Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - In mixed martial arts, spectacular knockouts will make you jump back and say ‘whoa’, but an equally impressive submission win will make you say ‘wow’, appreciative of the mix of technique, athleticism, and opportunity it took for a fighter to make his opponent tap out. There were plenty ‘wow’ submissions to choose from in the first half of this year, but these are the ones that stood out.
In mixed martial arts, spectacular knockouts will make you jump back and say ‘whoa’, but an equally impressive submission win will make you say ‘wow’, appreciative of the mix of technique, athleticism, and opportunity it took for a fighter to make his opponent tap out. There were plenty ‘wow’ submissions to choose from in the first half of this year, but these are the ones that stood out.
2008 First-Half Submissions of The Year (including last weekend’s UFC 86 event)
5 (tie) – 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 full-time 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.
5 (tie) – 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.
4 – 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.”
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 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, Nate Diaz over Kurt Pellegrino, Demian Maia over Ed Herman, Rousimar Palhares over Ivan Salaverry.
Tomorrow – The Fights of the Half-Year