Best MMA Submission Of 2023: Sage Northcutt Pulls Off Shocker With Lightning-Quick Heel Hook
After sitting on the sidelines for four years, American MMA phenom “Super” Sage Northcutt returned to action this past May and authored an unforgettable moment that will become a permanent fixture in his highlight reel.
Primarily known for his explosive striking, the 27-year-old shocked fans and pundits alike by submitting Pakistani BJJ brown belt Ahmed “Wolverine” Mujtaba with a heel hook in the first round of their lightweight clash at ONE Fight Night 10.
That surprising finish is the most impressive of Northcutt’s professional career, and it’s certainly the best MMA submission of 2023.
Northcutt, a multiple-time Karate World Champion, made his ONE Championship debut in May 2019 with no shortage of fanfare. But despite the incredibly high expectations around him, the phenom suffered a devastating knockout loss at the hands of Brazilian veteran Cosmo Alexandre.
That defeat forced the American striker on an extended leave of absence as he healed his injuries and slowly made his way back into the gym.
After a few bout cancellations, Northcutt was officially booked against Mujtaba at ONE Fight Night 10, the organization’s historic debut on U.S. soil. It was one of the year’s most anticipated MMA matches, and the global fan base was extremely curious if the superstar would return to form.
While Northcutt spoke extensively about rounding out his overall grappling and mixed martial arts game at Team Alpha Male, few expected the striker to pull off what he did that fateful night at Colorado’s 1stBank Center.
After Mujtaba stunned his rival with a jab and put him on the canvas, the American immediately began attacking from his back.
In a matter of moments, Northcutt had wrapped up the Pakistani’s left leg, latched onto the foot, and twisted with all his might. With the heel hook locked in, “Wolverine” was forced to tap out just 39 seconds into the contest.
That highlight-reel win earned the superstar a US$50,000 performance bonus, announced his presence among the lightweight MMA elite, and stands out as one of the most spectacular comebacks of the year.
The submission itself was particularly impressive on multiple fronts.
First, the heel hook was beautifully applied against an ultra-skilled, world-class opponent. Mujtaba entered that contest loaded with confidence, having earned a first-round submission victory over BJJ black belt Abraao Amorim in November 2022.
What’s more, the heel hook delivered all the thrills. Given Northcutt’s extended layoff and the questions surrounding his return, his lightning-quick finish – all in front of a raucous American crowd – made for the year’s most unforgettable submission.