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The best tapouts in UFC history: Part 3: Leglocks

Scott Newman
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Leglocks can make for beautiful - and destructive - submission holds
Leglocks can make for beautiful - and destructive - submission holds

Continuing our series looking at the best tapouts in UFC history, today I’ll be looking at the best leglock submissions we’ve seen in the Octagon.

Successful leglocks are comparatively rare when compared to chokes or armlocks, largely because they carry a major risk in MMA – to commit to a leglock runs the risk of being hit with largely unprotected punches to the head – but if they are successful, they’re both a thing of brutality and beauty rolled into one.

Here are 5 of the best leglock tapouts in UFC history.

#1: Heel Hook – Rousimar Palhares vs. Tomasz Drwal – UFC 111 – 03/27/2010

Tomasz Drwal was left in agony by Rousimar Palhares' heel hook
Tomasz Drwal was left in agony by Rousimar Palhares' heel hook

Usually considered the most dangerous of all leglocks, the heel hook sees the attacker transversely twist the opponent’s foot medially, putting severe torque on the ankle which in turn places severe torque on the knee. This can severely injure knee ligaments such as the ACL and MCL – injuries that would put a fighter out for a long time.

When you mention heel hooks in the UFC, there’s only one name that comes to mind – Brazilian grappler Rousimar Palhares. Known as ‘Toquinho’, Palhares came into the UFC in 2008 with the reputation of a ruthless leglock specialist who was renowned for holding onto his leglocks – particularly heel hooks – after the opponent had tapped out, often ensuring an injury.

This habit caught up to him eventually in the Octagon – he was released in 2013 after holding onto a heel hook he’d applied to Mike Pierce after Pierce had tapped – but with 4 heel hook submissions in the UFC you can’t knock his technique.

The best – and most devastating – heel hook he used in the Octagon was against Tomasz Drwal in 2010. After slipping on an attempted kick, Drwal fell to his back and that was all Palhares needed – he dived onto the left leg of the Polish fighter and latched on, quickly applying a heel hook. Drwal instantly tapped out in agony – but Palhares applied more pressure even as the referee stepped in to stop the fight.

Drwal thankfully came away from the fight uninjured – but Palhares was swiftly slapped with a suspension for his infraction. Even so, the tapout demonstrated the effectiveness – and devastating nature – of the heel hook.

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