If you're going to win a submission award in MMA, there are a few criteria you have to satisfy.
First, the submission needs to be applied to an opponent whose surrender is noteworthy. Second, the submission itself needs to have some sort of novelty, either through its application or nature. Third, it has to be applied with extreme prejudice.
Given those considerations, only one submission in this calendar year rightly qualifies for the best submission of the half year: Nate Diaz's stunning guillotine choke of Jim Miller at UFC on Fox 3.
You'll note Diaz's submission satisfies all three conditions for winning this award.
Heading into the bout, Jim Miller - a jiu-jitsu black belt - had never been submitted in professional mixed martial arts competition. Miller had faced other top talents in MMA like Benson Henderson. He'd also defeated other jiu-jitsu black belts in the UFC like Mark Bocek, Charles Oliveira and Gleison Tibau. None had come even remotely close to giving him any trouble on the floor. To defeat Miller is one task; submitting him an ordeal an order of magnitude above that.
There's also the issue of how it was applied. When he wasn't winning in the clinch, Diaz had found a way to keep Miller at range with strikes. After being mauled and looking winded, Miller lazily shot in, which only earned him a spot to not-so-comfortably rest in Diaz's guillotine. Not any old guillotine, mind you. Guillotines are highly variant on gripping systems and arm placement and this one was a variety of the power guillotine, arguably the most high percentage of all guillotine types. It's true they're harder to execute than standard arm-in, wrist and blade of the hand grabbing guillotines, but it speaks volumes that Diaz was able to land this on a fighter with superb submission defense and strong jiu-jitsu credentials.
And now for that extreme prejudice part. How do we quantify that? I'd offer that it has to pass the smell test. We'll know it when we see it. In this case, Diaz's submission was so brutal and so swift that Miller nearly bit his own tongue off after losing his mouthpiece but before the choke was released. It's commonly held that knockouts are the most definitive ways to win in modern MMA, but one would be hard pressed to make a case that the savage submission Diaz applied to one of MMA's most elite lightweights is anything less than unadulterated ownership and supreme athletic glory.
2. Ronda Rousey attempts to dismember Miesha Tate. It was like something out of a horror movie, at least the way it ended. Rousey, from a Russian armbar turned sunny side up, using Miesha Tate's left elbow as the fulcrum for an eventual stoppage where Tate's arm appeared initially to be either broken or dislocated or both. Or maybe even worse.
What made it so spectacular - besides the gruesome nature to it all - was the incredible amount of rivalry between the two competitors heading into the bout. Their mutual animosity lifted the visibility of their bout and, for a moment, all of women's fighting. It also earned Rousey the Strikeforce women's bantamweight title and officially launched her as a star in the sport of mixed martial arts.
3. Korean Zombie surprises everyone with fantastic D'Arce of Poirer. This wasn't the Chan Sung Jung we'd seen in Sengoku. This wasn't even the Chan Sung Jung who fought George Roop. This was the Korean Zombie, as awesomely entertaining as before but now with a host of new skills to show off.
While some believe Jung would give rising contender Dustin Poirier a tough time, the American entered the bout as a heavy favorite. Poirier had won five in a row, was featured in a MMA documentary and seemed to possess the well-rounded skill set that foretold future dominance. Jung was entering the bout off a high note, having starched Mark Hominick in 7 seconds in 2011, but very few expected the South Korean to turn in the sensational performance he did that evening at UFC on FUEL TV 2 in Fairfax, Virginia.
From the outset of the bet, Jung was beating Poirier in almost every dimension of the game. He was hurting the New Orleans native with strikes on the outside, landing takedowns into dominant positions, executing painful ground and pound and so much more. Poirier had his moments, but by the fourth round the beating had taken its toll. Off a jumping knee from Jung, Poirier grasped for a takedown Jung easily stuffed. And before Poirier to scramble out or trying something else, Jung immediately locked the forearm (and eventually bicep) grip to secure the D'Arce choke. The unbelievable performance earned Jung a promised title shot as well as Submission of the Night honors.
4. Charles Oliveira calf slices Eric Wisely into agonizing pain. Everyone knew Charles Oliveira was scary talented, but felt lightweight wasn't the best fit for the Brazilian fighter. After convincing losses to Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone (not to mention a disappointing no-contest against Nik Lentz for an illegal knee), Oliveira knew it was time to place himself in a better and more appropriate place to win.
And when he did, he immediately made noise. As part of the preliminary card for UFC on FOX 2, Oliveira faced the Team Conquest fighter and to the surprise of no one, made short work of him. Oliveira took Wisely down only to drop back for a leglock. As Wisely tried to stand and maneuver out, Oliveira took his back while locking up his left leg into a rare calf slicer submission. Wisely tapped in pain and did so before he was ever able to process what had happened to him. It wasn't just a difficult submission to pull off, but one that signified Oliveira had finally found the right weight class to showcase his skills.
5. Martin Kampmann's come-from-behind guillotine finish of Thiago Alves. Without stopping Martin Kampmann, it's going to be very difficult to win a decision. The American Top Team striker in Alves battered Kampmann from pilar to post in rounds one and two of their UFC on FX 2 bout and seemed to be cruising to either a late stoppage or clear unanimous decision win. Even in round three, Kampmann was doing little but hanging on, waiting for some kind of opportunity to present itself without ever knowing if it would come.
And then, just like that, the tied turned. Rather than keep the fight on its feet, Alves strangely decided to put Kampmann on the mat only to get quickly reversed and find himself in a deep mounted guillotine he couldn't escape. Kampman finished Alves at 1:40 of round three and ultimately earned Submission of the Night for his incredible grit and unbelievable reactionary instincts.