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Women’s mixed martial arts has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Many years ago, MMA was a male-dominated sport, and the idea of women competing in MMA was far-fetched. Yet as MMA grew in prominence, it was only a matter of time before the females caught up with their male counterparts.
This comes as hardly a surprise because if you have ever watched a women’s bout in your life, you know that it is a highly-technical and extremely exciting affair. One can even make the case that women’s bouts are more thrilling than the men’s.
Of course, there have been prominent figures over the years. Ronda Rousey, for example, who paved the way for many that succeeded her, opened the door for women all over the world to gravitate towards MMA as a viable sports career. And these women aren’t just fearsome stand-up strikers, a lot of them possess incredible wrestling and grappling skills as well.
Today, Evolve Daily shares, in no particular order, 5 Of The Best Submission Grapplers In Women’s Mixed Martial Arts.
Popularly known in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, 8x BJJ World Champion and ONE Superstar Michelle Nicolini is one of the most decorated champions in the sport of BJJ. She began her martial arts journey training in capoeira at age 14 and picked up grappling a few years later. Driven by a desire to compete and test her skills, Nicolini traded capoeira for BJJ at age 17, earning her black belt in 2006 at the age of 24.
During her time as a BJJ competitor, Nicolini won a series of accolades, including eight IBJJF world titles, an Abu Dhabi Combat Club no-gi grappling title, double gold at the BJJ European championships, and three Pan-American championships. She is also one of only seven women admitted to the IBJJF Hall of Fame.
Needless to say, Nicolini is an absolute beast in the grappling department. A member of the prestigious Evolve Fight Team, Nicolini is now based in Singapore where she works with fellow top grapplers ONE Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee and ONE Superstar Shinya Aoki, amongst others.
It should come as no surprise then, that after transitioning to mixed martial arts in 2011, all of Nicolini’s four victories have come by submission. When fights hit the ground, Nicolini makes sure to finish.
She is the reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion, the youngest world champion in mixed martial arts history, and the undisputed queen of MMA in Asia. 21-year-old “Unstoppable” Angela Lee of Singapore is as dominant a champion as they come. Cultivated under the tutelage of her father Ken and the watchful eye of her peers on the Evolve Fight Team, Lee comes from a rich martial arts background.
Both her father and mother are highly-decorated martial artists, and her younger brother Christian, himself a ONE Championship featherweight, is one of the promotion’s top prospects. Lee’s two other younger siblings are also being groomed to become martial artists. Needless to say, martial arts is in Angela Lee’s blood.
Out of her eight total victories so far in the cage, Lee owns six impressive victories by submission. Her unorthodox style of grappling is extremely unpredictable, which has her opponents perplexed whenever the fight hits the ground. Lee also holds the distinction of executing the first and only successful Twister submission in ONE Championship history.
Ranked as one of the top female black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by the IBJJF, Brazilian-American Mackenzie Dern is known as one of the most dangerous submission grapplers in all of mixed martial arts.
Dern cultivated her skills and earned her black belt under her father Wellington “Megaton” Dias, a living legend in the sport of BJJ, and her stepmother, Luciana Tavares, who is also a black belt. She began training at the age of three and began competing in the sport at a young age, progressing to the adult category at age 14.
Impressively, Dern won a world championship in every belt before she finally earned her black belt. In 2015, Dern defeated the enormous Gabi Garcia in the semi-finals of the ADCC open weight championships.
With such a long list of grappling achievements, it’s hardly a shocker that Dern would transition to MMA with great success. After three professional bouts, Dern is unbeaten in the cage and is one of the fastest rising MMA stars in the world.
“Thug” Rose Namajunas is third on the list of the UFC’s top female strawweights, sitting just a few spots behind the division champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The 25-year-old from Milwaukee began her martial arts journey practicing Taekwondo at the age of five, later earning her junior black belt at age nine. Namajunas would go on to train in Karate and Jiu-Jitsu, and at the age of 16, began cultivating her Muay Thai and transitioned into mixed martial arts.
Today, Namajunas is one of the most popular UFC women’s strawweights, and a bonafide grappling superstar in the octagon. Of her six total career victories as a professional, five have come by submission including an insane flying armbar victory over Kathina Lowe in 2013.
In her most recent outing, Namajunas shocked the world when she scored an upset victory over fan-favorite Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson, submitting her opponent in the second round with a rear naked choke.
Part of what makes Namajunas so dangerous on the ground, however, is the fact that she is the total package, possessing a wide range of skills that allow her to finish fights in a manner of ways on the feet or on the mats.
“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey put women’s mixed martial arts on the map when, after becoming the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in Judo at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, she transitioned to MMA and soon after shot to superstardom.
Her first six bouts as a professional MMA fighter she won via first-round armbar, needing only an average of half a minute to quickly dispatch her opponents. This inevitably caught the attention of UFC President Dana White, who infamously claimed that he would never allow a woman to enter the octagon. However, Rousey’s evident star power could no longer go unnoticed after an incredible run, and in 2013, she made her UFC debut.
Rousey would go on to extend her armbar streak to eight with submission victories over Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate, earning her the moniker, “Arm Collector”.
Today, Rousey is largely out of action following two straight knockout losses to Holly Holm and now reigning UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes. As no official retirement announcement has been made, many fans continue to believe that we will see Rousey back in the cage at some point as she remains one of the sport’s top draws.
Regardless of how her career ends, Rousey will go down as a legend, and one of the best submission grapplers in all of women’s MMA.