These awards always come down to one essential question. What do you put more emphasis on? The technical skill of a submission or the overall impact of the moment?
While a truly unique finish – such as the omoplata by Ben Saunders in 2014 – can occasional steal my vote, I tend to go with the larger significance of the event. In a year that gave us a number of new champions, there was no victory more memorable than the last-minute submission of Holly Holm at UFC 196.
First, there was the storied career of Tate; a career that goes hand-in-hand with that of Ronda Rousey. Theirs was a rivalry that burned deeper than any other in women’s MMA, and after a second loss to Ronda back in 2013, it seemed as if Tate may have expended her last chance at championship glory.
But alas, the world of MMA can be as forgiving as it is ruthless. Miesha Tate traveled as far as Japan to amass a four fight win streak since falling to Rousey, and when Tate was handed another shot at the title, she was going to make damn sure she didn’t waste the opportunity.
Her opponent was the women who famously knocked out the former champ, providing a new and unique challenge for Tate to overcome. Unsurprisingly, it wouldn’t be easy. Holm was what we expected her to be. She was athletic and precise. She was dangerous and enduring. She was winning the fight…
Calling upon the heart and perseverance that turned her into a fan favorite, Tate dug deep and sold out for a takedown in the fifth and final round, securing back-control as Holly attempted to scramble away. She sunk in her hooks, got an arm under the chin and held on for dear life.
Holm, to her credit, refused to tap. But Tate put her to sleep anyway, winning the UFC Bantamweight Championship, thousands of new fans, and Nick’s pick for 2016 Submission of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Nate Diaz def. Conor McGregor at UFC 196 (rear-naked choke)
Honorable Mention: Josh Barnett def. Ben Rothwell at UFC on FOX 18 (front choke)