What were the best submissions of 2019 and how did we call them as they happened? The Highly Unofficial Awards season continues below…
Bryce Mitchell-Matt Sayles
Featherweight prospect Bryce Mitchell earned only the second Twister submission in UFC history, joining Chan Sung Jung in the record books after finishing Matt Sayles in the first round.
Mitchell didn’t waste any time getting the fight to the mat and he never relinquished control as he sought a finish. In the second minute, he got the full mount position, but when that didn’t yield the desired result, “Thug Nasty” kept working until he locked in the Twister that forced Sayles to tap out at 4:20 of the opening frame.
With the win, Arkansas’ Mitchell moves to 12-1. San Diego’s Sayles, who came in overweight for the bout at 148.5 pounds, falls to 8-3.
Khabib Nurmagomedov-Dustin Poirier
No fighter gets to 28-0 without being one of the best in the world, but after a third round submission win over Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 242, undisputed UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov may have to be included in the all-time great conversation.
He was that dominant. And he achieved the feat doing everything he was expected to do. But Poirier and 27 previous opponents haven’t been able to stop him.
That makes him a special fighter.
After a brief feeling out process, Nurmagomedov used a quick 1-2 to set up a takedown attempt in the second minute, and with 2:52 left, he had the back of his foe. Poirier stayed cool under pressure, but Nurmagomedov was relentless with his attack as he looked for a neck crank. With a little over 90 seconds left, Poirier was back to his feet but still locked up by “The Eagle” who put the fight on the deck once more before the end of the round.
Early in round two, Poirier made his presence felt as he briefly jarred Nurmagomedov with a right hand that forced the Dagestan native into defensive mode until he got his bearings back and put Poirier on his back again. While on the mat, Poirier got cut around his left eye, but he got upright with under two minutes left and looked for an escape route. Nurmagomedov wasn’t giving him one, though, and it was another round for the Russian.
Poirier (25-6, 1 NC) attempted a guillotine choke as Nurmagomedov sought his first takedown attempt of round three, but when “The Eagle” escaped, it was his turn, and when he sunk in his own choke, that rear naked choke ended the fight, with Poirier forced to tap out at 2:06 of the third frame.
Demian Maia-Ben Askren
It was a showdown between Top 15 welterweight grapplers in Saturday’s main event as Askren returned from his first professional loss to take on Maia, the two-time title challenger with the second most wins in UFC history.
Everyone expected a grappling battle, but Maia got things started with some heavy left hands in space, avoiding Askren’s initial entries and keeping the fight standing. Each time Askren ducked in, looking to close the distance, Maia shrugged him off and got the better of the exchanges as they locked u in close.
With two minutes remaining in the round, Maia appeared to wobble Askren momentarily, connecting with a left hand to the temple, following it up with a kick to the body. It wasn’t until the final minute of the round that the fighter hit the canvas, with Askren taking Maia down, but immediately being forced to defend and scramble as the Brazilian went hunting for submissions and space to get back to his feet.
Bolstered by his success late in the first, Askren pressed forward to start the second, searching for the clinch and a means of getting Maia to the ground. Instead, they continued throwing hands, with Askren peppering Maia and opening up a cut on his left cheek. Askren continued to win the striking exchanges, piling up the output as he tried to close the distance, with Maia landing occasional counters.
Once again, Askren worked his way inside and secured a takedown late in the frame, but this time, Maia quickly hit a lovely omoplata sweep to work into top position and climb into mount. From there, Askren powered out, creating a scramble where Maia hunted for a kimura and the Olympic wrestler searched for dominant position as the horn sounded.
Maia allowed Askren to close the distance out of the gate to start the third, but worked his way back to the center, only to get taken down with force, though Askren couldn’t keep him there. As the pace slowed and both men clearly started to tire, Maia began pulling away in the striking department, throwing greater volume and landing the more significant shots, only to have Askren once again drag him to the floor.
But just as he did in the second, Maia quickly reversed the position, climbing to mount and taking Askren’s back as the Wisconsin native went belly-down. After locking up a body triangle, Maia fished his arm under the neck and put Askren to sleep, getting a single tap from the standout wrestler before he went out.
What an incredible way to end the year for Maia, who entered 2019 on a two-fight skid, but will head into 2020 on a three-fight winning streak.
(By E. Spencer Kyte)
Marlon Moraes-Raphael Assuncao II
With three consecutive first-round finishes of top bantamweight contenders, Marlon Moraes made an air-tight case for a shot at TJ Dillashaw’s 135-pound crown on Saturday, as he submitted longtime standout Raphael Assuncao in the UFC Fortaleza main event at Arena CFO.
The first-round submission follows Moraes’ sub-one minute knockouts of Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera, improving his UFC record to 3-1.
Nova Friburgo’s Moraes started the bout pecking at Assuncao with kicks to the leg, but it was two right hands upstairs that rocked and dropped Recife’s Assuncao with 2:55 left in the opening round. Moraes went to work with ground strikes before ultimately locking in the guillotine choke that forced Assuncao to tap out at 3:17 of round one.
