Editor’s note: Next week, the ESPN MMA page will roll out its official end-of-the year awards. With winners in each of the most popular categories seemingly pretty clear cut, however, ESPN staffers Chuck Mindenhall and Chad Dundas will take the final week of 2011 to offer up a few “alternative” choices.
The 2011 Submission of the year award should end up being the exclusive property of Chan Sung Jung.
Unless we miss our guess, Jung will get a near unanimous nod for SOTY after he essentially discovered the Loch Ness Monster of MMA concession holds by hooking up a twister -- a twister! -- on Leonard Garcia at a UFC Fight Night event in March. The 24-year-old “Korean Zombie” deserves the honor, too, after snapping his own two-fight losing streak and becoming the first fighter ever to use the spine-bending submission to finish a bout inside the Octagon.
Garcia tapped one second before the end of the second round, pigs flew and, somewhere, Eddie Bravo’s physical being dissolved into pure energy and advanced to a higher plane of existence.
So, yeah, pretty mind-blowing.
Not that there weren’t a lot of other great submissions this year as well. Here’s our picks for a couple “alternative” tap outs that could fly under the radar during this year’s MMA awards.
Heading into his fight with Bader, Ortiz hadn’t beaten anybody since Frank Shamrock back in 2006. This is known as a drought. In that way, he was an heirloom that sat funny on the UFC’s mantle. And that night at UFC 132, Ortiz walked into the cage as a 5-to-1 underdog who had wiggled into one last fight through uncommon pleading.
So imagine the surprise when he dropped the younger, faster Bader with a right hand. Just like that, a resurgence of everything Ortiz “was” came flooding back. Next thing Bader (and everybody) knew, Ortiz was transitioning into a guillotine choke. And in another incredulous moment he rocked his head back and winced with the choke on so tight that Bader’s neck was striated red and white. The list of improbables grew. It couldn’t be happening. Yet it was. Everybody waited for the tap. Chuck Liddell -- Ortiz’s rival for so many years -- was squirming on his front row seat swinging his arms around like a DJ on invisible decks. Bader strained against becoming “that guy.” Too bad. He was, he tapped, and Ortiz held on a brief moment longer -- to savor it, maybe -- before jumping up and doing his gravedigger dance. It was a flash of nostalgia that fell over the scene. Ortiz was back. All his haters felt their hearts thawing out for a moment. All his apologists smited their chests.
How can that not stand out as one of the best submissions of 2011?
No, Lauzon didn’t bust out some kind of previously unseen Argentinean Cravat hold to tap Guillard, but the moxie and nose for the upset he showed at UFC 136 will make his one of the first submissions of 2011 that I tell my grandkids about. Because I assume one of my grandkids’ primary interests will be obscure MMA submissions of the past.
Guillard rolled into their bout as a significant favorite after winning five straight fights in the Octagon. He also came to Houston with a ton of confidence, telling reporters prefight that Lauzon wasn’t big enough to compete at 155 pounds and that the 27-year-old Massachusetts native could only be dangerous if Guillard “let him.”
To all of this, Lauzon just sort of shrugged and said he felt like “The Young Assassin” was underestimating him, especially after Guillard turned up at the UFC fan expo to sign autographs and meet fans the day before their fight. Submissions, Lauzon noted, were his biggest strength and traditionally Guillard’s primary weakness, so he figured if he could get the fight to the mat, he’d have a chance.
He figured right.
Guillard came out blasting from the opening bell, fighting as though it never occurred to him that Lauzon could hurt him. He landed some solid shots, but left himself open for a counter left that sent him skidding to the canvas. When Lauzon pounced on the prone Guillard, it was as if the air sucked out of the Toyota Center in a collective “uh-oh.”
From there, it was academic. Lauzon transitioned to the back and applied a rear-naked choke that forced Guillard to tap just 47 seconds into the first. With it, Lauzon ended any hope of Guillard claiming an immediate lightweight title shot and instead launched himself into contention, as he’ll likely take on Anthony Pettis at UFC 144 in February.
Previously: Our picks for alternative Fight of the year.
Up next: Alternative KO of the year.