Who had the submission of the year for 2020?
There have been so many submissions this year in mixed martial arts, it was much tougher creating this list than the 2020 Knockout of the Year awards. Thus the reason there are more than five candidates on here.
Through all the great submissions, all the great victories a number of great fighters had, it’s almost a shame the year has to come to an end. Joking of course, 2020 has been by far the most annoying year in history.
Carlos Diego Ferreira secured the first submission victory of 2020, and did so by becoming the first man to submit (rear naked choke) former WEC & UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis.
This was immediately followed up by Brian Kelleher (guillotine choke) and Aleksei Oleinik (armbar) securing submission victories in the next two fights.
Fast forward to the next event and Brett Johns, along with Alex Perez pick up a couple submission victories, the only two on the card. Fast forward over the next two events, as UFC 247 didn’t have any submissions, the lone submission at UFC FN 167 was Daniel Rodriguez submitting (guillotine choke) Tim Means in his UFC debut, a surprise to us all.
Jimmy Crute then submitted (kimura) Michal Oleksiejczuk in round one after completely mauling him, a very impressive performance that was.
Many of us were thinking Crute was going to gas himself out,. He expended a serious amount of energy tossing Oleksiejczuk around, securing eight takedowns in less than four minutes, but was able to get the finish following the eighth.
There weren’t too many awfully impressive submissions after this until the return from the two-month Covid break.
However, Gerald Meerschaert did submit (rear naked choke) Deron Winn in round three at UFC 248. The last two submissions before our forced-upon break showed Brazilian lightweights Renato Moicano (rear naked choke) and Charles Oliveira (guillotine choke) submit their opponents at UFC Brasilia.
Moicano submitted Damir Hadzovic in just 44 seconds of his divisional debut, and this was Oliveira’s coming out party.
He’d given us a few great consecutive performances leading up to his fight with Kevin Lee, but Lee was the best fighter he’d defeated that far into his career, and he did so dominantly.
Oliveira followed this up by dominating Tony Ferguson to a universal 30-26 unanimous decision victory, nearly breaking the Eddie Bravo black belt’s arm at the end of round one.
There weren’t any submissions at the comeback event, UFC 249, but there was one lone submission that came on the card following, where Thiago Moises submitted (ankle lock) Michael Johnson early in round two.
This really sucked for Johnson, because he was tearing Moises apart on the feet in round one.
We then had a few good ones at UFC on ESPN 9, the night Tyron Woodley fought Gilbert Burns.
The first of which showed Casey Kenney submit (guillotine choke) Louis Smolka in round one, the second of which showed debutante Brandon Royval submit (arm-triangle choke) Tim Elliott, his first of two submission victories in 2020, and the third of which showed Mackenzie Dern submit (kneebar) Hannah Cifers, her first of two submission victories in 2020, and her first of three total victories in 2020.
Herbert Burns submitted (rear naked choke) longtime Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Robert Drysdale, Evan Dunham, early in round one. Dunham was coming out of retirement, and while he’s not the same fighter he once was, no one thought he’d get submitted.
Donald Cerrone was the only man to submit Dunham previous, and Cerrone just submitted 3rd-degree black belt Rafael dos Anjos twice (armbar both times) in two grappling matches.
This was followed up by Aljamain Sterling submitting (rear naked choke) Cory Sandhagen early in round one.
It was insane how this fight went; everyone was upset it wasn’t scheduled for five rounds, because we were all sure enough it’d go three, they’re both so talented. But nope, Sterling melted right through the No. 2 bantamweight in the world. No one could’ve expected that, he couldn’t have looked more impressive than he did that night.
UFC, give this man his title shot!
Marvin Vettori secured himself another finish this year. Before filling in for Kevin Holland on short notice to face Jack Hermansson, he submitted (rear naked choke) Karl Roberson back in June, and then upset Hermansson earlier this month.
Gillian Robertson and Jim Miller each picked up submission victories at UFC on ESPN 11, the night Curtis Blaydes fought Alexander Volkov, as Robertson submitted (rear naked choke) Cortney Casey, and Miller submitted (armbar) Roosevelt Roberts. Both Roberts and Casey were coming off submission victories of their own.
