Updated for 2023
Learning the most popular MMA submissions is an absolute must if you want to take your MMA game to the next level and become a force to be reckoned with. These are the moves that can help you secure a win, even when things seem dire.
Whether you’re a seasoned fighter or just starting out, mastering these techniques can give you the confidence you need to succeed. With a bit of hard work and practice, you can become a true submission expert and make your opponents tap out in no time.
But it’s not just about winning. There’s something deeply satisfying about mastering a submission and knowing that you have the power to control your opponent. It’s a feeling like no other, and it’s what makes MMA such an addictive and exhilarating sport.
So, let’s get to it! Whether it’s the Rear Naked Choke, Armbar, Triangle Choke, Guillotine Choke, Kimura, Americana, Heel Hook, Kneebar or Ankle Lock, we’ve got you covered. With these moves in your arsenal, you’ll be the most dangerous fighter in the ring or octagon. So, let’s dive in and have some fun while we master these essential moves!
1. Rear Naked Choke
The rear naked choke is a highly effective submission move in mixed martial arts. This technique begins by targeting a fighter’s opponent’s carotid artery and windpipe, rendering them unable to breathe or fight back.
To execute the move, you must get behind your opponent, reach around their neck, and lock your arm in place to pinch off the blood flow. Because it doesn’t require much strength or physical force to apply this choke hold successfully, fighters of all skill levels can perform the rear naked choke. With some practice, you’ll quickly become an expert at applying this lethal move in the heat of battle. So get ready to step into the ring and take down your opponent with a devastating rear naked choke!
|Notable Uses Within MMA: Kenny Florian def. Takanori Gomi (UFC Fight Night 21), Forrest Griffin def. Mauricio Rua (UFC 76)|
See More: Click here to see our full guide on the rear naked choke
2. Arm Bar (Joint Manipulation)
The arm bar is one of MMA’s most effective submission moves. It’s a simple move to execute, but it can be very effective if done correctly. The arm bar works by hyperextending the elbow, which compression force on the elbow joint. This can cause serious damage to the ligaments and tendons in the elbow and even dislocate the elbow. For this reason, it’s important only to attempt an arm bar only when you’re sure you can execute it properly. When done correctly, the arm bar is a very powerful move that can quickly end a fight.
Notable Uses Within MMA: Fedor Emelianenko def. Mark Coleman (Pride 32), Matt Hughes def. Georges St-Pierre (UFC 50)
See more: Click here to see our full guide on the arm bar
3. Guillotine Choke
The guillotine choke is a chokehold in martial arts applied from the front of an opponent that involves using the arms to encircle the opponent’s neck. The technique is either a type of tracheal compression restraint (wind choke) that prevents airflow to the lungs or a blood choke, depending on how it is applied.
The guillotine choke is a move used in grappling and mixed martial arts competitions. It is a chokehold that involves using your arm to cut off the blood supply to your opponent’s brain by applying pressure to their carotid arteries.
The guillotine choke is an effective move because it can be applied quickly and does not require much strength to succeed. It is also a relatively safe move for the person applying the hold, as there is little risk of injuring your opponent if they tap out or are pulled from the hold.
To execute a guillotine choke, you will need first to get your opponent in a headlock. From there, you will need to cross their arms in front of their throat and apply pressure with your arm until they tap out or pass out. The guillotine choke is a versatile move that can be used both as an offensive and defensive tool in grappling and mixed martial arts competitions. With proper training, it can be an extremely effective way to control or finish a fight.
Notable Uses Within MMA: Ben Henderson def. Jamie Varner (WEC 46)
4. Triangle Choke
The triangle choke is a type of figure-four chokehold used in mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions. It is one of the most common MMA submissions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and other grappling-based sports.
The triangle choke occurs when an opponent’s head and one arm are passed under the legs, and the remaining arm is used to clasp the opponent’s neck, thus restricting blood flow to the brain. The hold can be tightened by pushing on the opponents head with the knees or by using other leverage points such as the hips, elbows, and shoulders.
The hold is generally applied from a guard position, but can also be done from other positions such as side control or mount. Given its versatility, the triangle choke is an important part of any grappler’s toolkit. When applied correctly, it can be an extremely effective way to force an opponent to submit.
Notable Uses Within MMA: Kendall Grove def. Jake Rosholt (UFC 106)
5. Kimura (Joint Manipulation)
The Kimura joint lock is a powerful submission hold that can be used in both Gi and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu. Often referred to as the “Figure-Four” or the “Chicken-Wing”, the Kimura puts immense pressure on the shoulder, elbow and wrist, making it one of the most painful submission holds in Jiu-Jitsu.
