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The Highly Unofficial 2008 UFC Awards - The Submissions

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Whether applied with the finality of a knockout punch, with speed and technical acumen, or as a last-ditch fight saving maneuver, a submission move is one of the most versatile weapons in mixed martial arts today. Just ask the fighters who landed on the list below of the top submissions of 2008.

By Thomas Gerbasi

Whether applied with the finality of a knockout punch, with speed and technical acumen, or as a last-ditch fight saving maneuver, a submission move is one of the most versatile weapons in mixed martial arts today. Just ask the fighters who landed on the list below of the top submissions of 2008.

10 – UFC 91 – November 15 – Dustin Hazelett Wsub1 Tamdan McCrory
The first of two appearances in the top ten for Hazelett, who is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting submission artists in the game. In this bout against fellow prospect McCrory, Hazelett broke in his new black belt by sinking in a tight armbar that forced the New Yorker to submit 3:59 into the opening round.

9 – UFC 85 – June 7 – Kevin Burns Wsub2 Roan Carneiro
The next time someone from Wells Fargo calls and you want to get a little obnoxious, reconsider, because that guy on the other line just may be Kevin Burns, who not only juggles a gig at the bank with a fighting career, but who has also proven to be a dangerous man in the Octagon. And anytime you can submit a jiu-jitsu black belt like Burns did with a triangle choke against Roan Carneiro, it proves that you’re not just some weekend warrior – you can fight and you belong in the UFC.

8 – UFC 87 – August 9 - Demian Maia Wsub3 Jason MacDonald
More of an accumulative award, and frankly, one that could go to both Maia and MacDonald for the groundfighting clinic the two put on at UFC 87. Whether it was offensively or defensively, these two middleweights showed how beautiful this game can be when done right and done at the highest level. Eventually, Maia’s constant submission attack wore MacDonald down and allowed the Brazilian to finish the bout off with a rear naked choke in the third round.

7 – UFC Fight Night – April 2 - Nate Diaz Wsub2 Kurt Pellegrino
A lot of fighters are great being the hammer; not so many can come back after being the nail. But after a rough first round, Nate Diaz proved that he can talk tough and walk tough as he roared back and caught Kurt Pellegrino in a fight ending triangle choke in the second. But what made this special was Diaz’ unfiltered joy when he knew he had Pellegrino. And as he thrust his fists in the air while his legs did the rest of the work, fight fans got to see the next step in Diaz’ maturation as a fighter.

6 – UFC 86 – July 5 - Cole Miller Wsub3 Jorge Gurgel
I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for pulling victory from the jaws of defeat, and after two and half rounds, Jorge Gurgel was closing in on his most impressive UFC win to date. And to his credit, he wasn’t sitting on a lead that would have seen him take a split decision win even if he lost the final round. Gurgel kept pushing the action, and Miller capitalized on a single mistake, locking in a triangle choke that earned him the victory with 12 seconds left in the fight.

5 – UFC 81 – February 2 – Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Wsub3 Tim Sylvia
Admittedly, my favorite fighter of all-time is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and for two rounds of his interim UFC heavyweight title fight against Tim Sylvia, it was painful to see ‘Minotauro’ get his head handed to him by the 6-8 giant. It looked like all the amazing comebacks of the past had been exhausted, but in the third round, Nogueira finally got the fight to the ground, and just like that, game over via guillotine choke. Nogueira described the fight best - “I played his game for almost three rounds. He played my game for two minutes and I won the fight.”

4 – UFC 91 – November 15 – Kenny Florian Wsub1 Joe Stevenson
There are technically brilliant or highlight reel submissions, and then there’s Kenny Florian’s rear naked choke of Joe Stevenson. In this UFC 91 bout, Florian made a statement that he was indeed the top contender to the lightweight crown, and he did it with an emphatic win over a top-notch foe in Stevenson. You just don’t submit Joe Daddy like that, but Florian did.

3 – UFC 82 – March 1 – Anderson Silva Wsub2 Dan Henderson
Okay, he’s scored highlight reel-worthy knockouts, submitted a jiu-jitsu black belt, and is universally recognized as THE state of the art mixed martial artist. So how does Anderson Silva top that? Rebound from a shaky first round against a future Hall of Famer to win by submission in the second frame. And that’s just what Silva did against Dan Henderson, taking out the PRIDE 183-pound champ in round two with a rear naked choke that is on this list as much for historical significance as it is for technical acumen.

2 – UFC 81 – February 2 – Frank Mir Wsub1 Brock Lesnar
In perhaps the most exciting 90 seconds seen in the sport this year, former pro wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar was on the verge of completing a UFC debut that hadn’t been seen since the days of a young Vitor Belfort. He had taken former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir down and was unleashing a ferocious ground and pound attack that it seemed no fighter could recover from. But after a point deduction from Lesnar for an inadvertent blow to the back of the head and another trip to the canvas, Mir was able to clear his head and do what his art form of jiu-jitsu made its name on – beating a bigger and stronger opponent with superior technique. The fight ending kneebar came 90 seconds into the fight, and showed that in mixed martial arts, expect the unexpected.

1 – The Ultimate Fighter Finale – June 21 – Dustin Hazelett Wsub2 Josh Burkman
You know what the scary thing is about Dustin Hazelett? He’s only 22 years old. And even though he comes from a camp that includes Rich Franklin and Jorge Gurgel, ten years from now, we may be talking about Hazelett as the best fighter to emerge from that team. But for now, we’ve got an armbar submission of the always tough Josh Burkman that will live on in highlight reels for a long, long time, something Joe Rogan described as “probably the sweetest armbar I have ever seen in mixed martial arts.” Can’t argue there.

Honorable mention – Ricardo Almeida over Rob Yundt, Marcus Aurelio over Ryan Roberts, Demian Maia over Ed Herman, Rousimar Palhares over Ivan Salaverry, Steve Cantwell over Razaak Al-Hassan, Spencer Fisher over Shannon Gugerty, CB Dollaway over Jesse Taylor, Eric Schafer over Houston Alexander