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Video Timeline: MMA’s Greatest Techniques of the Year, 1993-2011

(Ah, 2007. A very fine year for gogoplatas. / Photo via Sherdog)

By Ben Goldstein

Over the last two decades, MMA has evolved so consistently that fighters are still finding new and unexpected ways to destroy their opponents — while causing fans to spit their beers in shock. We decided to take a lil’ spin through MMA history and identify the single most awe-inspiring technique from each year since the sport’s modern inception. We expect you to disagree with us; there’s a comments section just for that purpose. And away we go…

1993: Royce Gracie‘s Rear-Naked Choke
vs. Ken Shamrock @ UFC 1, 11/12/93

(Fight starts at the 3:54 mark)

You have to remember that in the early ’90s, a well-placed roundhouse kick to the head was considered the pinnacle of martial arts. What Royce Gracie introduced to fight fans in his early UFC run was something much more practical, less flashy, and a little bit scary. Gracie’s submission of Ken Shamrock — and the similar hold he used to stop Gerard Gordeau in the finals — proved that skill beat size, and pajamas beat man-panties.

1994: Dan Severn‘s Suplexes
vs. Anthony Macias @ UFC 4, 12/16/94

(Fight starts at the 1:53 mark)

Of course, the UFC’s formative years weren’t all about subtlety. The arrival of Dan Severn, followed by his ground-and-pounding spiritual descendants Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr, showed that a hulking wrestler could do just as well as a skinny grappling whiz. The suplexes that Severn pulled off in his UFC debut were straight out of a pro-wrestling match, but my God, they were real. As commentator Jim Brown sums up the performance, “what I’m looking at is a wrestler with a lot of strength, but not the true technique of the jiu-jitso man.” And sure enough, the UFC’s original “jiu-jitso man” Royce Gracie caught Severn in the Octagon’s first-ever triangle choke later that night.

1995: Marco Ruas’s Leg Kicks
vs. Paul Varelans @ UFC 7, 3/10/95

It’s not like Marco Ruas was the first guy to throw leg kicks in a vale tudo match, but the technique became part of his legacy due to how he used them — as a savage fight-finisher, perfect for chopping down bigger opponents. During his 13-minute UFC 7 finals match against Paul “The Polar Bear” Varelans, Ruas executed a leg-kick based strategy that hobbled the American behemoth. Varleans became so aggravated that he started kicking back, and seemed to learn how to check the incoming kicks mid-fight. But in the end, the King of the Streets pulverized Varelans’s lead thigh until he collapsed to the mat, unable to defend himself. Of course, if the UFC outlawed fence-grabbing at the time, the fight wouldn’t have lasted half as long. Honorable mention: Ken Shamrock’s kneebar against Bas Rutten @ Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 2.

1996: Gary Goodridge’s “Goose Neck” Crucifix
vs. Paul Herrera @ UFC 8, 2/16/96

Let’s just say that Big Daddy didn’t earn his 4th-degree black belt in Kuk Sool Won the old-fashioned way. But when the former arm-wrestling champ and all-around tough guy made his UFC debut, he at least knew how to pull off a rather nasty grappling maneuver that would leave his opponent’s head wide-open for elbow strikes. As Goodridge told us in his final “Ask Gary” column, “I was shocked like everybody. Since I practiced my counter-move the night before I was ready, but surprised it worked that easily.” Though Jon Jones pulled off a variation of this finish against Vladimir Matyushenko in 2010, the Goodridge Goose-Neck hasn’t been duplicated in the Octagon since, which is probably a good thing. Honorable mention: Bas Rutten’s liver shots against Jason Delucia @ Pancrase: Truth 6.

