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The Death of the Submission Artist: The State of Submission Grappling in MMA


There is a conversation taking place in more and more MMA gyms every day. This conversation concerns submissions, and more specifically what place they hold in the highest level of mixed martial arts competition, the UFC.

In the early days, we saw plenty of specialists in all areas. Pure savate kickboxers would take on pure wrestlers, pure boxers would take on pure jiu jitsu practitioners, and if a competent grappler could take the fight to the mat it was game over. Now, every mixed martial artist in the UFC is very well-versed in all aspects of the game, including submission defense. Guys like Demian Maia, who used to make a career out of being a fantastic submission artist, are having a much harder time pulling off the tap. We’ve even seen top-level jiu jitsu competitors being out grappled to decision losses by wrestlers like Mark Munoz, who have been able to shut down their opponents game with great submission defense.

Almost no contender fights in the UFC end by way of submission anymore, in comparison to the early 2000’s where there were multiple submissions per fight card. What people need to realize, is that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu without a gi is essentially a new martial art in itself. Jiu jitsu is based around grabbing on to the gi, using collar ties and chokes to secure submissions. You lose the gi and the martial art itself must be taught and practiced differently. This is something that will continue to change and grow, and there will eventually be a time where facing a submission specialist will be a scary thing again. Until than, submissions will continue to be something that guys sort of carry in the back of their pockets for when the opportunity presents itself, instead of the submission being the focus of the game plan like it was for jiu jitsu specialists years ago.

How do you feel submission grappling could be improved in mixed martial arts? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Adam Brennan
Coming from a family of fighters, and growing up on the jiujitsu mats of half a dozen MMA schools in Orange County and Los Angeles, Adam Brennan is a well informed member of the rapidly growing Mixed Martial Art community. As a competitor in the sport, he is very opinionated and vocal about both the flaws surrounding it and it's positive impacts on the martial arts community. Adam's love for the sport drives him to advocate solutions to issues and promote the successes. Dreaming of a career as a fighter, Adam spends his days as working two jobs and training hard every night at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach. Being a huge advocate of better athlete pay and a fighter union, he will stop at nothing to do his part to help bring the sport to the next level.