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MMA Submissions Guide


There are a ton of submissions that can be done in an MMA match up. The most commonly used ones you will see on almost any given MMA telecast are: rear naked choke, guillotine choke, and the arm bar, but what are the rest of the many submission moves.

Well I have compiled a list of submission techniques with brief descriptions of how they’re done.


Anaconda Choke: (from the gator roll position) – This is a submission that has been gaining in popularity. It tends to begin with a sprawl.

The sprawling person catches their opponent in a headlock. Next, they dip their other arm below the neck and behind their opponent’s arm, eventually locking it up with their other arm. Then the performer dips their right shoulder and rolls both combatants over.

In the end, the performer turns toward his opponent and squeezes the back of their head into his or her own body.

The Anaconda choke isn’t used very often in MMA. To see it in action, check out Nogueira’s victory over Hirotaka Yokoi (on 4/25/04).

Arm Triangle Choke: (from the side, often termed a side choke) – From the side of an opponent, the performer uses his or her forearm along with their opponent’s own outstretched arm/ shoulder to cut off the air/ blood to an opponent. The performer actually squeezes a forearm into their opponent’s neck to accomplish this.

Guillotine Choke: (front) – A favorite for jiu-jitsu fighters taking on wrestlers with limited MMA experience as the guillotine choke punishes those who might try a takedown with their head down. This is also the most common submission you will see at any given event, since so many positions during a grapple lead to this.

In short, a guillotine choke often happens after a sprawl/shoot that ends with an opponent’s head in the performer’s armpit. The performer then reaches around the opponent’s chin without going around their arm and grasps the hand of the first arm with the second. From there they lift up, cutting off their opponent’s air.

This move can be applied from a standing position (see Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic versus Kevin Randleman II). However, oftentimes performers choose to fall back into their guard for leverage – and limiting their opponents movement by locking in a body triangle with the legs around the body.

Neck Crank: This submission can be applied when a person is in a dominant position (mount or side mount). It involves pulling or twisting the head farther than it should go with two arms. Not really a choke, but not really any other category it can fall into.

North-South Choke: The performer must be on top in the north- south position to apply this hold. From there the performer cuts off the flow of blood to the neck with his or her bicep. This hasn’t been extremely effective in mixed martial arts, primarily because few mixed martial artists end up in the north – south position and it’s a slow working submission.

Thus it gives fighters too much time to get out.

Rear Naked Choke: The second most seen submission in MMA. The performer must have access to their opponent’s back to pull this off. From there they curl one arm around the the chin applying pressure to the neck, the choking arms hand then clinches the bicept of the other arm or non choking arm just inside the pit of the elbow. This a clamp, with the hand in place of the pit of the elbow, the non choking arm applies a squeeze pushing the choking forearm into the throat.

Oftentimes MMA fighters use their legs as hooks/body triangle for leverage. To see a great example of this popular MMA move, check out Matt Hughes versus Frank Trigg I.

Triangle Choke: My absolute favorite submission, I love setting these in on people I have trained with back in my Army days. This move was made famous by Royce Gracie in an early MMA bout against Dan Severn. While in the guard, the performer traps an arm and extends their opposite side leg across their opponent’s neck so that it sits on the other side of the opponents body. Then their other leg crosses over that leg to tighten the hold. Just like a body triangle locks around the body – but instead of the body – it’s the neck and a single arm in the tight lock.

Once in place the performer pulls down on the back of the head to apply even more pressure while simultaneously squeezing the neck and arm with the thighs.

Arm Locks

Arm Bar: (from guard) The performer traps an arm with one hand and uses their other hand to hold that opponent close (oftentimes by grabbing the shoulder or neck). Next they open their guard, pivot or twist their bodies in the direction opposite of the arm they’ve isolated, and climb the leg opposite the trapped arm up their opponent’s back. At the same time, they make a small loop around their opponent’s neck with their other leg. With both hands on the isolated arm, the performer lifts their hips and pulls the caught arm in while pressing out with their legs.

To see an example of this, one need only look to Fedor Emelianenko’s victory over Mark Coleman in PRIDE’s first American contest.