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Cagepotato Comments

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Gabmonta- February 3, 2012 at 9:12 am
I am shocked that catching a kick and countering with a knockout punch didn't make the list. It is a tried and true old school move that requires perfect timing and accuracy. While I am not sure who recorded the first knockout as a result of this counter, Anderson Silva vs James Irving may be the most prominent example of its devastating power.
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ringjoker80- October 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm
who says ufc and karate don't mix absolutely epic...hahaha
zhchdd- October 28, 2011 at 8:01 am
NomadRip- October 28, 2011 at 6:48 am
@dranokills That Royce v Shamrock fight did end that way, and Royce made up for it in the next fight when he held a rear naked a lot longer than he needed to on Gordeau(sp?). Though that was also because that guy bit his ear, too, which did nothing but piss Royce off even more.
PHISTAKUPHS- October 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm
i remember watching a lot of these as they actually happened. i miss the old school mma matches and rivalries. guys that would fight anyone at any time in any weight class. real warriors. too bad that type fighter is becoming rarer and rarer these days.
Sho Nuff- October 26, 2011 at 10:20 pm
This is probably my favorite article ever from CP. Great list. Even if one could nitpick whether this or that finish was the best of this or that year, it's still a great list of classic fights. That said, I'll throw one out there anyway, and say I, like ElDandy, hold Bas Rutten's liver shots about the crucifix finish. That shit was some true dim mak.
FightZen- October 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm
Speaking of CB, his Peruvian necktie sub of Jesse "JT dummy" Taylor inspired me to try it in my BJJ class. I was a white belt and my instructor yelled at me when I nailed it on another white belt. Totes worth it!
Richard Fitzentite- October 26, 2011 at 11:58 am
Can you just imagine how dominant Dan Severn would have been in his prime if someone would have just taught him any jujitsu?
Me likey- October 26, 2011 at 11:52 am
c.b. dolloway is the best at the "i didn't tap face" every time that guy loses he looks at the ref all crazy.
Viva Hate- October 26, 2011 at 10:43 am
Sweet article, I still smile everytime I watch Jorge Masvidal flop over.
macreadysshack- October 26, 2011 at 10:33 am
Awesome feature. That's some fun shit and I can't even watch the vids at work. You know I'll be back after 1800 ...
dranokills- October 26, 2011 at 10:08 am
I like how in the video of Royce chocking out shamrock, shamrock must have pretended like he didn't tap, or the ref didn't see it right away and was asking Shamrock if he tapped, and when he didn't answer right away I love how Royce was right on top of him yelling in his ear, you can just almost hear him saying: " what? you better tell that ref you fucking tapped, you BETTER tell him right NOW! Cause if you don't , I am gonna choke you till you shit your pants!"
You can see how intense Royce is, even after the fight he is just right in shamrocks face jawing at him. It was like an adult chastising a really scared child.
eDrinker- October 26, 2011 at 10:06 am
Fantastic article, really enjoyed watching those
SethF- October 26, 2011 at 9:36 am
Even more mind blowing to me: Dos Caras Jr.'s MMA record. The dude won MOST of his fights.
MichaelTRJones- October 26, 2011 at 9:30 am
This is great!

I remember Gary Goodridge's elbows and Marco Ruas's devastating kicks like they were thrown yesterday. I was 14 when I first saw them in a UFC compilation on the net; it was stupidly named: "Have the guts to watch? Fighting for real".

Watching these techniques is inspiring.
This makes me REALLY want to practice flying armbars, scissor-leg takedowns and flying inverted triangle chokes. hahah

Fuck it, I just called my brother right now to help me with the inverted triangle. :D
Me likey- October 26, 2011 at 9:19 am
not to be a stickler but you forgot to include brett rogers choke and punch technique. his wife had absolutley no answer for it.
Jugger- October 26, 2011 at 9:08 am
Rock on, Goldie. Great article.
NomadRip- October 26, 2011 at 9:07 am
That Dos Caras guy led me to finding this video of a fight in DEEP, where he broke the dude's arm with a belly-on-belly suplex.
I'd never heard of that guy. I don't follow that wrestling stuff.
NomadRip- October 26, 2011 at 8:53 am
Great list Ben. Some stuff I hadn't seen. Even if you hate sending me t-shirts.
Todd M- October 26, 2011 at 8:53 am
Good article guys, great trip down memory lane
JohnnyBlaze- October 26, 2011 at 8:34 am
danomite please leave this site and stop posting forever
bgoldstein- October 26, 2011 at 8:29 am
@ Me likey: The twister is a good call. I actually added Shayna Baszler's twister as an honorable mention for 2008. Now that James Irvin's superman punch has been exposed as a fraud by danomite, it probably deserves to be the selection for that year.
DangadaDang- October 26, 2011 at 8:20 am
Awesome list BG. I can't believe that fucking Dos Caras Jr. is the WWE Champion nowadays. This is the man who beat John Cena, who starred in possibly the greatest action film of all time in The Marine? Nothing is sacred anymore.
TheWarsawExpress- October 26, 2011 at 8:19 am
Should include some front kick KOs