There really is something special about a good martial arts submission. Obviously the same can be said of a great knockout. A perfect strike placed right on the button is about as exciting as the sport can get (hence Joe Rogan's screaming), but any joint lock or choke hold applied by a true expert is a thrilling thing to watch as they move step by step to isolate their target body part, and finally execute the maneuver.
Equally as impressive as the actions of the person carrying out any given hold however, is the persistence and pain tolerance exhibited by the victim. Trying to counteract every move of someone trying to snap your arm (for example) while keeping your wits and making sure that opponent can't grab for another vulnerable part, is nothing short of impressive. Of course, the goal of any submission attempt is the tap, but some fighters just can't bring themselves to do it.
There is some discussion in the MMA community over not tapping. Some consider it impressive; being able to withstand such pain and not do a simple act that would make it stop. On the other hand, many consider it unsportsmanlike. Their logic goes something like this: martial artists (for the most part, not Rousimar Palhares, for example) love to compete, but genuinely don't want to hurt or mangle their opponent. Refusing to tap while being in an armbar, for example, can lead to broken bones and/or torn ligaments. Most fighters don't want this to be the end of their fight even if they are on the winning end. Therefore, putting an opponent in that position is something that some fans call unsportsmanlike. Whatever your thoughts on this issue, here are 21 instances of martial artists toughing it out and refusing to tap when caught in submission holds.
21 Tom Lawlor: Put to Sleep by Chris Weidman
20 Razak Al-Hussan: Gnarly Armbar
19 Takeya Mizugaki: Choked Out by Urijah Faber
18 Lyoto Machida: Naptime Courtesy of Jon Jones
17 Royce Gracie: Matt Hughes' Armbar
16 Mizuto Hirota: Shinya Aoki's Hammerlock
15 Ed Herman: Choked Out and Beaten Stupid by Demian Maia
14 Karlos Vemola: Jack Hermansson's Armbar
Czech wrestler Karlos Vemola, who went 2-4 in six UFC fights between 2010 and 2013. Earlier this year he was tossed in prison for a one year sentence after being found guilty of growing weed in the UK, according to MMA Fighting.
13 Antonio "Big Nog" Nogueira: Frank Mir's Kimura
Big Nog is one of the finest submission experts the sport of mixed martial arts has ever seen. That fact makes Frank Mir's December 2011 kimura victory even more impressive. It was the first time Nogueira was defeated via submission. Mir was also the first to knock out Minotauro, doing so in December 2008.
12 Angela Magana: Not Tapping to Twister
I'd rather go out crippled than tap to a twister pic.twitter.com/bgwxb7pDvk— Angela Magana (@AngelaMagana1) November 2, 2015
11 Royler Gracie: The First Gracie to Fall to Sakuraba
A multiple gold medal winner in several jiu jitsu championship tournaments, Royler Gracie is one of the most accomplished of the legendary Gracie family. His mixed martial arts career ended with a 5-5-1 record, which involved a first loss to Kazushi Sakuraba; the man who would become known as "The Gracie Killer." More on his exploits later.
10 Holly Holm: Choked Out by Miesha Tate
9 Tim Sylvia: Mir's Other Victim
8 Renzo Gracie: Sakuraba-Related Broken Arm
7 Helio Gracie: Kimura by... Kimura
Get ready for what can loosely be called a history lesson. Helio Gracie, one of the founders of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, fought three incredible bouts against Japanese martial artists who were among the best in the world at the time. He fought Yukio Kato twice, winning once and fighting to a draw once. In October of that year, he faced legend Masahiko Kimura. The Japanese martial artist had a significant weight advantage and ended up winning the fight, but was so impressed by the fact that Helio was able to withstand the incredible pain of the kimura submission hold.
6 Sami Berik: Escaped Two Submissions and Got TKO'd
So we've looked at times when fighters got choked out and rendered unconscious, and seen some instances of limbs ending up mangled from joint locks; now we'll see fighters who were caught in solid holds, but managed to get out of them.
5 Ronaldo Souza: Beat Roger Gracie With Broken Arm
The current number three contender in the Middleweight division is one of the best wrestlers out there. Jacare Souza recently beat Vitor Belfort, which is a tough job for anyone, and if he gets a shot at Michael Bisping's belt anytime soon, the Middleweight Championship will likely once again be in the hands of a Brazilian.
Years ago. in 2004, he was fighting Roger Gracie in the 2004 jiu jitsu World Championship. Gracie broke Souza's arm after applying a tight hold, but Jacare refused to tap, got out of it, kept fighting and won the championship on points.
4 Carlos Newton: Reversal
3 Jon Jones: The Belfort Armbar
In under a month, Jon Jones will return to the octagon with the chance to unify the Light Heavyweight title. The media storm will get into full swing soon as it's hard to find two people who hate each other as much as he and Daniel Cormier.
2 Quinton Jackson: Triangle Choke Defense
1 Matt Hughes: Slams Newton for the Belt
Much like how Rampage Jackson answered the question "what to do when caught in a triangle choke?," Matt Hughes did not choose "tap" as his answer. Back in 2001, Hughes was fighting Carlos Newton for the Welterweight Championship. Early in the second round of their fight, it looked as though Newton had the upper hand and he had almost locked in a choke while in guard. Hughes, however, picked him up and hauled him over to the cage. Newton held on for a second but moved his arm when instructed by the ref. A few seconds later, while still being choked, Hughes let Newton crumble to the mat, winning the Welterweight belt via KO.
I'll admit with this last entry, that Newton didn't have the hold applied perfectly, but caught in such a situation, some fighters would have panicked, and others would have just tried to escape and keep the fight on the ground, but not Hughes. He kept a cool head, used the absurd amount of strength and endurance we all know he had, and came away with one of most memorable title wins the fans have ever seen.
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