This past weekend saw Jessica Andrade make UFC history in her headline bout with Amanda Lemos, as she became the first fighter to submit an opponent inside the octagon with a standing arm triangle choke.
Over the years, we’ve seen numerous UFC fighters use unique submission holds to force their foes to tap out, and while these moves tend to be high risk, they also offer high reward.
The use of a unique submission can send a fighter viral for a time, or can even turn a fighter into an outright superstar, depending on the nature of the fight, of course.
With that considered, here are five current UFC stars who used unique submission holds to finish their opponents.
#5. Jessica Andrade vs. Amanda Lemos – UFC Fight Night 205
We begin with the most recent entry on this list, as Jessica Andrade was able to make UFC history in her fight with Amanda Lemos this past weekend. ‘Bate Estaca’, who is usually better known for her brutal striking power than her submission skills, became the first fighter in the octagon to submit an opponent with a standing arm triangle choke.
Interestingly, the grounded version of the arm triangle choke, usually applied from either the full mount or side mount, is one of the more common submissions seen in the octagon, as a number of fighters have deployed it over the years.
Brock Lesnar, for instance, retained his UFC heavyweight title by submitting Shane Carwin with an arm triangle back in 2010. The move was also responsible for handing future legend Chuck Liddell his first defeat in MMA way back in 1999.
However, there’s a simple reason why, until Andrade, nobody had been able to successfully use the standing version of the hold. Essentially, it’s an incredibly difficult hold to pull off. Not only does it take an inhuman amount of strength and squeezing power to apply, it’s also easier for an opponent to escape from if they’re standing.
Still, that didn’t stop ‘Bate Estaca’, who bullied her way into the clinch before putting the squeeze on Lemos, who immediately seemed to recognize she was in trouble. Before she could even attempt an escape, though, the hold was too tight and it was time to tap out.
Will we see more standing arm triangle chokes used in the octagon in the future? To be honest, it seems doubtful – meaning that Andrade could be the only fighter to apply this one successfully for the foreseeable future.
#4. Aleksei Oleinik vs. Viktor Pesta – UFC Fight Night 103
When aging veteran Aleksei Oleinik, who had been fighting professionally since 1996, inked a deal with the UFC in 2014 at the age of 37, nobody expected him to make much of an impact. However, in the years that have followed, those doubters have been proven very wrong.
Not only is ‘The Boa Constrictor’ still competing in the octagon at the age of 44, but he’s also the only man to pull off the unique Ezekiel choke in the history of the promotion. Incredibly, the native of Ukraine has utilized the hold to win two fights, but it was his win over Viktor Pesta that really put it on the map.
Bizarrely, to the uninitiated, it didn’t even look like Oleinik was winning the fight at the time that he caught Pesta in the hold. The Ukrainian was actually on the bottom, eating punches from Pesta, who had been able to trip him down and secure side mount.
That didn’t stop Oleinik from locking up the Ezekiel choke, though, a hold that compresses the trachea and carotid artery usually used by a fighter wearing a gi. Here, ‘The Boa Constrictor’ didn’t need any sleeves for leverage. When Pesta slid into full mount, somehow it only made the choke tighter.
When Pesta tapped out and the fight was called off, even the commentators were baffled by what they’d just seen, showing how unique the submission was. The fact that Oleinik was able to use it again a year later was even more remarkable still.
#3. Charles Oliveira vs. Eric Wisely – UFC on Fox 2
While the majority of the Brazilian’s submission wins have come via common holds such as the armbar, guillotine choke and rear naked choke, his nasty finish of Eric Wisely back in 2012 bucked the trend entirely.
The bout, which was Oliveira’s first at 145lbs, saw ‘Do Bronx’ take the fight to his opponent from the off. As soon as the fight hit the deck, he attempted to lock up a heel hook.
Wisely did well to twist his way out of the dangerous hold, but he wasn’t out of the woods. When he attempted to pull his left leg free, Oliveira simply clamped down on it deeper. From there, he stunned everyone by turning the hold into a nasty calf slicer, a move never before seen in the UFC.
Wisely grabbed the fence out of desperation, but it was all for naught as he quickly followed that by tapping out, a grimace of pain etched all over his face at the same time.
The victory was only Oliveira’s third by submission in the octagon, meaning plenty more were to come. Despite it coming in a preliminary bout against a lower-level opponent, it still stands out today as his most unique, and one of his best, too.
#2. Bryce Mitchell vs. Matt Sayles – UFC on ESPN 7
When ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung made his UFC debut by submitting Leonard Garcia with the infamous twister – a hold that essentially applies a dangerous level of torque to the spine – most fans suspected that the move would never be used in the octagon again.
After all, not only does it require some serious skill to set up, but it’s also a hold that gives an opponent plenty of time and room to escape, something that the injured and exhausted Garcia simply wasn’t capable of finding.
The suspicions of those fans were quieted, though, in 2019 by prospect Bryce Mitchell. At the time, despite being 2-0 in the octagon, ‘Thug Nasty’ was more well-known for a nasty accident that saw him tear his scrotum with a power drill.
However, in his fight with Matt Sayles, Mitchell immediately made people forget about his horror accident when he became only the second man to submit an opponent in the octagon with a twister – and incredibly, he pulled it off in the first round.
Whereas ‘The Korean Zombie’ essentially capitalized on a hurt and tired opponent, Mitchell appeared to outright set the move up, taking Sayles’ back before baiting him into giving his right arm. From there, he quickly hooked his own arm over the neck of his opponent, torquing the spine and forcing him to tap out.
The move showed a remarkable amount of poise and skill. Considering Mitchell’s reputation as a somewhat eccentric trash-talker, it essentially took everyone by surprise. ‘Thug Nasty’ has since become a genuine featherweight title contender, but this remains his signature finish.
#1. Aljamain Sterling vs. Cody Stamann – UFC 228
Reigning UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is widely seen as the most effective and dangerous grappler in his division right now, with his wins over the likes of Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen and Renan Barao largely coming due to his work on the mat.
However, his most impressive submission win came back in 2018, as he used a little-known leglock to take out a tricky opponent in the form of Cody Stamann, leaving ‘The Spartan’ in pain and nursing an injured knee in the process.
The hold in question is usually known as the ‘Suloev Stretch’, named after former UFC fighter Amar Suloev, who reportedly innovated it in his fight with Paul Cahoon in 2002. Essentially, it resembles a kneebar from the back mount, but rather than simply targeting the knee, it also unnaturally stretches the hamstring.
Sterling was able to catch Stamann in the hold in the second round of what had been a back-and-forth fight. With ‘The Funk Master’ abusing him from back mount, Stamann decided to desperately attempt to stand up, but that only left him open for the hold.
Somehow, Sterling reached down, grabbed Stamann’s left leg, and wrenched on it – pulling it slightly sideways in the process – and instantly, ‘The Spartan’ was forced to tap out.
Incredibly, later on in the same show, featherweight prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov used a variation of the same hold to submit Brandon Davis, making UFC 228 the only show to feature two Suloev Stretches. Due to the nasty nature of it, Sterling’s remains the more memorable of the two.