in his TUF 1 finale bout, Florian would go 3-0 (all three finishes) over his next three bouts with two rear naked chokes en route to his first world title fight.

Then, following defeat to Sherk, Florian would win his next six straight contests (five finishes), securing three rear naked chokes in that time, the most recent coming over Joe Stevenson, going into his fight with Penn.

Stevenson is a BJJ ace himself, boasting a 2nd-degree black belt in the art and a boatload of submission victories in MMA to go with it.

Once losing to Penn, the final two finishes of Florian’s career also came via rear naked choke, one over Clay Guida, and the other over former PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi.

The only submission defeat of Florian’s career came to ‘The Prodigy’, BJ Penn, via rear naked choke.

6. Grant Dawson (19-1-1)

  • 13 submission wins (11 rear naked chokes, 1 armbar, 1 triangle choke)
  • 6 of first 7 wins via rear naked choke
  • Last 5 submission wins via rear naked choke
  • Never submitted in MMA competition
  • BJJ black belt
  • 58% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 85% of submission wins via rear naked choke

This young stud began his MMA career winning his first seven fights via submission with six rear naked chokes.

Fast forward two more fights and he was 9-0, all nine wins coming via finish, before he’d lose for the first time.

Following that defeat, Dawson would win his next three fights, the third of which coming via rear naked choke in his Contender Series appearance, before signing a deal with the UFC.

Since then, Dawson has gone 7-0-1, securing four rear naked chokes in that time, the most recent over formerly undefeated Olympic silver medalist (Greco-Roman wrestling) Mark Madsen (12-0). His win just before that came over Jared Gordon, also via rear naked choke, becoming the first man to ever submit him.

5. Urijah Faber (35-11)

  • 17 submission wins (9 rear naked chokes, 1 bulldog choke, 7 guillotine chokes)
  • Never submitted in MMA competition
  • BJJ black belt
  • 29% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 59% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Urijah Faber is one of the greatest MMA grapplers of all-time.

With his NCAA Division I wrestling prowess, Faber blended BJJ into it better than anyone.

Faber won and defended the WEC and KOTC titles each five times, and he submitted a number of black belts in his time fighting.

‘The California Kid’ submitted Raphael Assuncao, Takeya Mizugaki, Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen, and Alex Caceres with rear naked chokes, as well as Francisco Rivera, if you consider his bulldog choke finish, which is more or less a rear naked choke without hooks.

That’s one thing Faber was great at; he’d begin attacking the neck before even locking in his hooks often times, and it led to a lot of impressive stoppages, both with his rear naked chokes and guillotine chokes.

He became the first man to ever submit both Assuncao and Mizugaki. Assuncao is an elite level BJJ black belt himself, and BJJ world champion Rani Yahya had Mizugaki’s back for an extended period of time in their fight without securing a finish; Faber did it in the first round.

Each of them has been submitted just one time since, Assuncao against multi-time WSOF bantamweight champion and BJJ black belt Marlon Moraes, and Mizugaki against current UFC bantamweight champion, also a BJJ black belt, Aljamain Sterling.

That doesn’t even count all Faber’s guillotine choke finishes over high level names either.

4. BJ Penn (16-14-1)

kung fu

  • 6 wins via submission (5 rear naked chokes, 1 arm-triangle choke)
  • Submitted one time in MMA competition
  • 5th-degree black belt in BJJ
  • BJJ world champion
  • 31% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 83% of submission wins via rear naked choke

‘The Prodigy’ had perhaps the most fitting nickname of any MMA fighter for over a decade, he truly was a prodigy.

For starters, Penn competed in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships three consecutive years in 1998, 1999, and 2000.

He took the bronze medal as a blue belt in 1998, he took the silver medal in 1999 as a brown belt, and he won the whole tournament, taking home the gold medal in 2000 as a black belt.

Penn was progressively competing in tougher divisions each year and getting better results than the year before.

Penn then debuted in MMA, where he quickly rattled off three straight wins, all via first round knockout.

Calling him a prodigy was an understatement.