With the win, the No. 4-ranked Moraes ups his record to 22-5-1. The No. 3-ranked Assuncao falls to 27-6.
Ovince Saint Preux-Michal Oleksiejczuk
Of the six Von Flue chokes that ended UFC fights, perennial light heavyweight contender Ovince Saint Preux now has four of them, as he bounced back from a rocky start to submit Poland’s Michal Oleksiejczuk in the second round.
Oleksiejczuk went on the attack immediately, landing almost at will with left hands to the body and head. A knockdown followed and it looked like an early night for Oleksiejczuk, but Saint Preux slowly got back into the fight and began landing strikes of his own. By round two, OSP was taking control of the bout with his strikes, and once he took his opponent to the mat, it was time for his ol’ reliable Von Flue choke, and the tap came moments later, with the official time being 2:46 of round two.
Cory Sandhagen-Mario Bautista
Now 3-0 with three finishes in the UFC, bantamweight Cory Sandhagen continued to bring the excitement, as he submitted previously unbeaten newcomer Mario Bautista in the first round.
Both 135-pounders got down to business immediately, but Sandhagen broke open a close fight two minutes in when he scored with a flying knee that dropped Bautista. The Arizonan recovered and slammed Sandhagen to the mat, but he wound up in a reverse triangle choke. Bautista escaped, but Sandhagen kept the subs coming, moving from a kimura to the armbar that ended the bout at 3:31 of the opening stanza.
Colorado’s Sandhagen moves to 10-1 with the win. Bautista, who replaced the injured John Lineker, falls to 6-1.
Paul Craig-Kennedy Nzechukwu
It was another late-fight submission win for Scotland’s Paul Craig, as he handed hot light heavyweight prospect Kennedy Nzechukwu his first pro loss in the third round.
After coming up short on a takedown to start the bout, Craig pulled guard and locked up Nzechukwu’s arm, but the Texan pulled free and called Craig back to the feet. Craig obliged but went right back to his ground attack, clearly focusing on his foe’s arm. Nzechukwu kept defending well, but Craig continued to chase submissions. A left kick to the head did jar Craig briefly, capping off an interesting opening round.
Craig dragged Nzechukwu to the mat in the second minute of round two, but Nzechukwu was able to get in the top position, where he fired off elbows on his opponent. After getting back to their feet, the two traded accidental fouls, Nzechukwu poking Craig in the eye and Craig landing a low kick. From there, the action consisted of Nzechukwu chasing and Craig defending, drawing boos from the crowd.
Misha Cirkunov-Jimmy Crute
Canadian veteran Misha Cirkunov pinned the first loss on the record of Jimmy Crute, submitting the Australian light heavyweight prospect in the opening round.
Cirkunov grounded Crute almost immediately, yet midway through the round, the Aussie phenom was able to get free. The two scrambled and traded dominant positions, and just when it looked like Crute was close to a finish thanks to some thudding ground strikes, it was Cirkunov who got the victory as he got out of trouble and sunk in a Peruvian necktie choke that forced a tap at 3:38 of round one.
With the win, the No. 15-ranked Cirkunov moves to 15-5. Crute falls to 10-1.
Charles Oliveira-David Teymur
The UFC’s all-time submission king added to his tap out tally, as Charles Oliveira finished David Teymur in the second round of a wild lightweight bout.
An inadvertent eye poke by Teymur brought a stop to the bout in the opening minute of the fight and cost Teymur a point from referee Jerin Valel. Moments later, Oliveira claimed that he was poked again, but Valel waved the fighters back into action. A knockdown by Teymur followed, but Oliveira fought well off his back, bloodying his foe before getting back to his feet. Oliveira then went on the attack to get Teymur to the mat, and while he didn’t succeed, he did land some hard shots over the course of the frame.
Oliveira didn’t waste any time ending the fight in the second round, as he first hurt Teymur with a short elbow. Teymur turned his back and surprisingly the fight wasn’t stopped as Oliveira landed with a series of unanswered blows. But Oliveira found another way to get the victory, as he took Teymur down and locked in the anaconda choke that forced the Swede to tap out at :55 of round two.
Sao Paulo’s Oliveira won his fourth straight, moving to 26-8 with 1 NC. Stockholm’s Teymur falls to 8-2.
David Zawada-Abubakar Nurmagomedov
Germany’s David Zawada scored the first upset of the night in the welterweight division, as he submitted highly-touted debutant Abubakar Nurmagomedov in the first round.
Nurmagomedov got a takedown a minute into the fight and it was time to work for the cousin of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Zawada stated calm under pressure, though, locking in a triangle choke that forced the newcomer to tap out at 2:50 of the first round.
With the win, Zawada moves to 17-5. Nurmagomedov falls to 15-3-1.