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Ten Best - The Submissions of 2009

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Everyone loves knockouts – there’s no questioning this combat sports adage. But as mixed martial arts has grown more popular with each passing year, fans are getting more and more knowledgeable and excited about submission finishes, with the lead up to the final tap often accompanied by a crescendo of cheers. Here’s the best we saw in the UFC in 2009.

By Thomas Gerbasi

Everyone loves knockouts – there’s no questioning this combat sports adage. But as mixed martial arts has grown more popular with each passing year, fans are getting more and more knowledgeable and excited about submission finishes, with the lead up to the final tap often accompanied by a crescendo of cheers.

Here, the best we saw in the UFC in 2009. Leave a comment to let us know your favorite.


10 – Tim Hague's first-round guillotine choke vs. Pat Barry - May 23 - UFC 98

Tim Hague’s submission of Pat Barry isn’t here because of technical brilliance or an unorthodox finish. It’s here because the guillotine choke he finished Barry off illustrated the beauty of mixed martial arts. Back in June of 2001, longtime contender Jeremy Horn told me, “When a boxer is getting ready for a fight, he's only got one choice, which is to punch his opponent more often, better and faster. And if he can't do that, he's going to lose guaranteed. Whereas in mixed martial arts, if I know my opponent is a better boxer than me, I'm gonna take him down or kick him. If he's a better grappler than me, I'm going to try and box with him. So because I have more avenues to keep myself safe and still win the fight, it's easier to be calm. Everybody's got weaknesses, so all you have to do is find out where they are and exploit them. If a boxer knows his opponent hits harder and is faster, he has no options. There's nowhere to go. There are still some flaws he can work on, but there's so much less.” When Hague fought Barry, all it took were a couple hellacious strikes for the Canadian to decide that his best chance of winning was on the mat. So he took Barry down and submitted him. And as simple as that sounds, that was mixed martial arts at its best. Watch weigh-in video

9 – Jon Jones' second-round D'Arce choke vs. Jake O’Brien – July 11 – UFC 100

2009 was the breakout year for 205-pound rising star Jon Jones, but after his two impressive decision wins over Andre Gusmao (in August of 2008) and Stephan Bonnar (in January of 2009), fans wanted to see more than his flashy throws and strikes – they wanted to see if he could finish a fight at the UFC level. Well, Jonny Bones’ UFC 100 bout answered those questions as he finished off the always tough O’Brien with a series of strikes followed by a deceptively quick D’Arce choke in the second round that gave prospective foes another aspect of his game to look out for. Watch video


8 – Alan Belcher's second-round guillotine choke vs. Denis Kang – January 17 – UFC 93

As I wrote back in January, everything went wrong for Alan Belcher in his bout against Denis Kang except the last 20 seconds, and in this sport, sometimes that’s all that matters. Despite being on the receiving end of a ferocious attack from perennial contender Kang, ‘The Talent’ stayed the course, took his lumps, and then when his opponent ran out of gas and ideas to take out the resilient up and comer from Biloxi, Belcher jumped into action with a guillotine choke that ended matters at 4:36 of the second round. Call it MMA’s version of a walk-off home run. Watch video


7 –Tom Lawlor's first-round guillotine choke vs. CB Dollaway - July 11 - UFC 100

When you ask most mixed martial arts fans about The Ultimate Fighter season eight’s Tom Lawlor, usually the first things that comes to mind are his antics on TUF8, his tribute to the ‘Just Bleed’ guy during the UFC 100 weigh-ins, or maybe even his ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ entrance into the Octagon (complete with fellow TUF alum Seth Petruzelli on a leash) the next night. So it’s easy to forget that Lawlor is a talented fighter, but maybe a few more will remember after he sunk in a picture-perfect guillotine choke on CB Dollaway at UFC 100, leading to a 55 second victory that has made him a player in his new weight class of 185 pounds. Watch video


6 – Rick Story's second-round arm triangle vs. Brian Foster – September 19 – UFC 103

When it comes to toe-to-toe trench warfare, the first round between lightweight prospects Rick Story and Brian Foster was as entertaining as it gets, especially since both fighters opted to leave defense at the Octagon gate. But in round two, Story decided to flip the script and take matters to the mat. And while he sat in Foster’s guard, he snuck in an arm triangle that no one but Story expected to finish the fight. But it did, as Foster was forced to tap out at 1:09 of the second round, giving Story not only the submission of the night award, but a fight of the night bonus as well. Watch video


5 – Joe Lauzon's second-round armbar vs. Jeremy Stephens - February 7 - UFC Fight Night

