With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best submissions from January 2021: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s “Submission of the Month” award for January.
At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting for your choice.
Umar Nurmagomedov def. Sergey Morozov at UFC on ESPN 20
Umar Nurmagomedov (13-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) is the latest fighter bearing his surname to grace the UFC cage – and he already one-upped his cousin Khabib with a win over Sergey Morozov (16-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) in his UFC debut.
Nurmagomedov made his long-anticipated UFC debut after three cancellations. Nurmagomedov put on a tactical, multifaceted performance and ended the bantamweight fight with a technical submission after locking in a rear-naked choke that put his opponent to sleep.
Put him to sleep 😴@UmarNmgdv locked up the choke at #UFCFightIsland8 pic.twitter.com/FgHcjhEf1Y
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) January 20, 2021
Ricky Simon def. Gaetano Pirello at UFC on ESPN 20
The relentless grind of Ricky Simon (17-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) was too much for short-notice newcomer Gaetano Pirello (15-6-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) to handle in their bantamweight bout.
After Simon picked up Pirello and slammed him to the mat over and over and over again, he finally locked up an arm-triangle choke near the cage. Pirello did his best to fend it off, but the difference in grappling strength was too much, and he was forced to tap out.
Omari Akhmedov def. Tom Breese at UFC on ESPN 20
Omari Akhmedov (21-5-1 MMA, 9-4-1 UFC) rebounded from the most high-profile loss of his career against Chris Weidman with an utterly dominant effort against Tom Breese (12-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) in their middleweight bout.
After nearly finishing the fight with strikes in the early stages of the first round, Akhmedov dominated with his grappling into the second round. He secured an arm-triangle choke on Breese, who was forced to submit in a fight for the first time in his career.
Shinya Aoki def. James Nakashima at ONE Championship 126
Japanese MMA icon Shinya Aoki (46-9) reached a career milestone as he notched the 30th submission win of his career against James Nakashima (12-2).
Aoki took charge of the bout early in the first round as, after some clinch work against the cage, “Tobikan Judan” leapt onto Nakashima’s back before locking up a body triangle and following up with a rear-naked choke of the former LFA welterweight titleholder.
Shinya Aoki 🇯🇵 becomes the all-time submission leader in ONE with a SLICK rear-naked choke against James Nakashima! @a_ok_i #ONEUnbreakable #WeAreONE #ONEChampionship
How to watch ONE: UNBREAKABLE 👉 https://t.co/d5xA7Pby8N pic.twitter.com/lwqBrAF5BY
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) January 22, 2021
Julianna Pena def. Sara McMann at UFC 257
Julianna Pena (10-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) added a signature win to her resume when she rallied to tap out Olympic silver medalist and former UFC title challenger Sara McMann (12-6 MMA, 6-6 UFC) in their women’s bantamweight matchup.
After giving up numerous takedown to the decorated wrestler McMann, “The Ultimate Fighter 18” winner Pena found her opening in the third round to lock in a rear-naked choke. McMann has been susceptible to the submission throughout her career, and it was no different once Pena got her in a compromising position, because she tapped out.
The winner: Julianna Pena
It took Pena a while to get up and running in her UFC 257 bout against McMann.
But once Pena did, it was like watching a sports car rev up. “The Ultimate Fighter 18” winner shook off a slow round, turned the tide in the second, then finished things with a rear-naked choke in the third. The time of the finish was 3:39.
“It went exactly as I expected,” Pena said. “Sara McMann is the best wrestler in the division. I beat the best wrestler in the division, and now I want Amanda Nunes next.”
The first round was all for 2004 Olympic wrestling silver medalist McMann. She came into the bout the all-time leader in takedowns in the women’s bantamweight division with 20 and wasted little time adding to her total. She transitioned from side control to a back take and nearly sunk in her hooks, then when she couldn’t quite get there, transitioned to top control, landing elbows along the way.
The second saw both fighters have their moments in a round again mostly fought on the ground, but as the round wore on, it was clear Pena was becoming stronger, even as she was on the bottom where she landed punch after punch as McMann tried to improve her position.
By the third, Pena had plainly taken over. She was aggressive from the outset, threw McMann to the mat, landed elbows aggressively as McMann turtled, then made a sweet transition to take her back and sink in the winning choke, the fourth submission victory of her career.