It’s difficult to choose Submission of the Year. Do you go with the submission finish in a high-stakes matchup? Or, for Brazilian jiu-jitsu purists, do you reward the best technique?
In this particular fight, there was very little on the line. Ben Saunders was making his UFC return. It was Chris Heatherly’s debut in the organization. The fight occurred on the prelims of UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Dos Anjos, a FOX Sports 1 card that didn’t exactly move the needle when it came to ratings.
But how do you not properly recognize history? Until Saunders did it at 2:18 of the first round against Heatherly, no one had ever pulled off an omoplata submission in the UFC.
That’s almost hard to believe since omoplata positions are regularly achieved in MMA fights. Usually, though, they are used to sweep, because, frankly, omoplatas are damn difficult to finish. Saunders, not known for his grappling prowess during his first run with the UFC, accomplished that. And it will be appreciated in this space.
How did he do it? With some techniques that surely made his coach and 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu founder Eddie Bravo smile.
Heatherly, a wrestler, quickly got Saunders to the canvas with a takedown, which Saunders didn’t seem to mind one bit. “Killer B” recovered full guard and then got to work. Saunders used rubber guard and then transitioned to what those in the 10th Planet system call Crackhead Control, which kept Heatherly’s posture down while trapping both arms with his legs. Saunders, in complete control, used some elbows to soften Heatherly up.
Heatherly, wary of an armbar, popped his head and right arm out, sliding to the right. There was just one problem: Saunders still had his left shoulder trapped and the wherewithal to transition. While Heatherly rotated on his knees clockwise, Saunders grabbed Heatherly’s hip and went the other way, all while keeping control of Heatherly’s left shoulder between his legs.
Saunders kept the right side of his body against Heatherly’s hip and his arm around his body to prevent a front roll escape. Listening to Bravo in his corner the entire time, Saunders leaned forward and to the right, cranking forward on Heatherly’s arm with his left hand. That puts tremendous pressure on the shoulder, arm and elbow. Heatherly could do nothing but tap.
Saunders had the dexterity, preparation and technique to complete a submission that had never been finished before in the biggest MMA organization in the world. Not bad for a guy who was known for his Muay Thai striking when he was with the UFC from 2007 to 2010.