The opponent’s wrist is grabbed with the hand on the same side, and the opposite arm is put behind the opponent’s arm, again grabbing the attacker’s wrist and forming a figure-four. By cranking the arm away from the attacker, pressure is put on the shoulder joint.
The key to applying the Kimura is to control your opponent’s arm with your legs, and to use your hips and core to generate leverage. The hold can be applied from a variety of positions, but it is most commonly seen in transition from guard to side control. When applied correctly, the Kimura is an extremely effective submission hold that can end a fight quickly.
Notable Uses Within MMA:
Nick Diaz def. Joe Hurley (WEC 6)
6. Heel Hook (Joint Manipulation)
Heel hook is a brutal submission hold that involves wrapping the foot around an opponent’s leg, usually in the Achilles tendon or calf area. This move can cause extreme pain and injury to an opponent when executed properly and is forbidden in many sports such as boxing, martial arts, and wrestling.
In order to perform a successful heel hook, one must be quick, strong, and very flexible. Often used as a finishing move or as a way to get out of submission holds, the heel hook has become one of the most feared submission moves in martial arts today.
If you’re planning on fighting someone who’s known for using a heel hook, beware: this move packs a powerful punch! And if you find yourself in one, your best bet is to tap out before things get any worse.
Notable Uses Within MMA:
Ken Shamrock def. Patrick Smith (UFC 1)
7. Key Lock (Joint Manipulation)
The submission, known as the keylock or lateral keylock, is a devastating grappling technique that focuses on attacking your opponent’s shoulder, elbow, and wrist. This powerful move is closely related to the Kimura, another popular submission technique in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and other martial arts. Like the Kimura, the keylock involves using your arms to control and manipulate your opponent’s single arm to immobilize or neutralize them.
By carefully controlling and manipulating your opponent’s arm with your own, you are able to apply intense pressure on their shoulder, elbow, and wrist. This pressure forces them to tap out or risk severe injury to these vulnerable areas.
Whether you’re matched up against an opponent who is bigger, stronger, or more experienced than you, the keylock has the potential to give you a significant advantage in any grappling situation.
Notable Uses Within MMA:
Josh Barnett def. Aleksander Emelianenko (Pride: Total Elimination Absolute 2006)
8. Knee Bar (Joint Manipulation)
The kneebar is an effective joint lock in martial arts. By hyperextending the knee, it can severely damage an opponent’s leg, making it difficult for them to continue fighting.
The kneebar is similar to an armbar, in that it requires the entanglement of the opponent’s legs. However, the main difference is that the knee bar entails manipulating the kneecap towards the body, rather than the arm. This creates a much more severe hyperextension of the knee, resulting in greater damage. In order to execute a successful kneebar, fighters must push their hips forward, straightening their opponent’s leg. This puts immense pressure on the knee, causing severe pain and making it difficult for the opponent to continue fighting.
The kneebar is a brutal move that can quickly end a fight – making it an essential part of any fighter’s arsenal.
Notable Uses Within MMA:
Frank Mir def. Brock Lesnar (UFC 81)
9. Achilles Lock (Joint Manipulation)
An achilles lock is a joint lock in martial arts that involves pressing the achilles tendon into the back of the ankle or lower leg. It is typically performed by wedging a forearm, especially a bony part of it, into the achilles tendon, while leveraging the foot and the leg over the forearm serving as a fulcrum.
Notable Uses Within MMA:
Andrei Arlovski def. Tim Sylvia (UFC 51)
See Also: Championship Catch Wrestling: The Achilles Lock By Josh Barnett
10. Anaconda Choke
The anaconda choke is one of the most effective submission holds in martial arts. Also known as a blood choke or a sleeping choke, the anaconda choke can quickly render an opponent unconscious. The hold works by cutting off the flow of blood to the brain.
To execute the hold, you need to thread your arm under your opponent’s neck and through the armpit, and then grasp the biceps. You then attempt to pin your opponent onto the trapped shoulder, while applying pressure with the grasped biceps. This interrupts the flow of blood to the brain and causes your opponent to pass out. The anaconda choke is a highly effective fighting move that can give you the upper hand in a fight.
Notable Uses Within MMA:
Tim Elliott vs Mark De La Rosa – UFC 219
11. The Twister Submission
The Twister submission is one of the most unique and deadly submissions in all of MMA. It’s a variation of the Americana submission, but it’s executed in a different way. The Twister submissions usually comes from the bottom position, when your opponent has you in their guard. You’ll need to first establish an underhook with your right arm, and then grip your opponent’s far leg with your left hand.
From here, you’ll need to turn your body to face their head and twist your torso while maintaining the grip on their leg. This will force them to turn onto their stomach, and then you can transition into an Americana submission. The Twister submission is dangerous because it can cause serious damage to your opponent’s spine and neck. It’s a move that experienced fighters should only use, and it should only be used in a fight if you’re sure that you can finish the match.
