After the jump for honorable mentions and a detailed breakdown of the top 5 submission artists. Warning Spoiler Alert!
5. Dennis Hallman
Of his 51 confirmed mixed martial arts victories, Hallman has earned 40 of them by submission. The most notable name on this lengthy list is 2-time UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes.
The two met for the first time in 1998 at Extreme Challenge 21 as two young and undefeated prospects. It took “Superman” only 17 seconds to choke out the NCAA division 1 wrestler with a guillotine.
Their rematch came two years later at UFC 29. Hughes had steamrolled through 18 consecutive opponents following their first encounter, but the outcome was much the same as Hallman pulled off an armbar just 20 seconds into the fight.
It might surprise you to know that Dennis Hallman is not ranked in Brazilian jiu jitsu, though he does claim to have a black belt in Cowboy Karate.
4. George Sotiropoulos
Unlike Dennis Hallman, Sotiropoulos has two black belts in jiu jitsu. One in Brazilian jiu jitsu and one in 10th Planet jiu jitsu. He has trained in BJJ since 1997, and twice represented his native Australia in the Submission Wrestling World Championships.
The Aussie broke in to the UFC as a member of The Ultimate Fighter season 6 cast as a welterweight. On the show, he made it all the way to the semifinals before losing to Tommy Speer.
However, once he got under the bright lights and down to his natural weight class, he showed what he was really made of. George won his first seven fights in the UFC, four coming by way of submission including a tapout win over notable submission artist Joe Lauzon.
3. Paul Sass
Englishman Paul Sass is 13-0 as a professional mixed martial artist with 12 submissions including 9 triangle chokes. He in fact has the world record for the most consecutive victories by triangle choke.
Only one man has gone the distance against “Sassangle” and only one other has made it out of the first round. After only three fights in the UFC he has won submission of the night honors twice.
If you still doubt the submission prowess of Sass, then consider this. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Luta Livre have been warring clans of submission grappling for ages. Paul Sass has bridged the gap between the two by being highly ranked in both disciplines. Paul Sass, the Gandhi of grappling.
2. Nate Diaz
The younger Diaz may stand out in the UFC’s lightweight division for his exceptional boxing skill but he has earned 11 of his 16 victories by way of submission.
He has earned his black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu under the great Cesar Gracie and has put it to good use.
In official mixed martial arts competition he has submitted the likes of Junior Assuncao, Kurt Pellegrino and most recently Jim Miller.
He also owns three more submission victories in exhibition competition while on season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter. He pulled off a rear naked choke over Robert Emerson, a triangle choke over Corey Hill and a guillotine choke over Gray Maynard en route to the finals.
1. Shinya Aoki
A black belt in Judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu, Aoki has won a number of submission grappling tournaments and is one of the most prolific and diverse submission artists in MMA.
With a nickname like Tobikan Judan, which translates to The Grandmaster of Flying Submissions, you had better be pretty good.
Currently he has 19 submission wins (5 Armbars, 4 Neck Cranks, 2 Gogplatas, 1 Standing Armlock, 1 Arm Triangle, 1 Flying Triangle, 1 Heel Hook, 1 Rear Naked, 1 Hammerlock, 1 Achilles Lock and 1 Keylock.)
Some of the men who have suffered his sadistic submissions include Eddie Alvarez, Joachim “Hellboy” Hanson, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Lyle Beerhohm, and his noted enemy Mizuto Hirota in one of the most cringe-worthy arm breaks in MMA history. The injury Hirota sustained was so severe that he was kept out of competition for 20 months.
It is wise not to anger the Grandmaster of Flying Submission, because the Grandmaster exacts vengeance with a merciless wrath.
Honorable Mentions: Joe Lauzon, Jim Miller, Mark Bocek, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Toby Imada