From the sublime to the spectacular, the first half of 2017 had more than its share of memorable submission finishes. Here are this scribe’s picks for the five best of the year so far.
1 – Aleksei Oleinik-Viktor Pesta (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
How can the first and only Ezekiel choke submission in UFC history not get the top spot here? So there’s that, but even if it wasn’t the first, Aleksei Oleinik’s finish of Viktor Pesta in January was so sublime and so surprising. Mounted by Pesta, it looked like Oleinik was about to be in for a world of pain, but the submission master dubbed “The Boa Constrictor” calmly found his way to sink in the choke, and it was game over as Pesta tapped out at 2:57 of the first round.
2 – Valentina Shevchenko-Julianna Pena (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Leading into January’s bantamweight title elimination bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena, there was no shortage of fans and pundits who believed that “Bullet” would outlast “The Venezuelan Vixen,” but I don’t recall anyone predicting that she would win by submission. So when she forced Pena to tap out to an armbar in the second round, it earned Shevchenko a shot at Amanda Nunes’ world title and also made it very clear that she is as dangerous on the mat as she is on the feet.
3 – Iuri Alcantara-Luke Sanders (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Luke Sanders was putting it on Iuri Alcantara at UFC 209 in March, and entering the second round, it wasn’t a question of if Sanders would win, but when. Yet as he took punch after punch and fell further behind on the scorecards, Alcantara found daylight for a brief second, and that’s all it took for him to lock in a painful kneebar and end Sanders’ night. That’s the beauty of MMA right there, as it’s never over until it’s over.
4 – Demetrious Johnson-Wilson Reis (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Demetrious Johnson’s April victory over Wilson Reis earns a spot here not just because of its historic nature (he tied Anderson Silva’s record for most successful UFC title defenses), but because he continued to show why he’s one of the best ever. Yes, Johnson has a well-rounded skill set that has him able to handle himself wherever a fight goes, but when you sink in an armbar on a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt like Reis and finish him, that’s just another feather in the cap of the man known as “Mighty Mouse.” Mighty indeed.
5- Ben Nguyen-Tim Elliott (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
The odds were not in favor of a Ben Nguyen victory when the Australia-based South Dakotan took on Tim Elliott in June. Originally expected to face Joseph Benavidez, Nguyen instead got Elliott on short notice when Benavidez got injured, and now he had to face a dervish who was coming off five rounds with Demetrious Johnson and a win over Louis Smolka. But Nguyen fought furious fire with furious fire, and in one of Elliott’s trademark scrambles, Nguyen caught him and finished him with a rear naked choke. And it only took 49 seconds.