But what are the most beautiful moves ever used to finish a fight? To answer that question, MMA Fighting asked a man that understands a thing or two — or 14 — about grappling: Charles Oliveira, who holds the all-time record for most submission victories in the promotion.
Check his top-5 below.
No. 5 — Tap or snap
The list starts with a bitter moment for Oliveira, who watched one of his idols get his arm snapped by his biggest rival.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was looking to avenge the first stoppage loss of his career when he rematched Frank Mir at UFC 140 in December 2011. Nogueira’s brother had just finished Tito Ortiz minutes before at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, and Nogueira entered the Octagon to get the job done for the family.
“Minotauro” had an incredible start, rocking Mir with vicious elbows in the clinch, but decided to go for a submission when both hit the ground. Still dazed by the strikes, Mir managed to escape, reverse position and lock a kimura.
“When Frank got ‘Minotauro’ with a kimura and he started spinning… that submission was insane,” said Oliveira. “‘Minotauro’ not tapping, going until the end, and even breaking his arm… ‘Minotauro’ was coming off an injury and was putting on a great performance and never gave up. We came out with a loss, unfortunately, but ‘Minotauro’ is a legend of the sport.”
No. 4 — A debut for the ages
Leonard Garcia walked away with a controversial split decision win over Chan Sung Jung at WEC 48 in April 2010, and the UFC decided to make “Bad Boy” the first opponent for “The Korean Zombie” in the Octagon a year later.
The South Korean featherweight left no room for controversy this time, tapping Garcia with a Twister with a second left in the second stanza.
“He completely twisted him. That was crazy,” Oliveira said. “Those transitions came out of nowhere and he pulled that off. I think everyone still ask him how he did that, where did that come from. That’s not something that comes out of nowhere, it’s something you train every day and do it when there’s an opening during a fight.”
“Do Bronx” has recorded submission wins in the UFC with guillotines, rear-naked chokes, anaconda chokes, armbar and even a rare calf slicer, but Twister is too fancy for him to even try in the gym.
“I don’t train those positions that much,” Oliveira said. “My jiu-jitsu is very simple and basic. I work on armbars, triangles, anaconda chokes, guillotines and rear-naked chokes. Basic, simple stuff. I just wanna go there and win the fight, I don’t wanna invent too much and try doing fancy things.”
No. 3 — Just bleed!
Demian Maia was kicking off his run as a welterweight in the back in 2012 when he impressed Oliveira with a “basic” rear-naked choke that was incredible enough to earn a spot in his podium.
Maia cut down to 170 pounds after a 13-fight run as a middleweight in the eight-sided cage, making short work of Rick Story in his first UFC appearance in Brazilian soil in Oct. 2012. The jiu-jitsu ace masterfully took Story’s back and squeezed his skull to erupt the crowd in Rio de Janeiro.
“Demian always has a few cards up his sleeves,” Oliveira said. “His jiu-jitsu has a ton of pressure, he’s always very aggressive, so he definitely deserves the third place. To me, he’s the best jiu-jitsu fighter in the UFC.”
“He put so much pressure that blood came out of his Rick Story’s nose,” he added. “No one expected that, and it was crazy. I was watching at a bar and everybody started screaming. So much pressure. Rick Story wasn’t tapping, but Demian put so much pressure that blood came out of his nose.”
Rear-naked chokes aren’t rare, but Maia’s pressure convinced Oliveira to land No. 3 as most beautiful submissions in UFC history.
“Rear-naked chokes are easy? Yeah, it’s easy to get, but people are getting better at defending it,” said the lightweight fighter. “And the way it was, with Rick Story close to the fence, the way it was done, I think it was awesome.”
No. 2 — A rare kneebar
A Suloev stretch is incredibly uncommon, but happened twice on the same night in Sept. 2018. For “do Bronx” Oliveira, Zabit Magomedsharipov’s win over Brandon Davis at UFC 228 deserves the silver medal.
“That’s one of those submissions no one has ever seen before, and it was really good,” Oliveira said. “He got to his back and tried to get his neck but couldn’t do it, so he ended up reaching for his foot with something no one expected.”
Like the Twister that blew his mind years before, Oliveira admits he never tried practicing that move in the gym.
“Man, jiu-jitsu is such a chess match. You make your moves and then catches him out of nowhere,” Oliveira said. “He was going for the neck and then reached for the foot. You usually try to grab his foot to get your opponent off balance, but, no, he secured that lock that deserves the No. 2 spot.”
No. 1 — Chute Boxe can tap
In an unsurprising move, “do Bronx” selected one of his 14 submissions in the Octagon as the best ever.
Chute Boxe started as a muay Thai gym in Curitiba, but the best UFC fighter in the team’s history has done so with his grappling skills. Oliveira, who trains at the Chute Boxe Diego Lima branch in Sao Paulo, elects his calf slicer finish over Eric Wisely as the No. 1.
“I think the No. 1 amongst them all is my calf slicer because no one had even seen that in the MMA world before and I was the first one to do it,” he said.
Oliveira was in his early UFC days and looking to snap a three-fight winless skid when he was matched-up against Wisely at the second FOX card in Jan. 2012, pocketing a ‘Submission of the Night’ bonus check for his win.
“It’s so funny,” Oliveira said, “because I was in a tough moment cutting weight and felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. Junior Maranhao came to me and said, ‘brother, let’s work on some positions on the ground so you start sweating and lose weight,’ and then we started practicing.
“I went for the foot, made a transition to the kneebar, and then back to the heel hook, and eventually came to this calf slicer position. I didn’t pull him down in training, I went up instead, but God is so wonderful that it actually happened in the fight. I did the transition and pulled him for the calf slicer and it worked. No one had ever seen that before. It’s the No. 1, no doubt.”