Of his submission wins throughout his career, he submitted Takanori Gomi, Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Joe Stevenson, and Kenny Florian, all via rear naked choke.

Gomi went on to win his next ten straight fights, going 15-1 (1 NC) over his next 17 en route to legendary status, Penn took the UFC welterweight championship from Hughes in that win, he avenged the first defeat of his career by submitting former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver, he won the UFC lightweight championship by submitting Joe Stevenson, who was 5-1 in the UFC on a four fight win streak coming in, and he snapped Florian’s six fight win streak by submitting him in the fourth round.

Penn has been submitted just once in MMA, where he was heel hooked by 3rd-degree BJJ black belt Ryan Hall in his sixth straight defeat back in 2018. He went on to lose once more prior to his forced retirement.

3. Renato Moicano (17-5-1)

  • 10 submission wins (10 rear-naked-chokes)
  • Last five wins coming via rear-naked-choke
  • Submitted one time in MMA competition
  • BJJ black belt
  • 59% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 100% of submission wins via rear-naked-choke

Renato Moicano is a true rear-naked-choke wizard, as every single one of his finishes comes via rear naked choke.

This Brazilian stud submitted Tom Niinimaki in his octagon debut, and nearly four years later he’d do the same to longtime top contender Cub Swanson in his last win at 145 lbs.

Following a move up to 155 lbs, Moicano has since gone 4-2, where he submitted Damir Hadzovic, Jai Herbert, Alexander Hernandez, and Brad Riddell.

Once this man takes your back, chances are the fight will be over very soon.

Moicano has been submitted a single time in MMA, where two-time title challenger and 1st-degree BJJ black belt Brian Ortega became the first man to defeat him, doing so via guillotine choke in round three.

2. Charles Oliveira (33-9)

  • 21 submission wins (9 rear naked chokes, 5 guillotine chokes, 3 anaconda chokes, 1 triangle choke, 1 armbar, 1 triangle armbar, 1 reverse calf slicer)
  • Submitted four times in MMA competition
  • 3rd-degree BJJ black belt
  • 27% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 43% of submission wins via rear-naked-choke

Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira is perhaps the greatest offensive BJJ fighter we’ve ever seen compete in MMA.

His hit list is seemingly endless, as he boasts the most submission wins in UFC history (16), the most finishes in UFC history (19), as well as the most submission wins in UFC lightweight history (10) and the most submission wins in UFC featherweight history (6).

Oliveira’s rear naked choke victories come over BJJ brown belt Efrain Escudero, Will Brooks, Christos Giagos, Jim Miller, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje, Miller and Poirier of which are both black belts themselves.

Escudero is a stud grappler himself, as he used it to claim The Ultimate Fighter 8 trophy, Brooks is a former Bellator lightweight champion that’s 2-0 against Michael Chandler, he submitted Miller to avenge the first defeat of his career, and he submitted both Poirier and Gaethje in UFC title fights, both of which are former interim lightweight champions, and one a multi-time WSOF lightweight champion.

However, his grappling hasn’t been flawless, with submission defeats to Jim Miller (kneebar), Anthony Pettis (guillotine choke), Ricardo Lamas (guillotine choke), and new UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev (arm-triangle choke). Miller, as mentioned above, as well as Pettis and Lamas are BJJ black belts as well.

1. Demian Maia (28-11)

rear naked choke mma history

  • 14 submission wins (9 rear naked chokes, 1 neck crank, 2 triangle chokes, 1 armbar, 1 guillotine choke)
  • Last 5 submission wins via rear naked choke, 5 of last 8 wins via rear naked choke
  • Never submitted in MMA competition
  • 5th-degree BJJ black belt
  • Multi-time BJJ world champion
  • 36% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 71% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Demain Maia has been the poster boy of BJJ in MMA for a long time.

Maia would win his first five octagon bouts, all via submission with three rear naked chokes, before losing for the first time. In this span, he submitted fellow BJJ black belts Jason MacDonald and Ed Herman, as well as BJJ brown belt a former title challenger Nate Quarry.

That fifth victory came over future three-time title challenger Chael Sonnen via triangle choke midway through round one.

