On Christmas Day, we released our clearest pick amongst the big four awards for 2016. Lando Vannata nearly took the KO of the Year unanimously, and rightly so. Today is a very different story, however. We had the hardest time determining our Submission of the Year over the past 12 months. Much in the same way that we had to decide between the spectacular and important in arriving at our decision for KO, the same debate caused some serious dissention on ballots for Sub of the Year. 3. Miesha Tate def. Holly Holm (Rear-Naked Choke) – UFC 196
After upsetting Ronda Rousey in November 2015, the natural assumption is that Holly Holm had assumed the mantle of the dominant women’s bantamweight fighter in the UFC. Instead, the division has gone through a smaller version of the title-swapping transition that the light heavyweight division saw when Chuck Liddell dropped his title back in 2007.
At the time, we had no idea that was the case, however. Holm was more than a -300 favorite against Tate at UFC 196. Aside from a tough second round, she seemed to be in complete control of the fight, keeping the wrestler at distance and shrugging off takedown attempts. In the waning moments of the fifth round, Tate hit a beautiful duck under, dragged Holm down and took her back. After locking in a rear-naked choke, Tate held on as Holm tried to roll forward eventually putting the champion unconscious and re-capturing the top sport she held so briefly in Strikeforce. It was as dramatic as a submission had been since Anderson Silva defeating Chael Sonnen back at UFC 117, and earned Tate the No. 3 spot on our Submission of the Year list.
2. Ben Rothwell def. Josh Barnett (GoGo Choke) – UFC on Fox 18
Coming into his bout with Ben Rothwell in January, Josh Barnett had competed 41 times in MMA, with the last 15 years all taking place at the highest level of the sport. He was 34-7, with 20 submissions to his credit, never having lost by submission. Somehow, Ben Rothwell (owner of just six submissions across 44 fights to that point) was the man to make Barnett tap first. It has since become known as the ‘Gogo Choke’.
Barnett had used the same submission on Matt Mitrione in 2015, but its effectiveness was chalked up to Mitrione’s lack of grappling. Against Barnett, no such claim could be made, and the 10-finger guillotine variation gained some notoriety among MMA circles. The feat of submitting such an accomplished grappler as Barnett was more than enough to put Rothwell in the running for Submission of the Year, but he fell just short coming in second.
1. Mackenzie Dern def. Montana Stewart (Omoplata Rear-Naked Choke) – Legacy FC 61
Narrowly beating out both Tate and Rothwell for Submission of the Year is 23-year-old Mackenzie Dern. In just her second pro fight, the ADCC and Mundials champ showed the exact grappling which has the MMA world so excited about her as a prospect in MMA. After getting Montana Stewart to the ground, Dern took over. She secured mount and then began hunting for submissions. Initially locking up an omoplata, Dern then snaked her arm under Stewart’s neck forcing the tap in one of the more unique submissions you’ll ever see in MMA. The creativity was enough that despite scoring the win against lower-level competition, Dern still walks away with our Submission of the Year. Check out the video below (2:15) to see Dern’s handywork.
Others Receiving Votes:
Nate Diaz def. Conor McGregor (Rear-Naked Choke) – UFC 196 Michael McDonald def. Masanori Kanehara (Rear-Naked Choke) – UFC 195 Ricardo Lamas def. Charles Oliveira (Guillotine Choke) – UFC Fight Night 98 Thiago Moises def. Dave Castillo (Helicopter Armbar) – RFA 35 Pedro Munhoz def. Russell Doane (Modified Guillotine) – UFC Fight Night 90