In the early days of the UFC, a TKO or referee stoppage was often what ended a fight. Knockouts happened plenty as well, but there were also plenty of times that fighters gave up due to various reasons. Fatigue and confusion typically led to a panicked tap from fighters who were in over their head, but many fighters had no choice once their arms were twisted in weird positions, or they were unable to breath too well thanks to a well-placed forearm going across their throat. While super techical submissions were few and far between, the ones that we did have were pretty darn great.
Here are the nominees for Best Submission:
Ken Shamrock VS Pat Smith - While the honor of the first submission via an actual submission hold goes to Jason Delucia, Ken Shamrock was the first to do it on the main card. Ignoring Art Jimmerson's tap out to being mounted, Shamrock battled veteran kickboxer Pat Smith in the opening round of UFC 1, and wisely took the fight to the ground as fast as he could. Once he got a hold of Smith's legs, Shamrock went for an achilles tendon hold, and while Smith tried to defend it, Ken switched to a heel hook that caused so much pain that Smith screamed his head off while tapping out. That did not stop him from pretending he did not tap and wanted to keep fighting, but Ken had won the match and pulled off the first leglock in UFC history.
Royce Gracie VS Jason Delucia -UFC 2 was a defining moment for Royce Gracie, as the tournament had expanded from eight fighters to sixteen. Royce had to win this event to retain his status as best in the company, and his undefeated streak would grow massively at this show. After an armbar win over Minoki Ichihara in the prelims, Royce met Jason Delucia in the next round. Delucia was a Kung Fu fighter who had Gracie Jiu-Jitsu experience, especially since he had already fought Royce once before in a closed doors gym match. This fight was meant to be redemption for him, but sadly ended the same way his first fight with Royce did. After doing much better than he did in their first meeting, Royce locked in a vicious armbar that popped Delucia's elbow to get the win and move him ahead to his next opponent...
Royce Gracie VS Remco Pardoel - ... who was Dutch Judo expert, Remco Pardoel. While Ichihara wore a gi for his fight against Royce, his was a thinner Karate gi. Pardoel had on a thick and heavy Judo gi, something that was easier to grab and maneuver. It was this piece of clothing that Royce utilized en route to a lapel choke to finish off his much heavier opponent in the first (and possibly only gi choke) in the history of the UFC.
Royce Gracie VS Dan Severn - After his performance at UFC 3, Royce needed to win UFC 4 to keep his status as the best fighter in the UFC. Unfortunately for him, he had to face Dan Severn in the finals, who looked beastly (hence his nickname) after running through Anthony Macias and Marcus Bossett. Severn used his size and wrestling skills to keep Royce neutralized on his back for over 15 minutes, until an exhausted Royce snuck a triangle choke across Severn's broad neck and forced him to tap out.
Ken Shamrock VS Dan Severn - Forget what you know about their awful second meeting (seriously, stop thinking about it). When Shamrock and Severn met for the first time at UFC 6, there was a ton of hype behind it, and this fight actually lived up to it.
Since Royce Gracie VS Ken Shamrock at UFC 5 ended in a time-limit draw, and Royce had departed from the UFC afterwards, Shamrock was to meet the winner of the UFC 5 tournament, Dan Severn, to determine the first Superfight Champion. After a short feeling out process, Ken allowed Dan to shoot for his legs to try and take him down. Shamrock had scouted Severn's takedowns and knew that he always put his head down when he shot, leaving him wide open for a guillotine choke that forced Severn to tap at 2:14 of their fight.
Dan Severn VS Paul Varelans - When "The Beast" met "The Polar Bear" at the Ultimate Ultimate 1995, it was Severn that came out on top. Executing a rarely-used (in those days) arm-triangle choke, Varelans had no choice but to tap since he had no idea how to defend himself. This submission was not seen much in these early days, and for that reason it must make it on this list. However, using it on an opponent as physically strong as Varelans makes it even more impressive.
Kimo VS Ken Shamrock - Shamrock was riding a wave of popularity at this point, his only loss and draw in the promotion against Royce Gracie. As the first Superfight champion, Ken was 2-0 and aimed to keep the streak alive. At UFC 8 in Puerto Rico, Shamrock faced one of the other few men to give Royce Gracie serious trouble in the cage - Kimo Leopoldo.
Taking advantage of the extreme heat in the arena, Ken donned knee-high socks that ultimately gave him an edge against the slippery and sweaty Kimo. Able to keep a better grip on his opponents legs because of the added texture, Shamrock attacked Kimo with a kneebar that left Kimo in agony, and increased Ken's title reign to 3-0.
Thanks to June M. Williams for our Awards graphics.
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"The OSMMA Review Awards, Volume 1" only represents UFC 1 through Ultimate Ultimate 1996, so remember that when placing your vote, as anything other than what was listed in the categories will be ignored, and the voter shall be promptly flogged. Stay constantly vigilant as more categories become announced, or take a peek at the stream to make sure you placed your vote in all twelve categories!