Regarded as one of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners of all-time, with a long list of championships and medals on his resume, Souza had never been finished by submission prior to 2021, but Muniz promised heading into UFC 262 that he was just the man for the job to change that.
He followed through on that guarantee, latching onto an armbar in the first round — and Muniz didn’t let go until he heard a horrific pop.
A split second later, the fight was stopped and the referee recognized that Souza had suffered a gruesome broken arm. Muniz had become the first and only person in mixed martial arts history to finish the former Strikeforce champion by submission.
Perhaps almost as impressive as the finish was the confidence that Muniz showed by going to the ground with “Jacare” in the first place and immediately attacking with submissions. His was a flawless series of transitions, as Muniz leapt onto Souza’s back to hunt for a rear-naked choke and then fluidly fell into the armbar after realizing he was a little too high up the back to secure his position.
As soon as gravity helped Muniz slide forward, he secured the armbar — and as desperately as Souza attempted to get free of the submission, the snap of his bone put an end to that.
“Since I know him very well, I knew that it had to go like this,” Muniz said after UFC 262. “If I had a choke or a submission, he was going to go unconscious or I would have to break his arm.
“I forced the armbar, and I didn’t think his arm was going to break. But it happened.”
The fight ultimately served as the last of Souza’s legendary career. He announced his retirement a few months later, while Muniz continued his winning ways with another armbar submission to finish Eryk Anders at UFC 269 and remain undefeated in his UFC run.
Muniz may have three armbar wins in a row, but his finish of a grappling icon in such devastating fashion is the one that stands above them all. He is the winner of MMA Fighting’s 2021 Submission of the Year.
2T. Julianna Pena vs. Amanda Nunes, UFC 269
As if pulling off one of the biggest upsets in MMA history wasn’t enough, Julianna Pena did it in style when she tapped out the consensus greatest women’s fighter of all-time at UFC 269.
Heading into the card, Pena exuded the kind of confidence needed to face an opponent who had demolished or otherwise dominated nearly every fighter she had faced for the past six years. Amanda Nunes looked unstoppable, but it turns out Pena was finally the brick wall “The Lioness” couldn’t run through.
After battling her way through a tough opening round, Pena came out firing on all cylinders in the second, cracking Nunes with a series of stiff jabs. Pena was relentless, as if she was just mashing the same button during a game of Mortal Kombat, and each shot landed seemed to zap more and more of the champion’s energy away.
After battering Nunes on the feet, Pena then took control on the ground, taking Nunes’ back and immediately locking her hands under the chin to secure a no-hooks rear-naked choke. Knowing there was no escape, Nunes tapped out right away. Even Pena was a little stunned. It’s not every day you beat one of the most decorated champions in UFC history.
It may not have been the flashiest submission, but the magnitude of the moment matters — and Pena tapping out Nunes will be remembered as the one of the most stunning finishes in all of 2021.
2T. Anthony Hernandez vs. Rodolfo Vieira, UFC 258
If anybody was mapping a path to victory for Anthony Hernandez against Rodolfo Vieira, the No. 1 piece of advice — accompanied by an inordinate amount of exclamation points — would be to not go to the ground.
When facing a submission specialist like Vieira, whose grappling excellence has been recognized with a multitude of gold medals won across numerous high-profile Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions, Hernandez had to know that he was inviting disaster if he ended up on the canvas at UFC 268.
And that’s almost exactly how the fight nearly ended in the opening round when Hernandez made a crucial mistake and found himself with Vieira mounted on top of him with a pick of submissions at his disposal, like a multiple choice question with no wrong answers.
Vieira eventually settled on an armbar — and it appeared as if the fight was over. But Hernandez refused to give up. He kept fighting and scrambling until finally breaking free and working his way back to his feet. That’s where the momentum dramatically changed.