Maia wouldn’t secure another finish until over three years later, where he TKO’d Dong Hyun Kim via injury, before defeating (neck crank) Rick Story, becoming the first man to ever stop him, and still to this day the only man to submit him.

Since then, Maia has submitted Lyman Good, BJJ brown belts Neil Magny and Matt Brown, as well as BJJ black belts Carlos Condit and Ben Askren, all via rear naked choke.

Magny went on to become the winningest fighter in UFC welterweight history, Brown was 8-2 in his last ten going into their bout, Condit, as mentioned above, is a former world champion, Good was 7-1 in his last eight coming in, and Maia remains to this day the only man to finish him, doing so in the opening round.

And, Askren is a former multi-time world champion in Bellator and ONE Championship that was 19-1 as a professional going into their bout.

Maia also absolutely mauled Gunnar Nelson, having his back for nearly 15 minutes of their 15 minute fight. Nelson is himself a BJJ world champion boasting a 2nd-degree black belt in the art. And, he did the same to former title challenger and longtime top three welterweight contender Jon Fitch; Fitch was known for absolutely mauling his opponents with his NCAA Division I wrestling.

In contrast, Maia had his back for about 14 minutes of their 15 minute fight as well.

Honorable mentions:

Aljamain Sterling (22-3)

 

rear naked choke mma history

  • 8 submission wins (5 rear naked chokes, 1 guillotine choke, 1 arm-triangle choke, 1 Suloev stretch)
  • Never submitted in MMA competition
  • BJJ black belt
  • 23% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 63% of submission wins via rear naked choke

UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling has just one rear naked choke finish in the UFC, coming over top five contender Cory Sandhagen in just under 90 seconds. But, four of his first eight wins came via rear naked choke, and he has become perhaps the most dangerous fighters in the world when it comes to taking the back of his opponents.

That’s what won him the rematch against Petr Yan in his first title defense, and that’s what he used to completely manhandle TJ Dillashaw in his second title defense, both of which are former UFC champions.

Luke Rockhold (16-6)

 

rear naked choke mma history

  • 8 submission wins (5 rear naked chokes, 1 armbar, 1 inverted kimura, 1 guillotine choke)
  • Never submitted in MMA competition
  • BJJ black belt
  • 31% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 63% of submission wins via rear naked choke

Former Strikeforce and UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold’s career was certainly fun to watch, and it was quite legendary, regardless of how short his run was.

Rockhold won his fourth-through-seventh (four straight) fights by rear naked choke, all of which came back in Strikeforce, and he too only had one rear naked choke finish inside the UFC octagon. That one came over former UFC light-heavyweight champion, and fellow BJJ black belt Lyoto Machida.

This was the win that got him his title shot with Chris Weidman, and the rest is history.

When it was all said and done, Rockhold was one of the scariest, most technically talented fighters in the entire world when he was on the mat in top position.

Kevin Lee (19-7)

rear naked choke mma history

  • 8 submission wins (5 rear naked chokes, 2 guillotine choke, 1 armbar)
  • Last 4 submission wins coming via rear naked choke
  • Submitted three times (1 triangle choke, 1 arm-triangle choke, 1 guillotine choke)
  • 26% of wins via rear naked choke
  • 63% of submission wins via rear naked choke

As you see, each of these last three talents has eight submission wins, five of which coming via rear naked choke.

Kevin Lee is the one honorable mention on this list that has multiple rear naked choke finishes in the UFC.

Lee would pick up his first rear naked choke finish in his fourth promotional win, his fifth promotional fight, and it’d take a few more fights for him to secure another, but eventually he’d submit Magomed Mustafaev, Francisco Trinaldo, and Michael Chiesa back-to-back-to-back, all via rear naked choke.

Sadly his career hasn’t quite panned out the way many of us had anticipated, as he’s gone 3-5 (2-5 through final seven UFC bouts) since then. He did pick up two of those victories via knockout, but he used to be so dominant in the grappling department. It won him so many fights and gave us so many incredible performances to watch early on.

Will Kevin Lee ever regain his top spot in the sport?

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