While not light in the knockout department either, the UFC 237 fight card features some of the sport’s premier submission artists. From icons of the sport to current champions, the list of fighters who are ready and able to pop off a submission at all times at 237 is diverse and deep. Headlined by a women’s strawweight championship fight between Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade, UFC 237 in Rio should be an incredibly exciting night of fights.(Order the UFC 237 PPV here through ESPN+.)
Here’s our list of the top five submission artists on the UFC 237 card:
1. Rose Namajunas
Breaking away from her norm of the rear naked choke, Rose Namajunas actually picked up consecutive wins by TKO and Decision, something that hadn’t happened previously in her career. With only one prior win coming by decision or KO, Namajunas has submitted her opponent in nearly all of her wins. Namajunas loves going to the rear naked choke, four of her five submission wins have come from taking her opponent’s back.
Namajunas has submission wins over notable opponents in Michele Waterson, Paige Van Sant, and Angela Hill. All three of her UFC submission wins have come by rear naked choke and should her fight with Andrade hit the ground, expect Namajunas to go to work using her impressive ground game and hunt for a submission on the aggressive Andrade.
Namajunas’ most notable submission came in her win over Waterson, where she brutally choked out the strawweight contender. Namajunas put on a smothering grappling clinic against Waterson and once the two hit the second round, the bloodied and battered Waterson had almost nothing left in the tank. While Waterson was eventually able to get back to her feet, she did so at the risk of sacrificing her back to Namajunas, who gladly jumped on, popped in the hooks, and dragged Waterson back down to the canvas.
2. B.J. Penn
The only reason B.J. Penn isn’t the top submission artist on the card is based off the fact that he hasn’t pulled out a victory in the octagon since 2010. Despite his near decade drought in wins, Penn has one of the UFC’s most impressive resumes and submitted some of the sport’s biggest names in the UFC’s early days. Although the past few years have been unkind to his overall record, Penn will always be remembered for being one of the greatest all-around talents the UFC has ever seen.
Penn has submitted some of the biggest names in the history of the sport with wins over iconic names like Kenny Florian, Joe Stevenson, Jens Pulver, Matt Hughes, and Takanori Gomi. Penn initially used his athleticism and striking through his first seven UFC fights before becoming the well-rounded beast that would dominate two weight classes.
Penn’s most impressive victory by submission came over Matt Hughes, where Penn submitted the illustrious champion by rear naked choke. Penn was stepping up in weight for the championship fight and was quickly able to put the dominant wrestler on his back where he would stay for the majority of the first round. In the final minute, Penn would take Hughes’ back in a scramble and choke out the welterweight king in a shocking, classic UFC fight.
UFC 237 airs May 11 on ESPN+. You can order it here.
3. Clay Guida
Similar to Penn, Clay Guida makes the list not based off his recent body of work but off the fact that he piled up a number of submission wins over pioneers of the sport during his prime. One of the longest tenured fighters on the UFC’s roster, Guida has fought most of the big names to come through the UFC’s lightweight (and for a brief time featherweight) division. While he still has his insane cardio, Guida isn’t the same athlete he once was, causing him to have stumbled a bit in recent years.
With submission wins over Shannon Gugerty, Takanori Gomi, and Rafael Dos Anos among others, Guida has established himself as an incredibly versatile fighter that is comfortable handling action on either his feet or on the ground. While Guida is primarily known for getting into high-energy slugfests with his opponents, more often than not, those end with Guida pushing for a takedown and trying to establish a dominant top position. Once Guida gets on top, he actively hunts for the finish, using his ground and pound to force opponents into giving up their back or arm.
Out of all Guida’s submissions, his win over Takanori Gomi might have been his smoothest. After smothering Gomi with a relentless top game, Guida went for the kill from Gomi’s half guard. Guida hooked Gomi’s neck and stepped over into mount before flipping Gomi over and sinking in the choke. The win came in the middle of arguably Guida’s best stretch in his career and while there are a host of fun Guida submissions to choose from, the Gomi victory may have been his highest level of grappling displayed in the octagon.
4. Thiago Moises
Despite dropping his UFC debut against Beneil Dariush, Thiago Moises is one of the most aggressive submission artists at 155 pounds. Although Moises is fighting on the preliminary card, four of his eleven wins have come by submission, including his slick flying armbar against David Castillo. Moises is an aggressive and well-rounded fighter who is comfortable keeping the fight on the feet, however, should things hit the deck, expect Moises to work relentlessly towards the finish.
What Moises lacks in terms of big-name finishes in the UFC, he more than makes up for in his overall body of work. Despite possessing a well-rounded game, Moises has picked up the majority of his eleven professional wins by submission. At 237 he faces Kurt Holobaugh, who started his career as more of a submission specialist but has become more reliant on his hands as the years have gone on. Holobuagh has had multiple stints in the UFC but has still yet to pick up his first win, though he did score a KO on Dana White’s Contender Series before having it overturned for illegal use of a pre-fight IV.
Moises’ most notable submission win came in his win over Castillo for the RFA lightweight championship belt. Castillo came out hard and actually handled Moises in the first round, winning the round rather convincingly. Castillo came out with more of the same in the second round before Moises clipped him with an uppercut. Castillo would actually land his wobbled takedown attempt but Moises trapped his arm and had Castillo stuck in his butterfly guard. Moises then proceeded to kick Castillo up off the top of him, spin him, and lock in a beautifully executed elevator armbar.
5. Anderson Silva
While he also finds himself sitting atop our UFC 237 knockout artists post based off his illustrious history, it would be hard to put together a list of submission artists without including the Brazilian legend. Though known mainly for his work as a striker, Silva has flashed some incredibly slick ground game from time to time. Incredibly lethal off his back, Silva has caught a number of high profile fighters with his nasty triangle choke.
With submission wins over fighters like Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, and Travis Lutter, Silva makes up for his lack of submission wins with wins over some of the sport’s best fighters in history. Silva sneakily has some of the best ground game in the history of the sport, he just chooses not to use it. A longtime BJJ black belt, Silva really only uses his high-level Jiu-Jitsu when facing dominating wrestlers who can put him on his back with ease.
Silva’s most memorable submission win came over Chael Sonnen. Beaten and battered for the better part of five rounds, it seemed that Anderson Silva’s historical middleweight title reign was finally about to come to an end. Sonnen repeatedly put Silva on his back early in rounds and did considerable damage from the top in smothering positions. However, late in the fifth, Sonnen got a little cocky and started throwing more punches from the top, trying to send a message to Silva. Instead, Silva caught one of his arms and slapped in a triangle choke to come away with one of the UFC’s most shocking come from behind wins ever.
UFC 237 airs May 11 on ESPN+. You can order it here.