Hernandez began chipping away at Vieira with superior striking, depleting the gas tank of the vaunted grappling expert. It was clear right away that Vieira had nothing much in reserve. A head kick from Hernandez followed, then an elbow that sent blood streaming out of Vieira’s head. It was the beginning of the end, but there’s no way anyone could have predicted what happened next.
Rather than finish with strikes, Hernandez saw an opening for a guillotine choke — and rather than cower at reputation of the multi-time grappling world champion, he decided that he was going to become the first person in a decade to tap out Vieira with a submission.
Not since Dean Lister grabbed onto a heel hook back at the ADCC Championships in 2011 had anybody finished Vieira with a submission, but Hernandez got the job done while also pulling off a monumental upset as a near 5-to-1 betting underdog.
Needless to say, Hernandez left UFC 258 with a performance bonus as well as one of the craziest submissions in recent memory.
4. Vicente Luque vs. Michael Chiesa, UFC 265
Vicente Luque has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster. He lived up to that moniker once again with his win over Michael Chiesa at UFC 265.
In a fight to propel the winner a big step closer to title contention, Luque nearly found himself on the wrong side of an early submission after Chiesa managed to take him to the ground and nearly lock on a rear-naked choke. Chiesa was relentless as he sought to put Luque away, adjusting from a choke into a neck crank, and it looked as if the finish was just seconds away … until it wasn’t.
Luque refused to submit, and rather than merely escape, he exploded out of the bad position. Before Chiesa even knew what hit him, the D’arce choke was on.
As Luque applied his self-proclaimed go-to move, he wasted no time wrapping his arms around Chiesa and tightening his grip to the point where there was no escape.
The tap came at 3:25 in the opening round.
Overall, it was the fourth D’arce choke submission that Luque has finished since joining the UFC roster, and his second straight after tapping out former champion Tyron Woodley with the same move earlier in the year.
Luque’s thrilling style has made him one of the most prolific finishers on the entire UFC roster, and he did nothing to dispel his reputation with this particularly impressive win.
5. Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier, UFC 269
When it comes to all-time records, Charles Oliveira already secured his spot as the deadliest submission specialist in UFC history with 14 finishes prior to his first title defense at UFC 269.
Despite obvious advantages with his grappling game, the Brazilian still found himself as a sizable underdog when going up against Dustin Poirier — a fighter many had called the uncrowned champion at 155 pounds. But that all changed on Dec. 11. Oliveira not only proved himself a champion, but he did it with style, finishing Poirier with a nasty standing rear-naked choke in the third round.
After a dominant second round that saw Oliveira take Poirier to the canvas and bludgeon him with punches and elbows for the better part of five minutes, “Do Bronx” sought to put an end to the fight in the third round. Well known for his almost acrobatic-like attacks in order to get a submission, Oliveira pushed Poirier against the cage then jumped onto his back with every intention of finishing things right then and there.
It didn’t take long for Oliveira to display his grappling superiority, as he fought off Poirier’s hands then sunk his arms underneath the chin. Oliveira had no intention of releasing the hold until Poirier either tapped or went to sleep on the canvas.
Poirier opted for the former rather than the latter, and Oliveira pushed his all-time submission record to 15, with arguably none bigger than the one he used to defend his title in the final UFC pay-per-view in 2021.
Oliveira has made it clear that nobody is safe when he gets hold of them — and that remains true whether the fight actually hits the ground or not.
- Mateus Santos vs. Alexander Volodin, Open Fighting Championship 2
- Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. Curtis Millender, PFL 5
- AJ McKee vs. Patricio Pitbull, Bellator 263
- Vicente Luque vs. Tyron Woodley, UFC 260
- Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos, UFC Vegas 44
- Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson, UFC 259
- Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo, UFC 263
- Jacob Silva vs. Tyler Bialecki, Fury FC 52
- Roberto de Souza vs. Tofiq Musayev, RIZIN 28
- Sheymon Moraes vs. Jesse Stirn, PFL 4
- Mackenzie Dern vs. Nina Nunes, UFC Vegas 23