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Top Ten - The Submissions of 2014

The Highly Unofficial awards season continues with the best submissions of 2014...

From the sublime to the spectacular, 2014 had more than its share of memorable submission finishes. Here are this scribe’s picks for the ten best of the year.

10 - Joseph Benavidez-Timothy Elliott
With four previous wins by guillotine choke, it would be safe to say that Joseph Benavidez had the move down pat, especially since he finished two jiu-jitsu black belts – Miguel Torres and Wagnney Fabiano – with it in the past. So when he locked the choke that he has since renamed the “Joa Constrictor” on Timothy Elliott at UFC 172 in April, it was game, set, and match, and also the rarest of tap outs, as Elliott surrendered with his feet, not hands.
> WATCH: Joseph Benavidez vs. Timothy Elliot on UFC FIGHT PASS
9 - Daniel Cormier-Dan Henderson
On these lists there’s usually one sub on here not because of its technical wizardry, but because it showed the versatility of the victor. That was precisely the case with Daniel Cormier’s win over Dan Henderson, as “DC” showed the evolution of his game by putting Hendo to sleep with a rear naked choke that produced his first submission win (not due to strikes) since 2010.

8 - Leandro Issa-Jumabieke Tuerxun
A high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Leandro Issa’s groundfighting credentials are well-established, but he spent the majority of his July bout with China’s Jumabieke Tuerxun standing, trading hard shots with “The Wolf” throughout. Yet by round three, Issa was down on two scorecards, a fact not helped when he was docked a point for grabbing the fence, and he needed a miracle finish. He got one, armbarring his way to a win, as well as $100,000 in bonus money for earning Fight and Performance of the Night awards.

7 – Raquel Pennington-Ashlee Evans-Smith
Things weren’t going too well for Raquel Pennington early in her UFC 181 bout against newcomer Ashlee Evans-Smith, but they don’t call the Coloradan “Rocky” for nothing. So with time running out on the first round, Pennington slapped a bulldog choke on Evans-Smith and went for the finish. She got it, putting her foe to sleep with one second left in the opening frame. It was a reminder to the world that the round ain’t over until the horn sounds.

6 – Ian Entwistle-Anthony Birchak
Just like former UFC middleweight Rousimar Palhares, England’s Ian Entwistle has a specific game plan in mind every time he fights: he’s going to grab a leg and make it hurt. That attack didn’t work out in his favor in his June debut against Daniel Hooker, but in December, he had the same game plan against Anthony Birchak and this time it worked like a charm, as he finished the Arizonan with a heel hook in just 64 seconds.

5 - Mitch Clarke-Al Iaquinta
After nearly a year out of action, Canada’s Mitch Clarke wanted to return with a bang, and he did, defeating highly-regarded Al Iaquinta in the second round with a slick D’arce choke that put an end to the New Yorker’s night. The Performance of the Night effort showed just how cool the grappling game can be when in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, especially when some assume that if you’re on your back, you’re losing. Not so, my friends, not so.

4 – Luke Rockhold-Tim Boetsch
This is one of those finishes that gets more impressive each time you watch it. In what was expected to be a striking match with Tim Boetsch at UFC 172 in April, Rockhold showed off the well-rounded nature of his game once he got the wrestler to the mat and simply swarmed with submission attempts. Eventually, Boetsch didn’t know where to turn without getting a limb twisted or a choke secured, with the finish coming by way of what is described as an inverted triangle kimura. If that sounds like bad news for somebody on the receiving end of it, it is.
> WATCH: Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch on UFC FIGHT PASS
3 – Ben Saunders-Chris Heatherly
The degree of difficulty and flexibility to pull off an omoplata submission is pretty high, especially at the UFC level, but in his return to the Octagon after a more than four-year absence, Ben Saunders nailed it against Chris Heatherly in the first round of their welterweight bout. It earned “Killa B” a Performance of the Night bonus and a place in the history books as the first fighter in UFC history to end a bout with that move.

2 – Anthony Pettis-Gilbert Melendez
Just like the first rule of Fight Club is not to talk about fight club, you just don’t submit Gilbert Melendez. It just doesn’t happen, and through over 14 years in the sport and 25 fights – many against some of the slickest submission artists in MMA – no one had finished “El Nino.” Then Anthony Pettis, a fighter who specializes in doing the impossible, did just that, ending his long-awaited title fight against Melendez with a guillotine choke in the second round. In terms of significance, this is one people will be talking about for a long time.

1 - Charles Oliveira-Hatsu Hioki
There are certain bouts that you show to folks who say they like fighting, but just not “that ground stuff.” The June matchup between jiu-jitsu black belts Charles Oliveira and Hatsu Hioki is one of those bouts. Compelling and action-packed from start to finish, this was high-level MMA grappling at its finest. When it was over, Oliveira became the first man to submit Hioki, and whether you call it a guillotine, an anaconda, a D’arce, or any modification of those, it was a thing of beauty in a fight you wish they could have restarted and continued.
> WATCH: Charles Oliveira vs. Hatsu Hioki on UFC FIGHT PASS

HONORABLE MENTION – Gilbert Burns-Christos Giagos, Yancy Medeiros-Damon Jackson, Cathal Pendred-Mike King, Niklas Backstrom-Tom Niinimaki, Gunnar Nelson-Zak Cummings, Ovince Saint Preux-Nikita Krylov, Alex Caceres-Sergio Pettis, Russell Doane- Leandro Issa, Ronaldo Souza-Gegard Mousasi, Alexey Oliynyk-Anthony Hamilton