Julian Erosa picked up his first UFC victory this year, and it was great to see. Actually, he went 1-1 in his first stint, winning a split decision and losing via KO, and in his second stint, he went 0-3, being KO’d in two of those bouts.
He returned in late June to take on surging prospect Sean Woodson, and while he got out-struck for the first two rounds, he made the proper adjustment and got the submission (D’Arce choke) finish midway through round three.
Khama Worthy submitted (guillotine choke) Luis Pena in round three on that same night, becoming the first man to finish Pena, and Maurice Greene picked up a submission (arm-triangle choke) victory in the feature fight of the night over Gian Villante.
This was one of the most improvised submissions you’ll ever see.
The only other time we’ve seen someone secure an arm-triangle choke off their back was when Aljamain Sterling did it to Takeya Mizugaki back in 2015, but Sterling pulled Mizugaki into his guard while he locked it up, Greene did it while Villante was in his half guard. It was really something.
Makwan Amirkhani submitted (anaconda choke) fellow grappling standout Danny Henry in the next event, before Amanda Ribas submitted (armbar) Paige VanZant. We’ve got a serious contender to watch out for in Ribas, this wasn’t her first big, overly-impressive win.
Khamzat Chimaev made his UFC debut in July, submitting (D’Arce choke) John Phillips, as did Amir Albazi at the next event, submitting (triangle choke) Malcolm Gordon.
Joel Alvarez picked up his first of two submission victories in 2020 when he submitted (guillotine choke) Joe Duffy, three fights before world kickboxing champion and former three-time KSW Women’s Flyweight Champion Ariane Lipski submitted (kneebar) Luana Carolina.
Deiveson Figueiredo won the UFC Flyweight Championship by defeating Joseph Benavidez for the second time, this time submitting (rear naked choke) him in round one, becoming the first man to submit Benavidez.
Just before these two made the walk, Jack Hermansson submitted (heel hook) Kelvin Gastelum early in round one, a huge surprise to us all. No one expexted that fight to go that way, but Gastelum just didn’t respect Hermansson’s grappling and it cost him.
Paul Craig picked up one of his vintage triangle choke finishes against Gadzhimurad Antigulov, before Fabricio Werdum submitted (armbar) the returning Alexander Gustafsson. This was unfortunate to many of us, because we’ve wanted to see Gustafsson at heavyweight for a while now, and it just didn’t go his way.
Werdum has since signed with PFL, hopefully ‘The Mauler’ makes another heavyweight return. Jennifer Maia then submitted (armbar) Joanne Calderwood, which was a pretty sizeable upset. Calderwood was next in line to challenge Valentina Shevchenko, but took a fight with Maia in order to stay active and paid for it dearly.
Joe Solecki secured one huge win in 2020, where he submitted (rear naked choke) Austin Hubbard in round one. This was incredibly impressive because, well, Hubbard has fought some seriously talented grapplers, such as world champion Davi Ramos, who had his back for at least five total minutes of their fight and couldn’t submit him.
Ed Herman picked up a vintage victory this year as well, where he submitted (kimura) Mike Rodriguez. This was also unfortunate.
Not because Herman won, it’s great seeing him still pick up victories, but he was TKO’d in round two of that fight. If you haven’t seen it, check it out on Fight Pass.
Damon Jackson had a Comeback of the Year performance against the ultra talented Mirsad Bektic, where he was getting absolutely mauled throughout the fight, until Bektic got tired and left his neck out there in round three, being submitted with a guillotine choke.
This next one will come as a real surprise, just as it did when it happened. 46-0 professional kickboxer Germaine de Randamie submitted (guillotine choke) Julianna Pena in round three of their back-and-forth scrap. This marked the first submission victory of her career, she’s certainly been evolving, and it’s great to see.
Khabib Nurmagomedov stormed right through No. 1 contender Justin Gathje en route to a submission (triangle choke) victory early in round two. Many of us thought this would be the toughest fight of his career, and it turned out to be one of his easiest.