Armbar: (from the mount) – The performer isolates a single arm from the opponent. As they do this, they may choose to put pressure on their opponent’s neck with their free arm. Then the performer grabs the isolated arm with both hands, comes up to a squat, and pivots around clockwise (if isolating their opponent’s right arm) or counterclockwise (left arm), eventually ending up perpendicular to their opponent.

Finally, the performer’s legs pinch the isolated arm, and lay their legs on top and across their opponents body, and they fall back into an armbar. Applying tremendous pressure to the elbow – in a hyper extension lock.

Keylock: Generally, one needs side mount to pull this submission off. Once side mount is achieved, the performer grabs their opponent’s wrist with their near hand and reaches under that arm with their free hand, grabbing their own forearm. The performer then forces the elbow upwards.

Kimura: (from the guard) – The performer grips their opponent’s hand, opens their guard, pushes off the hips of their opponent, and sits up. Then with their free hand they reach over and through the arm they’ve isolated to grab their own wrist. Finally, keeping that arm away from their opponent’s body, the performer attempts to touch the back of the trapped hand to their opponent’s head. Very painful.

Omoplata: A very rarely seen executed and advanced Jiu Jitsu move. From the guard, the performer places one leg under the opponent’s armpit and turns toward that leg, thereby catching their opponent’s arm. By pushing the arm away from the back, terrible pressure is put on the shoulder. Sometimes, depending on the emphasis put on the leg, an elbow can also be harmed.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters love this submission.

Wristlock: A joint lock that affects the wrist. It can be applied in a variety of ways, although it is rarely used in MMA. Still, a wristlock did end a fight for Royce Gracie relatively recently (against Chad Rowan).


Ankle Lock: Often occurs straight out of an opponent’s guard, Ken Shamrock was known for this move. Once the guard is broken, the fighter on top secures the foot inside an armpit. Then the performer falls back with the leg held by both arms (and trapped within their own two legs). The lock works by using the forearm opposite the one that caught the leg as a fulcrum for leverage, thereby pushing the toes down and placing pressure on the joint where the foot meets the leg (on top) and the Achilles (the back portion of the ankle).

Flying Scissor Heel Hook: My second most personal favorite submission to pull off because hardly anyone does it – and once executed or even succesfully attempted it always gets that oooOOOooooO reaction from spectators. To better understand the flying part, check out Anderson Silva’s shocking/upset loss to Ryo Chonan. It was one of the most impressive submissions ever! You will also see why it has that wow factor – as Silva was dominating the poor guy and then outta no where! Tap out!

The performer quickly flies/drops into position with the legs working in a scissor like motion – one leg to the rear of opponents targeted lower leg (just above the ankle but below the knee to trip the opponent) the other leg about thigh height to push the opponent backwards tripping him down on your other leg. The arms quickly secure the foot of the now trapped in scissor locked, leg. holding the foot attached to that leg in their armpit. Then the applier twists the ankle while holding the heel with the forearm. The twist is what separates it from a standard ankle lock.

The foot is anchored in the armpit toes facing the floor and in the performers forearm/elbow pit is the heel of the opponent twisting the heel outward from the opponents body.

Knee Bar: Often occurs straight out of an opponent’s guard. Once the guard is broken, the fighter on top steps through the guard (turning his or her back to the opponent), and grabs a leg. Then, using leverage, the performer falls back with the leg in both hands and secures it like an arm bar by pulling the toes in (the performer must also wrap their legs around the isolated leg to add leverage). This hold applies a whole lot of hyper extending pain to the knee, the hamstring could also be affected.

Toe Hold: (figure four) – Appliers simply use their hands (in figure four fashion) to hyperextend the ankle. This move can only be applied when the opponent’s leg is controlled. Not a very popular nor effective technique – especially in todays MMA where the sport has evolved above such moves.

I assure you that this list does not cover every single submission their is – most of the submissions I have above also have many, MANY, variations and positions from which they can be executed from. However this is a good start – I will update with pictures to help go with the definitions as well as more submissions and explanations.

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