Joe Lauzon was putting on a clinic in his February 7th bout against Stephens, showing off all the facets of his game before a national Spike TV audience. But as long as you don’t put Stephens away, he’s dangerous. So just when it seemed that Lauzon was moving in for the kill - as he had the Iowan’s back - Stephens turned the tables, opened a nasty cut on Lauzon’s forehead with an elbow and bulled him against the Octagon fence. All of a sudden, things didn’t seem so bright for Lauzon, but just as quickly, the New Englander reversed position, got into the mount position and sunk in a fight ending armbar. It was the perfect time capsule fight for ‘J-Lau’. Next at UFC 108


4 – Damarques Johnson's first-round triangle choke vs. Edgar Garcia – December 12 – UFC 107

Damarques Johnson was a favorite to win the welterweight division on season nine of The Ultimate Fighter earlier this year, but that quest ended in disappointment via submission at the hands of James Wilks in June. Johnson bounced back in style against Edgar Garcia though, surviving some flush shots and a Peruvian necktie attempt to land an upkick from his back that led into a fight-finishing triangle choke that earned him UFC 107’s submission of the night award. Watch video



3 – Frank Mir's first-round guillotine choke vs. Cheick Kongo – December 12 – UFC 107

Everyone knows the caliber of Frank Mir’s ground game. But with his recent focus on his standup attack and the weight gain designed to compete with the likes of champion Brock Lesnar, it was going to be interesting to see whether he was going to follow through with his desire to stand and trade with French striker Cheick Kongo. He did, but the exchange didn’t last long, as a looping overhand left sent Kongo to the canvas. What followed was vintage Mir, as he sunk in an airtight guillotine choke that forced referee Herb Dean to halt the fight just 72 seconds into the bout. Watch video


2 – Demian Maia's first-round triangle choke vs. Chael Sonnen  – February 21 – UFC 95

We may have to name this the Demian Maia Award when it’s all said and done, but it’s hard not to get more and more impressed with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizard with each fight. And it’s not just his technique, it’s the fact that every time he steps into the Octagon, his opponent knows what he’s going to do – and (with the exception of Nate Marquardt) they still can’t stop it. Let’s be honest - when you face Maia, you don’t have to worry about him throwing flying knees or brutal crosses or winning fights with his ground and pound. He’s going to try to submit you. And even if you have some success early, like Sonnen did, eventually, like creeping death, he’s going to get you. In this fight, it was a beautiful takedown right into a triangle choke that spelled doom for Sonnen. For my money, Maia is as scary with submissions as Brock Lesnar is with his ground and pound. Watch Maia highlights

1 – Terry Etim's second-round D'Arce choke vs. Justin Buchholz – UFC 99 – June 13

It’s hard not to like lightweight prospect Terry Etim. A humble kid who’s getting better with each fight, he’s also shown a couple of the intangibles that make champions in this sport – first was his win over Brian Cobb, which saw him show the killer instinct to get a fighter out of there when he knew he had him. Second was this UFC 99 battle with Justin Buchholz, a fellow young gun who came to Germany to win, not just to put on a good fight. In the first round, Buchholz drilled Etim with a right hand that broke the Brit’s nose and staggered him. Buchholz went in for the kill, but Etim recovered and went for an armbar while on his back. He made it out of the round, but Buchholz kept coming forward in the second stanza. This time though, the resilient Etim wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. As the two tumbled to the canvas in round two, Etim immediately sunk in a D’Arce choke. Game over, and Etim showed the resilience and heart you hope to see in every fighter. Top-notch technique doesn’t hurt either. Watch video

Honorable Mention – BJ Penn-Kenny Florian, Cole Miller-Junie Browning, Kenny Florian-Clay Guida, George Sotiropoulos-Jason Dent, Jake Rosholt-Chris Leben, Stefan Struve-Chase Gormley, Terry Etim-Shannon Gugerty, Frankie Edgar-Matt Veach, Mark Bocek-Joe Brammer,,Stefan Struve-Denis Stojnic, Josh Neer-Mac Danzig, Mike Ciesnolevicz-Neil Grove, Krzysztof Soszynski-Brian Stann, James Wilks-DaMarques Johnson, Jason Dent-Cameron Dollar, Shannon Gugerty-Matt Grice, Rob Kimmons-Joe Vedepo, Brock Larson-Mike Pyle, Josh Koscheck-Anthony Johnson, Nate Diaz-Melvin Guillard

Read more 2009 best-of lists