Deiveson Figueiredo made quick work of stud grappler Alex Perez in his first title defense at UFC 255, where he submitted (guillotine choke) him less than two minutes into round one, the only submission finish at UFC 255.
This was followed up by Anthony Smith submitting (triangle choke) Devin Clark in the UFC on ESPN 18 main event, getting himself back in the winners circle. This was a beautiful thing to see, who doesn’t love Anthony Smith?
Chase Hooper secured his second octagon victory this year when he submitted (heel hook) Peter Barrett in round three just over two weeks ago, a very tough fight he had to pull himself out of.
Lastly, and this one may take the cake for some, even most, is where Jimmy Flick made his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 17 last weekend, throwing up a flying triangle choke against Cody Durden, securing the finish in round one.
Flick improved his record to 16-5 with this victory, marking his 14th victory via submission.
Now we move to Bellator, where in January, Sergio Pettis submitted Alfred Khashkanyan in round one after dropping him, followed by former Bellator Bantamweight Champion Darrion Caldwell submitting (rear naked choke) Adam Borics, becoming the first man to defeat the last man to defeat Aaron Pico.
Pettis’ victory over Khashkanyan was as impressive as it gets. He hadn’t had a finish since 2013, he went his entire UFC career without a finish.
Not to mention, Khashkanyan had never been submitted prior, and had only ever lost to some of the best in the sport: Juan Archuleta, Ricardo Ramos, and Sean O’Malley. One’s a Bellator champion, the other two are doing well in the UFC.
Ed Ruth’s first submission defeat came this year as well, where he was heel hooked by Taylor Johnson just 59 seconds into round one. 2nd-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Neiman Gracie also heel hooked Jon Fitch at the very next event.
Last up for Bellator happened in the featherweight gran prix semi-finals, where AJ McKee submitted (neck crank) former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell early in round one, improving his record to 17-0 in the process. This was pretty insane, because we’d never seen this hold before.
McKee knew how good Caldwell’s wrestling is, and he planned for it. He was taken down immediately, but he had an answer for it, as he locked in a nasty neck crank he likes to call the McKeeotine, and honestly, it’s a fitting name. McKee can do it all, watch out for this kid in the coming months and years.
1. Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira – Guillotine Choke at :28 of Round Three
2. Jack ‘The Joker’ Hermansson – Heel Hook at 1:18 of Round One
3. Jimmy ‘The Brick’ Flick – Flying Triangle Choke at 3:18 of Round One
4. AJ ‘Mercenary’ McKee – McKeeotine at 1:11 of Round One
This young man’s next fight will be for the @BellatorMMA Featherweight World Title.
— Scott Coker (@ScottCoker) November 20, 2020
5. Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov – Triangle Choke at 1:34 of Round Two
6. Germaine ‘The Iron Lady’ de Randamie – Guillotine Choke at 3:25 of Round Three
7. Aljamain ‘Funk Master’ Sterling – Rear Naked Choke at 1:28 of Round One
8. Ariane ‘The Queen of Violence’ Lipski – Kneebar at 1:28 of Round One
We’ll start off by saying it was hard not adding Mackenzie Dern to this list of candidates. She’s the best female grappler in the world, and has even gone as far as defeating 200+ lb Gabi Garcia in grappling competition.
The reason she’s not on the list is because it wasn’t the first time Hannah Cifers had been submitted.
Granted, she’d only been submitted by Gillian Robertson prior, but she’s since been submitted twice more, and was finished earlier in the year via TKO. She kneebarred someone that went 0-4 through the year.
Dern’s second submission victory of 2020 came against Randa Markos, she defeated her via armbar, also in round one. While Markos is a good opponent, she’d also been submitted prior, also by armbar.
UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo’s two submissions this year were pretty epic as well, submitting both Joseph Benavidez and Alex Perez. The last honorable mention goes to Brandon Royval, this kid deserves all the credit in the world.
Not only did Royval submit a very skilled opponent, and a very skilled grappler in his UFC debut in Tim Elliott, he followed it up by becoming the first man to finish Kai Kara-France in the UFC, and the first man to finish Kara-France in six years.
Throughout all the spectacular submissions this year of 2020 has given us, which one is your favorite?
I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.