Mixed Martial Arts requires its combatants to have a deep knowledge of every facet of the sport. Unlike basketball where you can play just a single position on the court, fighters who are very good in one sphere but have limited skills in other areas do not last very long.
Technically, one of the most challenging skills to learn in MMA is the art of the submission in all of it’s many forms, but it’s an essential component of any fighters game in this day and age.
Submission holds are grouped into two broad categories: Joint locks and chokeholds. Statistically, chokes have proven to be much more popular in mixed martial arts, largely due to the fact that they are easier to pull off during a fight. In fact, four of the top five most successful submission moves applied in major MMA events over the past few years have been chokeholds.
So, with that in mind, what are the best techniques that fighters use to send their foes to dreamland?
1. Rear Naked Choke
Throughout years of competition inside the cage the rear-naked choke has become established as the most successful submission move in MMA. It is applied from the opponents back (hence the term rear), and was given the term “naked” due to the fact that it originated from a judo chokehold called “Hadake Jime” or “Naked Strangle”.
A common misconception when it comes to this move is that it’s cutting off the opponents air supply – that’s not the case. The basic version of the move is in fact what’s known as a “blood choke”, meaning that it’s applied to points on the neck that briefly prevents blood reaching the brain, causing the opponent to pass out.
To do this a fighter slides his arm under his opponents neck, keeping the opponents trachea in the crook of his elbow, and squeezes his forearm on one side of the neck while his bicep presses on the other side. The fighters other arm pushes the back of the opponents neck, which has the effect of putting pressure from the rear and lateral sides, inducing sleepy-time if they don’t tap.
2. Triangle Choke
The move is typically used as a counter-attack when the attacker is in guard on his back. Generally, as the opponent throws strikes the attacker grabs hold of one of his arms and pulls it forward and then wraps one of their legs around the opponents neck and shoulders. Their other leg is used to lock the move by placing the knee around the ankle of the other foot.
Once the lock is in place the opponent is trapped with their neck being squeezed by the attackers leg and their own arm and with pressure applied it’s only a matter of time until they tap-out or go unconscious.
Derived from the medieval execution device, the guillotine choke is one of the most commonly seen moves in the sport. It can be employed both from a standing position and from the bottom.
While there’s many opportunities to apply the move during a fight, wrestlers in particular often fall victim to the guillotine as they shoot for the takedown due to the fact that they tend to leave their head and neck exposed. That leaves the opportunity for the move to be performed by slipping an arm under the opponents chin, grabbing that hand with their other hand and then pulling upwards.
Often when this move is performed the two fighters will drop to the floor with the person applying the choke closing guard in order to prevent their opponent from moving and gain additional leverage as can be seen in the picture above.
4. Arm Triangle
Also called a side choke, this submission is mostly often seen when a fighter secures top position on the mat.
The fighter traps the opponents arm and his neck by wrapping his own arm behind the opponents neck and grabbing his bicep or clasping his hands together.
From there, he slips off to the side of his opponent and pushes the head of the opponent down until he submits.
It may be best known as the Undertaker’s finishing move in the WWE, but while it’s rarely seen in mixed martial arts, the gogoplata is as punitive as any chokehold.
Again, it is a counter move done from the guard. It’s applied by pulling the opponent forward by locking their hands behind their head, then slipping one leg over their neck and hooking the other leg under the opponents chin.
The fighter then pulls the opponents head down until his throat is against the shin, exerting pressure in the trachea.
6. Anaconda Choke
The anaconda is an arm triangle applied from the front headlock position. When an opponent shoots for the takedown on a fighter’s right leg, the fighter sprawls and pushes his right hip downward. He then slips his left arm between the opponents right shoulder and head while reaching out for his tricep on the other side.
The fighter then triangles their arm while digging their left bicep deep into their opponents neck. After securing the triangle, he then drops onto their right leg and turns his upper body to the left, forcing the opponent to roll on his trapped shoulder. Good night!
7. North-South Choke
The north-south choke is a blood-choke submission that is performed 180 degrees opposite to the opponent while they are on their back on the mat, known as the north-south position.
Often initiated while circling from side control to north-south position, the attacker slips one arm underneath their opponent’s neck with the bicep firmly pressed against the cartoid artery on one side and then shifts over to north-south position facing 180 degrees from their opponent while flattening out with their hips to the floor and clasping their hands together.
Using the shoulder of the encircled arm to press down on the throat then helps to tighten the airflow and complete the submission.
8. Peruvian Necktie
Often credited to mixed martial artist Tony de Souza from Peru, this is one of the rarest submissions in mixed martial arts competition.
To date it’s only been performed twice in the UFC, by C.B. Dollaway against Jesse Taylor and Brad Pickett against Kyle Dietz. At Bellator 46, Pat Curran produced a Peruvian Necktie on Luis Palomino, who is ironically, a Peruvian.
The opportunity for this submission often materializes after an opponent has had a takedown stuffed, leaving the attacker’s torso positioned above their head. From there, one arm slides under the neck and through under the opposite shoulder where the the other hand clasps it in place, trapping one of the opponents arms in the process.
The attacker then briefly begins to stand, then drops backwards to the side that has the arm in place while throwing their legs up over the opponents back. Cranking this painful move should quickly force the tap.
9. D’Arce Choke
This was named after Joe D’Arce, though he claimed he wasn’t the first to use the submission hold. Interestingly he has gone on record stating that it was in fact highly regarded trainer John Danaher, famous for training Georges St.Pierre, who first showed it to him.
Also referred to as the Brabo choke, the move often begins from the sprawl position with the attacker feeding an arm under one of their opponent’s arms and then around their neck. the other hand completes the grip and then that position of control is used to roll them over onto their shoulder while maintaining the grip. The choke works by a mixture of the opponents own shoulder and the attacker’s bicep applying pressure on the neck.