Since the beginning of MMA, a few fighters have become well-known for their twister submission skills. One of the most famous is Cung Le, who used the move to submit Rich Franklin at UFC 148. Le is a former Sanshou champion and is considered one of MMA’s best strikers. He also used the twister to submit several opponents, including Travis Lutter and Xavier Foupa-Pokam. Other notable fighters who have used the twister include Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, and Gilbert Melendez. The move has become increasingly popular in MMA due to its effectiveness in both gi and no-gi fights. In addition, the twister is a relatively simple move to learn and can be applied in a wide range of situations. As a result, it is likely that we will see more fighters using the twister in the future.
12. Americana (Shoulder Lock)
The Americana is a submission technique commonly used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and mixed martial arts (MMA) that targets the shoulder joint. It is also known as a figure-four armlock or a keylock, and it involves using one arm to trap the opponent’s arm while using the other arm to apply pressure to the opponent’s shoulder joint.
The goal is to apply enough pressure to cause the opponent to submit or to dislocate their shoulder. The Americana can be applied from a variety of positions, including side control, mount, or as a counter to an opponent’s guard pass attempt. It is a highly effective submission move and is often used as a part of a fighter’s ground-and-pound strategy.
Which fighters are known for their submission skills in MMA
There are many fighters known for their submission skills in MMA. Some of the most notable ones are:
Royce Gracie: One of the pioneers of the sport, Royce Gracie, used his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) skills to win the early UFC tournaments. He has many victories by submission.
Demian Maia: An outstanding BJJ practitioner known for his rear-naked choke and triangle choke. Maia has used his ground game to great effect in the UFC, where he has scored numerous submission victories.
Fabricio Werdum: Known as “Vai Cavalo,” Werdum is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and a multiple-time BJJ world champion. He is renowned for his guard game and ability to submit opponents from behind.
Frank Mir: Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Mir is one of the most accomplished submission artists in the history of the division. He’s known for his versatility, having won fights via a variety of submission techniques, particularly with his kimura and ankle lock
Ronda Rousey: While her career was brief, Rousey left an indelible mark on MMA. A former Olympic judoka, she won many of her fights via armbar in the first round.
Nate Diaz: The younger brother is known for his durable chin, relentless pace, and slick submission game. He famously submitted Conor McGregor at UFC 196.
Charles Oliveira: As of my last training data in September 2021, Oliveira held the record for the most submission victories in UFC history.
Khabib Nurmagomedov: While known primarily for his dominant wrestling and ground-and-pound, Khabib also has a number of submission victories to his name, including his famous neck crank submission of Conor McGregor.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: Known as “Minotauro,” Nogueira is considered one of the greatest heavyweights in the history of the sport. He was known for his exceptional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, especially his use of the triangle choke. Nogueira was a former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion and a former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion.
Ken Shamrock: Known as “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” Shamrock was one of the pioneers of MMA and was known for his formidable submission skills. He was particularly adept at applying the kneebar and has several victories by this technique. Shamrock was a former UFC Superfight Champion and a pioneer of the sport in its early days.
These fighters have demonstrated their mastery of submission techniques in the octagon and have earned a reputation as some of the best submission specialists in MMA history.
How do Fighters Train to Improve Their Submission Skills?
Fighters train to improve their submission skills through a combination of techniques and drills. Here are some ways fighters can improve their submission skills:
- Practice specific submission techniques: Fighters can focus on specific techniques, such as the rear-naked or triangle choke, and practice them repeatedly to improve their execution and timing.
- Train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ): BJJ is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting, making it an ideal training method for improving submission skills.
- Sparring: Fighters can practice their submission skills during sparring sessions with training partners. This allows them to apply their techniques in a realistic setting and get feedback on their performance.
- Strength and conditioning: Fighters must have strong muscles and good endurance to execute submissions effectively. Therefore, they must incorporate strength and conditioning exercises into their training regimen.
- Seek guidance from coaches: Coaches can provide guidance on technique, strategy, and training methods to help fighters improve their submission skills.
MMA submissions are an essential part of the sport, requiring great skill and technique to execute.
The most common submission in MMA is the jiu-jitsu chokehold, which uses leverage to force an opponent to tap out. Other submissions include joint locks, where pressure is applied at specific points on the body in order to hyperextend or break joints.
Whether utilizing a complex triangle chokehold or a lightning-fast armbar, MMA fighters must always be on their toes, ready to outsmart their opponents with quick thinking and well-timed maneuvers.
Through constant training and hours spent sparring in the ring, fighters become experts in submissions, relying on their familiarity with these techniques to defeat even the most skilled opponents.